Learning Letters is FUN!!
Children should start learning letters at a young age. But you have to decide when you feel comfortable starting your young child. I started teaching my daughter the first letter of her name at the age of 18 months old. I did not force it. I simply started with foam bath letters. Every time we got in the tub. I would take C, start at the top, trace my finger around the C, and say “C”. I did that 3 or 4 times every time we were in the tub. It took a couple of seconds each time. Then, we would sing the alphabet song. I did that for several months. Then I decided to seriously teach her around the age of two.
When children are learning it is best to keep it simple and FUN. Some rules to keep in mind are…
1. Only teach one letter a week. You can add in more as they get older, but for now keep it simple.
2. One simple & fun activity a day is fine. You want a variety of activities, but only give 1 activity each day. If you have lots of really fun things you want to do with them, GREAT! But don’t overwhelm your child with too much, just save that fun activity for the next day. You will get all those activities in and your child will acquire so much more when they concentrate on the task at hand. Believe me they are learning a lot more than you think.
3. Keep the time short. Young children have a short attention span so don’t talk a lot or explain too much by over talking. Keep the activity short. For ages…
18 months – 2 years old – Only about 5 minutes
2 – 3 years old – about 10 minutes
3 – 4 years old – about 15 minutes
Activities for Teaching the Alphabet
You can start with uppercase or lowercase. You may want to start with lowercase since they will use that more in reading and writing. I would not introduce the sound at this time. If you choose to introduce more than one item such as teaching uppercase and lowercase at the same time, I would not add in the sound. This is too much information for them to remember. You can always come back to teach them the sound. Remember to keep it simple and easy to learn. Teach only two items at a time.
With your finger trace the letter so that they can start to see the shape. Say the name, "d" or "r". You can use foam or magnets; or write it really big on construction paper. I recommend that whatever you use make sure it’s big, not small. Visually… you want the children to see the different features of the letter and young children do not have 20/20 vision yet. So, make it easy by making it BIG. You can also buy them with textures to them. When they trace with their finger, it has texture to help the brain pick up the features of the letter. (See Steps to Literacy below for texture products.)
This one is easy. Just tell the child the letter every time you see the letter you are working on. Let’s say you have decided to work on A this week. If you are reading a book or looking at a book with your child, find A/a on a page and say “Oh look, there’s A.” “Here’s another A.” “Do you see an A?” Find it everywhere… grocery store, boxes of food, signs, etc… Point it out, say “There’s another A.”
Every chance you get, let your child see you writing a list of groceries or a note to dad. After writing something, go back and find the letter you are working on. “Oh there’s A.” If you are using finger paints with your child, write the letter. “What’s this letter?” Let the child say the name of the letter. If you have sidewalk chalk, while you are drawing a picture on the sidewalk write that letter again. “What’s this letter?”
It is important to use as many senses as possible when children are learning. Why? Because the brain retains the information better when it comes it through as many senses as possible. Any chance you get to point it out or write it for your child, take the opportunity to let them see it, hear it, say it.
Do fun activities. Write it very big on a piece of construction paper. Have your little one glue objects on the paper that starts with that letter. Example: For B, glue buttons on the B. For N, glue noddles. For A, glue cut-out apples.
Get your old magazines out. (Of course, use magazines which have pictures that are appropriate for children.) Look for "B or b" with your child. Sometimes you find it and other times let them find it. Cut it out for them and let them glue it on a piece of construction paper in which you have already written it at the top. If you are doing capital and lowercase, then write both at the top of the paper.
I would do this activity once you have taught at least two letters and; you know that your child can identify by calling the name without waiting. In this activity you will need magnetic letters. (hint: Invest in some magnets. You will use them to teach the whole alphabet and LOTS of words. See "Steps to Literacy" below for purchasing magnets.) You will choose 1 that your child knows for sure and 1 that you are teaching your child. Gather all the magnets you have of those letters. Example: Your child knows C/c, get all the magnets of C/c’s you have. You are teaching B/b, get all the magnets of B/b’s you have. Mix them all together on the left side of your refrigerator. First you will model the activity for your child by saying “Watch me”. Then you pick all the B/b’s up one by one and place them on the right side of the refrigerator; each time you pick up a B/b say the name. Do not do this activity fast right now. The child has to learn the activity as well as identify the B from the C, move it and call out it’s name. This is a lot for the child to do. You may have to model this activity several times. You may need to have the child just move the magnets first so they learn the activity. They are still distinguishing between C and B. And you can say the name for them while they are picking up the magnets. Then when they know the activity, have them call out the name. You will have to know what your child is able to do. If they are uninterested in the task, that will tell you it’s too hard or taking too long. So, slow down by just modeling the task for several days or put fewer of them to move meaning not so many B/b’s; maybe 5 B/b’s instead of 8.
Child’s personal alphabet book
Once you have taught many of them, you and your little one can make them their own alphabet book. You can use plain paper or construction book. You can use it full size or cut it in half. You will need 27 pages. One page for each is needed and a cover page. You can borrow books from your local library if you do not have any yourself. Collecting pictures from other books you have will work also. Each day you will add 3 to 5 pages depending upon how long your child will sit. Tell your child “We are going to make you an alphabet book together. You get to decide what picture you want for each page. What picture do you want for A?” Show him 2 or 3 pictures that start with the A sound. Let him decide which picture. Then you will write the capital and lowercase A in the upper left-hand corner. Leave room in the middle of the page for the picture. At the bottom center of the page write the name of that picture. Later you can either draw the picture or use clipart on Microsoft word to print pictures that you need. Each day add more pictures until the book is complete. Everyday have your child, point to each page say it’s name and then say the names of the pictures. So, it sounds like “A, a, apple (picture), apple (name). They should go through the whole book each day, because they know most if not all of them by now. This activity will help them became faster at saying the names and more confident in recognizing them. Later you can use this book for them to practice the sounds by repeating the same activity, but instead of saying the name, they say the sound.
Materials to use: Foam, magnetic, sandpaper, tactile, paint, cut-outs, puzzle, sidewalk chalk, and construction paper
Melissa & Doug
They have a wonderful “Alphabet Train Floor Puzzle”. It stretches out 10 feet across the floor. It helps the little ones work on left to right as well as identifying letters. Later, you can also work ABC order with the puzzle. You may want to look at their other wooden puzzles. They have great puzzles for the alphabet, numbers, and shapes. I would recommend buying the puzzles that have the shape of the letter so the child has to identify the letters shape. Some of the ABC puzzles have pictures under the letter which helps the child with matching the letter with it’s sound. You have to decide what your objective is for your child to accomplish.
Steps to Literacy
They have a large selection in various sizes and textures including magnetic. You will also find “beaded” letter squares. The texture feels like soft sandpaper. In addition, they have “tactile”. Their prices are reasonable as well. And if you have a Schoolbox store in your area, they carry some of the items from Steps to Literacy. So, go check out all the wonderful alphabetic items that can meet the goals you have for your child.
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