Break lessons into a few letters at a time. That will prevent your child from being overwhelmed and will allow him to thoroughly learn what the letters look like and what sounds they make. Tie the lessons in with other activities, such as letter-tracing sheets and discussing colors that start with that letter.
Write each letter of the alphabet on a note card. Make a set of uppercase letters and lowercase letters -- he’ll need to learn both. Store these cards in a resealable plastic bag. For example, if you’re working on E, F and G, pull out the six corresponding cards for those letters. Hold the card up and ask your child what letter it is. You can give hints, if needed. Ask him what animals start with that letter or other objects with that letter. When you’re finished learning a set of letters, place them in a different plastic bag. As you learn more letters, add those cards to the learned bag. Practice frequently.
Play an “I Spy” letter game. When you’re grocery shopping with your little one or stuck in traffic, have your child search out letters. You can either choose a letter to look for or he can just call them out as he spots them.
Read alphabet books to your child. Dr. Seuss’s “ABC,” “Curious George’s ABCs” by H.A. Rey, “Chicka Chicka ABC” by John Archambault and “Superhero ABC” by Bob McLeod work well for this. Rereading the books will also help the process.
Singing the alphabet song is always helpful. Slow down enough so he can distinguish between the letters. This helps avoid the “el-em-en-o-pee” jumble that frequently happens with young children. Practice makes perfect, so don't get annoyed when he's on his 50th rotation of the song.
Things You Will Need
- Letter tracing sheets
- Note cards
- Pen or marker
Sing a Song
Catchy tunes and rhyming lyrics are a great way to help kids learn. You can teach your toddler the basic "ABC Song" or make up fun songs of your own to focus on just a few letters at a time using something your toddler loves. For instance, you might make a song about the alphabet train, with lyrics such as, "A for All Aboard and B for Box Cars, C for Caboose riding underneath the stars."
Make It Personal
Toddlers love hearing stories about themselves. Make up a story together about your child using flash cards that have letters and pictures. For instance, your story could be about your little one meeting a friendly alligator. They might play with a ball and then snack on some carrots. Creating a silly story will engage your child and familiarize him with the letters as well as words that start with them.
Hands On Activities
Incorporating several senses can improve your toddler's ability to comprehend and remember the letters of the alphabet. A popular Montessori teaching method utilizes letters made from sandpaper. Your child can trace a letter and say its name or make the sound. Alternatively, fill a small bin with dry rice and one letter of the alphabet in several forms, such as plastic magnets, rubber erasers or cardboard cutouts. Add small items that begin with that letter as well, such as balls and bells with the letter B. Kids can sift through the rice and find the letters and objects.
Arts and Crafts
Another way to incorporate multiple senses is to draw bubble letters and ask your toddler to finger paint on them. Or help her form letters using play dough. Use tracing paper to practice writing each letter repeatedly or print alphabet coloring pages and pull out the crayons. Make it a fun and exciting time together and your child will love learning with you.
Sing the ABCs and other fun songs to your child. Sing often and sing in funny voices while making silly faces. Many preschool-aged cartoons have their own versions of alphabet songs that you can learn, or you can make up your own ABC song. Singing songs helps children become familiar with phonics and how letters can have different sounds. For example, Leapfrog offers a selection of alphabet songs and videos like The Letter Factory. You could also try Leapfrog's Learning Songs CD and Here Come the ABCs by They Might Be Giants.
Identify and associate everyday objects with the alphabet. Point things out to your toddler and incorporate the alphabet: "Your toes are so cute! Toes begin with the letter 'T'." Then help your toddler identify other things that begin with the same letter like a T-shirt, tree, tongue or tomato. It's never too early to begin teaching the alphabet to your child. You can talk about letters with an infant on the changing table. By 4 months old, babies can distinguish between vowels and consonants and attempt to recreate these letter sounds by babbling and cooing, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Play lots of games with letters, such as 52 card pick-up with alphabet flash cards, ABC memory and letter bingo. Try a simple, inexpensive game to help teach the ABCs. Write each letter of the alphabet on its own sticky note then stick them to the wall or the fridge. Put them in random order and help your toddler arrange them properly from A to Z. Don't force the issue with the games, though. Two-year-olds have a short attention span and it's OK if they move on to something else before finishing the activity, says Zero to Three. Pushing formal instruction on young children is developmentally inappropriate and can be potentially damaging.
Navigate the Alphabet
Create roads for your preschooler using letters of the alphabet. Tape large letters onto your floor with colored painters' tape. If you prefer, you could tape the letters onto a mat or blanket so you can reuse this activity. Large foam letter cut-outs also work well. Have your child gather some of his favorite cars and trucks and start driving. Your child will learn letter names and practice the motions needed to form each letter as he drives his cars along their "routes." Just watch out for traffic jams!
Your preschooler can be the conductor of his own train during this activity. Cut out squares in different colored construction paper and have your child write his name, placing one letter in each square. Add some extra choo-choo to his train by having him do his first and last name. Help your preschooler arrange the squares and glue them down, spelling out his name lengthwise on a large piece of paper. He can draw in an engine, wheels and some train tracks.
Diggers and Dump Trucks
If your preschooler can't bear to be taken away from playing with his digger and dump truck in the sandbox, bury some plastic letters that he can discover while he digs. When it's time to come inside, have him bring his letters in and use them to match with sight words printed onto laminated shapes of trucks. You can simplify this activity by having him match his letters to the lowercase partner if your child isn't ready for sight words.
Glue pictures on all six sides to make a transportation die, using a small square box. Use different transportation themed items such as a car, truck, plane, train, jet and digger. Roll the die and give a rhyming word for each picture that comes up. Vary the game up and have your preschooler identify the first letter of the word and how that letter sounds. For example, if it lands on truck, say "T" and make the sound. If you're feeling silly (and brave) you can also make the sound the vehicle makes.
Design the letters to use in the book based on the age of your child. Babies and young toddlers need only three basic letters to begin teaching the concepts of letters representing words and images. Older children can handle more letters. Kids with a sound understanding of the concept of letters can handle books that include all of the letters in the alphabet.
Select the materials for the book construction based on your child's age and maturity. Young toddlers enjoy the tactile feel of different fabric textures, and fabric books also allow you to wash the book after weeks of use. Select heavy cardboard materials for older toddlers to create a sturdy ABC book. Preschoolers and early elementary-age kids have the dexterity to handle books made from thin cardboard or heavy paper.
Take photos with the camera and print the images, or cut pictures from magazines to represent the different alphabet letters for older kids. You can also cut out fabric shapes for the letters for books for young toddlers.
Design the book construction. Cut fabric pages, using several pages for examples representing each letter for younger readers, or make cardboard or heavy paper pages, one page for each letter of the alphabet for books for older kids.
Attach fabric items to pages using a needle and thread or sewing machine, or attach the images to the paper pages with glue and allow to dry.
Bind the book together by punching two or three holes in the edge and drawing the string through the holes. Pin the edges of all of the fabric pages together and sew a seam to connect the pages to form a book for babies and toddlers.
Things You Will Need
- Fabric or lightweight cardboard
- Construction paper
- Sewing machine or needle
- Hole punch
Ask children to help trace around letter shapes on fabric. Encouraging your child to help with the book process reinforces the basic letter shapes. Ask older children to identify pictures from magazines that begin with specific letters used in the book.
According to Reading is Fundamental, the foundation for reading starts at birth. All of those coos and babbles your baby makes are teaching her to recognize that certain sounds are associated with certain words and that those words have meaning. The interaction that a child has with her primary caregivers in these early years are critical to her ability to learn and process information. If you want your baby to be an early reader, keep up those games of “patty cake” and “peek-a-boo” -- even though they may seem nonsensical, they’re helping your child’s language development.
One of the most effective ways to teach your child to read is also one of the most basic: read to him. According to the Children’s Reading Foundation, reading to your child for just 20 minutes a day from birth connects brain cells that will later foster his ability to independently read. Routine exposure to printed words will contribute to a child’s early reading skills and will teach your child the phonetic process of associating printed letters and words with their contextual meanings. Making story time a daily part of your child’s routine from birth will encourage early literacy.
Learn Your ABCs
Children typically learn to read using phonetic awareness. This means that they will first learn to sing their “ABCs” without truly understanding the context behind the song; as they progress toward preschool, they will learn to recognize the sounds associated with those letters and then, finally, learn that those individual letters form words that have meaning. Using simple flash cards, you can encourage your child to begin recognizing words, letters and sounds phonetically to begin building the foundation for independent reading.
To help your child learn to recognize the patterns and sounds inherent in words, take cues from everyday objects. For instance, if your toddler wants to help feed the family dog, point out the word “Dog” on the bag of dog food: “See what it says there? That’s the word ‘dog.’ d-o-g spells dog!” If you’re taking your child for a walk around the neighborhood, point out a stop sign: “See that sign? It says 'Stop.' S-t-o-p spells ‘stop!’” Soon enough, your child will learn that words have meaning, and, before you know it, those basic babbles will turn into bona fide word recognition.