I smiled when I saw this Twitter tweet last week, in response to my post, 10 Ways to Motivate Your Child to Love Reading – “And not one of them involves learning letters.”
I had wondered if anyone would notice that my post about loving reading indeed did not talk about learning letters. That is not to say that I think young children shouldn’t or can’t learn about letters, their sounds and connections to words. But that post was about motivating children to love to read, something which I believe needs to happen first, so that the process of learning about letters then flows naturally out of their love for the written word.
Immy is alomst 3 and she knows that I is for Immy, M is for Mummy, D is for Daddy, G is for Grandma and Grumpy and Grug!, B is for Barbar (a much loved doll), and A, B, C and L all relate to her aunts, uncle and cousin. Most children will begin to first recognise those letters that are personally significant to them, like the letters in their name.
Have I set out to explicitly teach Immy these letters using flashcards or other methods of direct instruction? Nope. It has happened incidentally, through our play and everyday learning. It has happened because I taking advantage of these opportunities when they occur. It happens playfully and if Immy is not interested, I don’t force it.
For children who are prior to formal school age, learning about letters should be about fun and play and awareness, not rote learning and repetition. Here are six simple ideas to help introduce your child to learning about letters playfully;
1. Alphabet Puzzles: One of the first jigsaw puzzles I ever bought Immy was a personalised name puzzle. Children love having their own name featured on their belongings, toys and in books. The puzzle allows us to reconstruct her name over and over again, looking at, touching and observing the letter names as we do. We also have a large format foam alphabet floor puzzle and a wooden alphabet puzzle like this one, both of which are on regular rotation in our playroom.
2. Aphabet Cookie Cutters: Add a set of alphabet cutters to your playdough box. Make finding letters that they are familiar with (like your child’s first initial) a game. Remember this is about familiarity and awareness through fun so follow your child’s lead. When they ask what a letter is tell them and give them an example of a word which also begins with that letter sound. This is the set we have.
3. Alphabet Magnets: As with the cookie cutters, having a set of bright colourful alphabet magnets on your fridge virtually guarantees playful interaction with letters and sounds. We love this set of alphabet magnets.
4. Read the Signs: Make some signs for your play spaces or for your child’s bedroom. Because of our open/closed shop sign, Immy knows that o is for open. Notice the letters on street signs when you are out in the car or out for a walk.
5. Letters & Notes: Make a mailbox or treasure box together and write short notes or messages to leave for your child. Immy loves finding the little notes I write for her and messages like, “Mummy loves Immy,” help to develop her ability to recognise her own name.
6. Books: Sometimes when you read together, search for familiar letters in the titles of the book.
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Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
Infant Bibliophile says
Christie - Childhood 101 says
Luckily for both of us, part way into this, I saw how it was scaring him, and realized that I was going about it all the wrong way. I decided to not say a thing about letters until he started asking for it. It did come naturally about a year later. He now at four recognizes all of his letters, knows the sounds that they make, and is constantly asking me how to spell certain words. I can see how it is all clicking together for him, and none of it has been forced on him.
A few things that have helped us are to read alphabet books, to let him have access to alphabet stickers and magnets, and to give him a little "writing kit" where he can "write" letters to his friends and relatives, which he loves.
I'm glad I learned my lesson, on not forcing learning and concepts onto kids before they are ready!
If he hadn't expressed an interest, I don't think I would be bothering with it at this stage...
But as he wants to know, we have been doing a few letter activities...we have been making letters out of playdough (his name starts with O so it has been a nice easy one for my playdough skills!)
Candace @NaturallyEducational says
My daughter just loves language and learned her letters very early and could read simple words at 3.5...but that was all child-led. My son (now 2.5) is showing less interest, so we just play with fridge magnets or puzzles when he wants to, point out the first letter of his name, etc. He's also very bright, just not as interested in letters at this moment.
Sooner or later, they all get to more or less the same place unless there is a disability or other serious barrier.
Ultimately, keeping everything fun ensures lifelong learners and that should be the goal...it is a marathon, not a sprint.
The Book Chook says
PS - I really enjoy reading your blog ... thanks :)
The Sunshine Crew says
Like the concept of learning letters playfully. We tried to do this with our two sons when they were very young. Now that they are 4 and 7, they both love to read but also still enjoy having books read to them. Learning about letters should not be through blah worksheets. It should be fun and playful for children.
Like you, we have a set of letter and number cookie cutters. My younger son still loves using the letter and number cookie cutters with Play-Doh, edible peanut butter play dough, regular cookie dough when we actually bake the letters into cookies instead of just eating the dough, and even little letter shaped tea sandwiches.
Most recently, a fun addition to learning letters playfully for Little Bro has been for him to find the beginning letter sounds as he is playing in our themed sensory table. He loves this. Had gotten the idea to do a sensory table from Counting Coconuts but then, since my boys are a bit older than her son, my older one actually looks for thematic words (Santa, snowman, Christmas, holiday, present, Nativity, etc.) in the table while my younger one looks for beginning letter sounds of themed words (T for tree, S for Santa, P for presents, etc.)... Here is a link to my post that shows the sensory table with the letter tiles in the mix:
My son, 22 months, loves having his name spelled out to him and he can recognise G which is the first letter of his name. He is really starting to show an interest so we'll just point letters out when we see them in our environment (if he's interested!)
Amber Greene says
Amanda Morgan says
I totally agree. There are ways to teach the letters directly within playful situations. That will be much more meaningful than drilling and will create a desire to learn more, rather than a repulsion and negative association. It takes more awareness and preparation than expecting them to learn according to our own schedule, but it is so much better in the long run. Thanks for the great suggestions! I plan to include your link for my next weekend reads post.
Maggie Macaulay says
Maggie Macaulay, MS Ed
Funnily enough she's not talking much so maybe she's going to be one of those quiet little bookworms?!
I gave you a spruik on Australian Mums (http://www.australianmums.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=16)
carol garboden murray says
Christie-Childhood 101 says
Jenny Peace says