Knowing the alphabet is a vital precursor to learning how to read. Children who know the alphabet before entering school have a natural advantage over children who can’t identify the letters of the alphabet. Learning the alphabet doesn’t have to be an arduous task. In fact, teaching the alphabet is more effective when you make it fun. Different children find different activities fun, so try different teaching techniques. Here are eight tips you can try to teach your child the alphabet.
1. The Alphabet Song
It may sound very basic, but before you actively try to teach your child the visual representation of letters, first teach them the letter names with the alphabet song. After having sung this with your child several times, then you can start pointing to letters as you sing the song to show your child that the letter names actually match printed letters. Print out a sheet of large letters and point to them as you sing. After doing this a few times, hold your child’s hand and point their finger to the letters as you sing. Finally have the child point to the letters on his/her own as you sing together.
2. Point to Letters on Everyday Objects
Every so often throughout the day point to a word you see and tell your child the starting letter or ending letter. For example, if you’re out with your child at Walmart, as you’re walking towards the building say, “Look, Walmart starts with W.” At the breakfast table point to the cereal box at talk about the first letter of the cereal name, or if there’s a logo on your clothes, talk about the letters of the logo. There are countless opportunities to point out letters here and there. Encourage your child to point out letters that he/she knows and make a big deal about it when the child does this independently.
3. Do a Letter Hunt
Pick a letter as the theme letter for your letter hunt. Then go around the house, or the shopping mall, or wherever you are, and find the letter you are looking for in at least 10 places: signs, books, products, toys, etc. If you are at home doing this you can actually pick up the items and collect the 10 things in a pile. Kids will enjoy collecting the items and then going around helping you put the items away.
4. Alphabet Coloring Pages
Many children love coloring so much that they can spend several hours every week coloring. Why not print off some coloring pages with the letter prominently displayed and associated with a picture of something that begins with the letter. Tell your child what the letter is and have the child repeat it back to you. Then discuss the picture and explain that the picture also starts with the letter.
5. Alphabet Mazes
Some children aren’t as interested in coloring but really enjoy finding their way through a maze. While the child is working on the maze talk to them about the letter and have them repeat the letter name. Talk to them about words that begin with that letter. After they finish the maze have your child try to draw the letter at the bottom of the page.
6. Letters of their Name
Often the first letters children learn are the letters of their name. Start by just saying aloud the spelling of their name. If you can come up with a little song for the letters of their name then the learning is usually much faster. For example, if your child has a 5 letter name try replacing the letters of the song BINGO with the letters of your child’s name. With a 3 letter name you can replace the first 3 letters of BINGO with the letters of the name and replace GO with “spells name”. For example, with the name Pat you can sing “P-A-T spells Pat, P-A-T spells Pat, P-A-T spells Pat, and Pat is your name.”
7. Tracing Their Name
After they can say aloud the spelling of their name then make or print out some tracing pages of their name. This creates a direct association of the shape of the letters with the letters of their name. This activity strongly reinforces learning to recognize and print their own name. Not only are they learning letters, but also early printing skills.
8. Tracing the Letters of the Alphabet
After your child can read and print their own name, then he/she can start tracing the rest of the alphabet. This will reinforce the oral learning of the alphabet with early printing skills. Either create tracing pages of letters, or print out some pre-made letter tracing pages. Repetitive tracing of each letter will solidify their learning of the letter shapes.
The most important things to remember about teaching your child the alphabet are to keep it fun and keep at it daily. You don’t have to work at it for long stretches at a time. That will only frustrate a child. Teach the alphabet in little bits at various times throughout each day and you’ll be amazed at your child’s progress.
Copyright 2006 Sheila Anderson