For about a year after my daughter turned three, I taught her the alphabet. While she didn’t have a direct need to learn the alphabet right then, I really enjoyed teaching her. It brought a focus to our time together. Since finishing, I’ve tried to get back into teaching her in this way, but we haven’t found anything as beautifully organized as the alphabet!
Before beginning any direct alphabet instruction, get ready with some of these activities:
- Sing the alphabet casually and often.
- Read together. Your child will learn about print and words and start to notice letters, without any direct instruction. For an extra boost, you can point to the words as you read.
- Play with rhyming and letter sounds.
- Let your child see you writing. When you write your child’s name on a painting, say each of the letters. When you write the shopping list, say each word as you write it. Just as with reading, your child notices a lot from these causal every day observations.
As you start to get ready to begin, consider the following:
- No flashcards or other memorization tricks. Those activities are like cramming for a test; you remember for a while, but haven’t deeply learned the material. I recommend other more engaging and natural activities to teach your child. They are less of a chore for both of you, and allow you to explore letters, sounds, and words with more spontaneity and creativity.
- Begin at an appropriate age. When does your child need to know the alphabet? Fisher Price promotes a 6 month old baby needs an alphabet singing rattle. Don’t buy it! I decided entering PreK knowing the alphabet was reasonable, so we started the year prior. Earlier than that, what was she going to do with that knowledge of letters? Her fine motor wasn’t ready to write and I had no intentions of teaching her to read. So, before age three, my daughter’s learning was directed by her interests through her play.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. You do not need to create everything yourself. Search the resources available. Then pick and choose the best, as well as adapting those that are a close fit.
- Decide how to organize your materials. I created a binder for all of our alphabet materials. Then, my daughter had a binder with page protectors for materials about the letter on which we were focusing. I kept track of the books we read and activities we did through blogs on each letter.
When its time for formal teaching, work with what your child enjoys. When I gathered materials on letter A, I had tons! But once we started, I learned my daughter did not enjoy many of the activities I’d found. I parred way back, and we stuck with reliable activities my daughter enjoyed, including:
- Crafts. My daughter loved to make a special craft each week. I cut out the letter, and then we turned it into something that started with the letter of the week. My daughter especially loved the Princess and Unicorn, while the Tiger in a Tutu was my personal favorite. We hung the letters along the hall in our house for all to see.
- Manipulatives. My daughter had no interested in learning to trace or write letters. But, she loved tracing letters with stickers or buttons or jewels or magnets. She also enjoyed alphabet puzzles or making letters out of play dough with cookie cutters.
- Videos. I made playlists on YouTube for each letter. I used Sesame Street clips almost exclusively, though we did happen upon Cullen and Gator, which my daughter loved.
- Books. Each week, I gathered a stack of books featuring the letter of the week. As we read together, I’d point out some words that start with the letter of the week and ask her to find the letter independently. I also emphasized the sound of the letter as I read to her. Yet, I was always careful to not have our work on a letter overshadow the fun of reading a story.
When my son turns three, I will go through the process again with him. He is far more interested in running and jumping than my daughter. I expect him to enjoy activities like scavenger hunts, jumping on a letter I call out, or tossing letter bean bags. Additionally, I focused on capital letters with my daughter; I plan to introduce upper and lowercase together with my son. No matter the changes we ultimately make, I’m excited spend this time focused on him.