Letters are everywhere! It's no wonder that often long before children start school they will start talking about, noticing and questioning about letters.
For parents, it can sometimes be hard to know when is the best time to start teaching your child about letters and how to go about it?
When to start "teaching" your child about letters?
I believe that Children need to be exposed to letters, through reading books with their parents, from birth. The entirety of their lives should be filled with books, words and text and learning about letters should be as much a part of everyday life as brushing your teeth.
Children will be learning about letters long before you intentionally set up activities or expose them to any explicit or purposeful teaching of letters.
You should know when your child is ready to start learning more about letters by themshowing interest. Asking what a letter is, what sound a letter makes, what a word says, pointing out letters, recognising particular letters, attempting to write etc. are all signs that your child might be ready to learn more about letters.
How do I teach my child about Letters?
There are so many different "methods" and "programs" out there on the *best* way to teach Children the letters. Let's face it though, each child will learn and respond differently. Some will pick it up very quickly with minimum exposure and others will need multiple exposures before they have consolidated the learning.
At around the age of 5-6 most children will be attending/completing a more formal schooling where they will more than likely be taught about letters (recognising them, naming them, their sounds, their shapes, their blends, writing them, building words etc). Therefore, your jobbefore this time is recognising their interests and readiness and providing FUN andENGAGING ways for your child to learn more about letters. I believe that forcing learning at this stage will only lead to your child resenting learning.
• Starting with the first letter/letters in their Name can be a good beginning point as your child will often be the most interested in knowing that. Having them recognise their own name is also a handy skill!
• Letters that have only one sound (eg M, F, S etc) can also be easier for your child to learn about.
• Adding in knowledge about vowels (a, e, i, o, u) early on can be useful as well as you require these letters for word building.
Above all, make it FUN and don't force it.
5 Ways to Teach the Alphabet
Teaching the alphabet is foundational for reading and writing. I’m sure you would agree with me that learning the alphabet is important. Some kids catch onto learning letters very quickly and others need more repetition and time learning letters.
Here’s what a preschooler should know before Kindergarten:
• Recite/sing the alphabet
• Identify uppercase letters
• Identify lowercase letters
• Match uppercase letters to lowercase letters
• Identify the sounds each letter makes
In this post, I’m going to show you 5 ways to teach children the alphabet.
1. Sing Songs– Singing the alphabet song to your child introduces the letters to them in a fun way. Start singing to them as a baby and as they get older, have them start singing along (which they probably will do naturally!). My kids LOVE this CD by Discovery Toys
that has a song about alphabet letters and the sounds they make. It really helped Troy learn his letters as well as the sounds. They listen to this CD when going to bed because there’s something about this lady’s soothing voice that is so calming and relaxing.
2. Read ABC Books– Read all sorts of alphabet books to your children, even starting as babies. The repetition will really help your child learn the alphabet at a young age. When my oldest was born, I was surprised at how many alphabet books we had been given as gifts. We loved reading all of them because they were different from each other. I found that around 18 months both my kids really started enjoyed reading alphabet books. Here are a few of our alphabet books:
3. Sandpaper Letters- This is a great way to introduce letters to children. I tried making my own sandpaper letters, but it was a huge fail. I cut out all the sandpaper letters and when I glued them to my cardstock, they looked horrible and the glue soaked into the sandpaper and ruined it. So, I decided to splurge buy some. I picked up the Didax Sandpaper Tracing Letters
from the Learning Post. They do not sell lowercase letters (which is a huge bummer), so we tried the uppercase letters instead. I also ordered School Supply Tactile Letters Kit from Amazon to try out. These Montessori Sandpaper Letters would be awesome to use. I love that the alphabet card tells the child where to start and which direction to go.
Sandpaper letters are part of the Montessori approach to learning how to read. These letters provide a tactile and visual way to help children learn the alphabet. In the Montessori method, you teach letters to a child in the 3-period lesson.
1st period is introducing the letter (“this is” period). Show your child the letters. Have them trace the sandpaper letters. The best way to teach children alphabet letters is by telling them their phonetic sound. So each time they trace the letter, say the phonetic sound.
2nd period is association (“show me” stage). Ask your child to follow simple directions with the letters. For example, please pick up the /m/ and set it by the window. Continue to do this with each letter several times to reinforce this. If it is too difficult, return to the first period.
3rd period is recall (“what is this?” period). Only go to this period when they’ve mastered the other two periods. Put a letter in front of the child and say “Can you trace this and tell me what it is?” Continue with the other letters in the same way.
When you use these sandpaper letters, you are teaching them 3 things: the shape of letters, the feel of its shape and how its written, and how you pronounce its sound.
4. Alphabet Boxes- After introducing the sandpaper letters, focus on one letter at a time and create an alphabet box. An alphabet box is a box filled with objects that start with the letter you are talking about. You will want to display the uppercase and lowercase letter somewhere on the box so they will associate the letter with those objects. Make this a fun activity! Act like this is Christmas morning when your child opens the box. Make them excited to see what’s inside! Then have the child tell you what each object is and have them point to the letter (either uppercase or lowercase) in the box. Here are a few examples of alphabet boxes:
5. Make an Alphabet Book- Creating an alphabet book is a fun way to capture all that you are doing with your child. To make a book, get a 3-ring binder and put plastic sleeves inside. As you go through each letter, have them color a printable of the letter or find a fun way to create a craft representing the letter. Showcase a craft or fun activity that you did while studying that letter. Then put them into the plastic sleeves inside the binder. While you learn other letters, keep reviewing over the letters you already studied.
Now I want to hear from you. How did you teach your child the alphabet? What method worked well for you? Have you tried sandpaper letters?