Fancy flashcards and "educational" toys may be appealing, but the best ways to introduce alphabet letters and sounds to toddlers and preschoolers remain the ones that involve simple and creative play. Ready to work on pre-reading skills at your house? Try some of these fun ideas for incorporating the ABCs into the normal routine of your day.
1. Choose a "Letter of the Day"
Sesame Street has one, so why can't you? Choose one letter or sound and make it the focus of your day (or week, depending upon age and ability). Point out apples in the grocery store and look for acorns on your nature walks. Show your child how to use his finger to make the letter A in shaving cream on the side of the bathtub.
2. Use a "Movable Alphabet"
Many of us grew up playing with refrigerator magnets, but probably didn't realize that we were learning to read through a Montessori method known as the "moveable alphabet."
You can make your own "movable alphabet" out of materials like pipe cleaners or smooth rocks. Another fun option? The Alphabeasts — a collection of 26 plush characters (think stuffed animals) who each represent a different letter of the alphabet.
3. Create an Alphabet Sensory Tub
Younger toddlers will enjoy scooping and pouring the contents of an Alphabet Sensory Tub (and will gradually become familiar with letter shapes), while older children who already know some letters can work on finding and identifying the various letters and their sounds.
This is a great indoor activity for a rainy day, and also a nice way to keep little hands occupied when you need a few minutes of peace to accomplish an important task.
4. Read Aloud
Don't underestimate the value of simply reading to your children. Alphabet books are a simple and fun way to introduce letters and sounds, but also think of all the other letters and words you encounter throughout the normal course of your day. Point out the giant letters on store signs during daily errands, for example.
5. Eat Your Words
Mealtime happens every day, so why not work in some ABCs? Serve alphabet soup or pasta, and make it a game to see who can identify the sound of the letter on their spoon.
For a more hands-on activity, head into the kitchen and bake your very own alphabet pretzels. Shaping the letters out of the soft dough is so much fun that kids won't even realize they're learning too!
6. Sing Songs
Children love to sing songs — the sillier, the better. Rock out to The ABC Rap or the Fisher Price-Little People ABC Sing-Along while completing routine tasks like laundry. Extra points, of course, if you dance around your living room while jamming with your pint-sized MC Hammer.
How did your children learn their ABCs?