“Wait a minute, son,” I called to my just-turned two-year-old boy as he loudly sang while splashing in the bathtub. “I think you’re mixed up on some of the letters. Let’s try this again!”
Is singing the alphabet song really the best way to teach your child their ABCs? I beg to differ. There are plenty of other fun ways to engage your child in learning these 26 important letters. From their earliest months of life to the time they enter school, you can get a head start on your children’s learning. Here are 5 creative ways to teach your child the ABCs that will be sure to liberate you from the broken record that is the alphabet song!
1. Read a Book to Your Child
Reading is what I believe to be the best way to teach your children their ABCs and to encourage understanding of basic phonics. Classics like Dr. Seuss’ ABCs and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault set the alphabet to rhyme, which helps with memorization. The Sleepy Little Alphabet by Judy Sierra tells the story of capital-lettered Mom and Dad putting their lowercase children off to bed using rhyme and fun pictures to represent each letter.
While reading a book over and over to your child may seem redundant, she is learning through the same repetition that drives you crazy! While you are reading, point out each letter to your baby and encourage him to do it too. Little fingers love to point! Spelling out words for older toddlers and preschoolers aides them in basic phonics skills as they see how letters come together to form words. Read throughout the day to get the most out of the experience.
2. Build the ABCs with Your Hands
Pull out the box of dominoes from your game closet and “build” the letters on the floor or table. Even the curved letters can be created with minimal effort. Encourage your children to make the straight-lined letters such as T and E on their own. Or you can order How to Build an A by Sara Midda and use the foam pieces included for building materials. You can make your own magnetic alphabet builders with this template from Confessions of a Homeschooler.
Take your little ones outside and help them search for rocks or sticks that they can use to form the letters. You can help them form the letters on the sidewalk outdoors or take them inside and make a craft project out of pasting sticks and small rocks to cardboard or an empty cereal box for a 3-D effect.
3. Get Crafty With the Alphabet
Make a fun glitter alphabet by tracing the letters onto paper with Elmer’s glue and sprinkling glitter on top. You can also incorporate pom-poms or pipe cleaners for a fun effect. This project can be done with older toddlers and preschoolers.
Mold the letters of the child’s name or other family members’ names with play-doh or flexible clay. This is a great hands-on way to learn the ABCs and even small toddlers can get involved!
4. Let Your Child Trace Alphabet Letters
Find a good tracing book that includes all the letters of the alphabet in dot-to-dot style. If you are artistic, you can even make your own. Then give your child some markers or crayons and have her trace the letters. I have found this to be the easiest way to help my three-year-old son learn to write his letters. He doesn’t have an artistic bone in his body (kind-of like his mother), so he doesn’t enjoy freehand. Some fun printable alphabet activities in dot-to-dot style can be found at PrintActivities.com. I especially like the Alphabet Dot-to-Dot Puzzles and the Alphabet Letter Tracing Worksheets.
Sprinkle a layer of salt on a cookie sheet and have your child trace letters into it, helping him if needed. Don’t let your child eat too much of the salt! We all know how easily things find their way into a toddler’s mouth.
5. Look for Letters While Traveling
Identifying letters on signs, license plates and buildings is a fun way to engage your child in learning and is great for passing time in the car. If you have more than one older child, make it a challenge to see who can find the most V’s or Q’s. If your child is a beginning reader, have her look for basic words on buildings and signs as you drive slowly through the city limits.
Some of the best times my son and I have had in the car involve naming a letter of the alphabet and trying to think of all the words we can that start with that letter. Many times, as a three-going-on-four-year-old, he makes up the silliest words! We use our imagination to think up funny songs and rhymes. You never know what will come out of a preschooler’s mouth!
While learning the ABCs is essential, it doesn’t have to be boring. Using some of these fun activities and your own creative genius, learning the letters of the alphabet can be incorporated into each day.
And by the way, my son now sings the alphabet song to his one-year-old sister often — the right way!