Over the course of 20 years kindergarten has changed so much and the requirements have increased immensely. Kindergarten isn’t just a time for students to learn letter names and sounds, but by the end of the school year they are also expected to put letter sounds together to read and write. As a kindergarten teacher, we spend the first few months of school reviewing letter names and sounds, but this moves at a quick pace. In general, students who come into kindergarten having some letter and sounds knowledge have an easier time later on when we begin to put sounds together to read and write.
Teaching toddlers and preschoolers letters is a great way to give children an introduction to letter names and sounds that will make kindergarten easier later on. Learning the alphabet can be fun and should be incorporated into play. By starting them early they become immersed in letters and sounds that will later help them be successful in reading.
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Start by teaching meaningful letters
Don’t worry about teaching letter names in order from A to Z as this is often not the best approach. Picking one or two meaningful letters to focus on at first is a good start so your child doesn’t get overwhelmed. Once your child learns a letter, add another one to practice (but don’t stop practicing the first, you don’t want them to forget what they already learned)
Teaching a child the letters in their name is a great way to start introducing letter names. Connecting letters to something important to them helps get them interested and helps them retain the information. Other letters to teach when first getting started could be M for mom, D for dad, B for ball, S for Superman etc. Focus on what your child is interested in. Dawson is into animals right now so we have taught him E for elephant, L for lion and T for tiger.
Dawson is 2.5 years old, so right now we are only focusing on uppercase letter names. If you are teaching a child that is a little bit older they may do well with learning the letter name and sound. For younger children I recommend starting with capital letters because they are a bit easier for kids to remember.
Part of our nightly routine is to read a book or two before bed. For the past week or so, Dawson has chosen to read his animal alphabet book. As we read each page I have him help me read it by naming the letters and telling me the animals that he knows. For the letters he doesn’t know I make sure to point to the letter as we read the page. There are a ton of alphabet books available at the library.
There are a wide range of alphabet toys that are great for learning letters. There is no need to purchase a ton of expensive toys, but if you are looking for a birthday or Christmas gift idea, these might be worth while. In our house we have a Leapfrog Fridge Magnetic set and a Fisher-Price Letter Tablet. Integrating letters into play is a wonderful way for kids to naturally learn letter names and sounds. These are activity the child can do on their own.
Integrating letters into sensory play is a fun way for kids to learn. Lately, Dawson has loved playing with water beads. Adding magnetic letters to the beads is a fun way to change it up for him and incorporate letters. This could be done with sand, beans, oats or water too.
For older kids, making letters out of playdough or Wikki Stixs, or “writing” the letters in a small tray of shaving cream, salt or sugar can be another way to add letters to sensory play.
Dawson loves to do puzzles and it opens up good conversation about the letters. I will ask him what letter he has and will help him find where it goes if needed. I also like to do self-talk by telling him what I am doing. “I am looking for the S… Oh here it is. I am going to put the S on the puzzle.”
There are so many different ways to add letters naturally into conversation and play. It has been so much fun to see Dawson learn letters and apply it. He loves looking for D’s in his environment. How do you integrate learning into play?
Thanks for reading 🙂