Last Updated on August 28, 2023
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How To Learn My Abcs
5 Ways to Teach the Alphabet
Teaching the alphabet is foundational for reading and writing. Around the age of 2, children begin showing interest in learning alphabet letters. While some kids learn letters very quickly, others need more repetition and time to learn letters. Today I’m going to share with you some of my favorite ways to teach the alphabet to little ones.
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
- Traces letters
- Write some alphabet letters
Here are my five favorite ways to teach the alphabet to children.
1. Read Alphabet 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:
2. Sandpaper Letters
Using sandpaper letters is a great way to introduce letters to children. My favorite ones are Didax Sandpaper Tracing Letters or School Supply Tactile Letters Kit. This is a perfect pre-writing activity because children use their finger to trace the sandpaper letters. I love that the cards tell 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.https://f389448f97ce3c67bf63f16980b03ba7.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
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.
3. Alphabet Puzzles
I think teaching letters with alphabet puzzles are an amazing tool for teaching the alphabet. This is my favorite puzzle, from Melissa and Doug. It’s a beautiful wooden puzzle with neat pictures. This is a great way to practice vocabulary and verbal skills, too.
4. Sensory Activities
While some kids learn letters very quickly, others need more repetition and time to learn letters. I’ve always said that children learn best when they have many multisensory experiences with letters.
I love to incorporate sensory play into learning alphabet letters. When children have meaningful activities with repeated exposure, they start to pick up on letter names. One way is this alphabet ice excavation activity.
You could also make a sensory bin and do an uppercase and lowercase matching activity, like this one.
Or practice writing letters in the sand, like this sensory writing tray.
5. Alphabet Printables
I have quite a few alphabet printables on my blog, but here are is a set that is easy and fun for preschoolers. You will need Do a Dot Markers or dot stickers to fill in the circles.
I love pulling printables out for a quick and easy activity. I’m always advocating for hands-on learning, but sometimes it’s nice to do a few paper activities. Using Do a Dot markers or dot stickers is great for hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
alphabet learning activities
THE BIG LIST OF ALPHABET ACTIVITIES
“A,B,C,D…next time won’t you sing with me.” Your child has the ABC song memorized. Now what? It’s time to learn those letters and letter sounds. I’ve got everything you need to teach your child the alphabet and letter sounds with some super interactive alphabet activities.
Learning the Alphabet
Learning the names of letters will be very helpful when children start to write and spell. And, knowing letters also provides a concrete and visual place to hang and connect letter sounds.
Let’s answer all those questions that my readers ask about teaching the alphabet.
When Should Kids Learn Their Letters?
Childen typically start to recognize letters as toddlers. But, many won’t master identification of all letters until kindergarten.
My best advice is to not push it. Play games and keep it fun (I have lots of those below.) Through playful activities, your child will most likely pick up those letter names. There is NO RUSH. Kids develop on their own personal timelines.
What Letters Should Kids Learn First?
I like to start with the letters in a word that carries a lot of meaning to the individual who is learning- their NAME. Let the first letters your child learns be the letters in his name. This will probably be one of the first words your child reads too.
There is no need to go in a particular order. Play with the letters in a child’s name as a group or break into chunks of letters. It’s all about discovering and exploring. No drilling necessary.
Should a Child Learn Lowercase or Uppercase Letters First?
Both. I prefer to teach lowercase and uppercase letter identification together. You will find that when your child is ready to write letters, she will most likely form uppercase letters first. They are easier to write because there are more straight lines vs curves.
How and When Do You Teach Letter Sounds?
I like to practice letters sounds right alongside naming the letters of the alphabet. I stick with the common sounds when it comes to a letter that represents more than on sound. I teach the short vowel sounds like in the words cat, cut, cot, bit, and bet. I start with the hard sounds for c and g as in cap and gas.
The biggest take way I can give you is to make sure you are modeling short crisp sounds. Be careful not to add extra phonemes when modeling letters sounds. Need to hear examples? Check out this letter sound video I created
What are the Best Resources to Use to Learn Letters and Sounds?
My top resource is a book. Great books for kids are full of letters that you can point out as you read. Plus, you are filling your child’s language tank. Reading aloud to kids is by far the single most important thing we can to help a child be a future reader and thinker.
If there is one manipulative that I have used with kids over and over to work on the alphabet, it is a set of magnetic letters. I’ve very partial to this set.
Here are my top 8 resources to have on hand.
The main things you want to consider before using a resource or activity with the kids are:
- Is the resource or activity hands-on?
- Will the resource or activity be engaging?
- Does the resource or activity encourage the caregiver to interact with the child?
What are the Best Alphabet Activities for Toddlers?
Playing WITH toddlers is the top way to introduce little ones to the alphabet. Both of my toddlers learned their ABCs through putting puzzles together. The bonus was that they were also learning about spatial recognition and building fine motor skills while they played.
Here are some of our other favorite alphabet activities for toddlers.
Playing with the Alphabet for Toddlers
ABC Toddler Water Play Ideas
26 ABC Sensory Digs
Trains and ABCs
Letter Parking Garage
Runaway Alphabet (can also be played with preschoolers)
Magnetic Alphabet Games (can also be played with preschoolers)
What are the Best Alphabet Activities for Preschoolers?
Preschool is the perfect time to continue EXPLORING the alphabet with preschoolers. Not only are we still working on letter identification with preschoolers, we are also spending more time on those letter sounds. We also start to sort letters by common attributes (group letters that have curves vs letters that are all straight lines.)
Here are some of our favorite alphabet activities for preschoolers.
Rainbow Letters (lowercase and uppercase matching)
6 Ways to Use a Printable ABC Chart (includes a free printable)
Holiday Alphabet Bingo (free printables for Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Summer)
ABC Games to Play Outside
More Magnetic Games
What are the Best Alphabet Activities for Kindergarteners?
BUILDING on those playful activities that kindergarteners did as toddlers and preschoolers is our next step. Special emphasis on letters sounds will start to get our youngsters ready to read.
Any of the games listed under preschool above will work for kindergarteners too. I just make sure to stress letters sounds with our kinders. We really work on developing phonemic awareness.
What are the Best Alphabet Books?
There are so many great alphabet books ranging from very basic letter identification type to subject specific books that even work with older children. Here are a few favorites.
I really like the sandpaper letters in Montessori Letter Work by Bobby George. It’s great for having the kids trace the shape of the letters. I will caution you that I don’t like the prompts that it gives for saying the letter sounds. It encourages adding extra phonemes. If you ignore that part, then I like this book.