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Let me begin this post with a bit of a “chicken or the egg” kind of story. I never set out to teach Cub the ABCs before he turned two. Sure, I’m a teacher by trade, but it was Cub’s intrinsic interest in letters that led him to know his alphabet by the time he was 22 months old, rather than my insistence on teaching him. Had he been particularly interested in dinosaurs, this post would probably be called “How we learned the difference between Ankylosaurs and Pachycephalosaurs.” (Yes, I just googled the names of dinosaurs.)
That said, we have found so many fun ways to incorporate his love for letters into our daily life that I thought I’d put them together in a post because knowing one’s alphabet before hitting school is a great step towards literacy.
Essentially, Cub has this book, “Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever,” which used to be mine when I was little. The opening pages have the letters of the alphabet, and each night when we looked through this book, I would sing the alphabet to him as we pointed at each letter. Most likely because of the singing, this became his favourite page.
One day, when I was changing his diaper in the bathroom, Cub pointed to the title of a magazine (because that’s where all our magazines are) and said what sounded an awful lot like, “K!” I wrote it off as a coincidence, but he kept on doing it, so we just kept on having fun with letters!
Okay there’s a minor detail that I’m neglecting. Besides loving that page in his book, Cub also developed an obsession with this dude:
That, my friends, is Super Why. He and his motley crew of Super Readers solve ridiculous problems by reading books. I dislike Super Why, but oh my goodness did Cub learn a lot during his (thankfully short-lived) Super Why obsession.
How We Have Fun With Letters
1. Finding letters everywhere.
The fun thing about teaching letters (rather than dinosaurs) is that letters are everywhere. For a reason I do not know, Cub’s favourite letter happens to be “P.” This is extraordinarily convenient, as along our less-than-2-block stroll to Day Care, there are at least ten parking restriction signs. (Vive le stationnement à Montreal!) He loves to point them out: sometimes we hit the mother-load with THREE different restrictions on one pole!
In our daily lives, Cub also likes to spot letters where you least expect them. He notices patterns in the pavement, for example, that look like “L” or “V.” This is a fun way to get your child to pay attention to letter shapes: challenging them to find letters camouflaged in their environment!
2. Puzzles for tactile fun.
Although he’s moved on to his Hape “body parts” puzzle, at the start of his obsession with letters, this puzzle was his favourite. It was a hand-me-down, and the images correspond to words in French.
Speaking of Hape, if we didn’t already have this puzzle, I’d definitely want to get him this one for learning the alphabet!
3. Free printables.
If I had my way, I’d be at the store buying up every last ABC-themed toy around. Luckily, my husband is more reasonable than me, and frowns upon such excessive toy hoarding. Thus, I look to the internet for freebies!
Cub’s a big fan of this printable we found at 3 Dinosaurs. It helped him learn what the lower-case letters look like.
He also enjoys plain old alphabet flash cards, which we printed from here.
4. Books, books and more books!
Naturally, almost every book ever contains letters galore. However, we have a few favourite titles exclusively devoted to letters. Now that he can recognize most of the lower-case letters, these two titles from DK Books are a hit:
Touch and Feel ABC focuses less on the letters themselves and more on the textures corresponding to the respective words. It’s definitely a more subtle approach to teaching the alphabet. Cub prefers Animal Alphabet, because he gets to lift the flap to each lower-case letter and discover a word below corresponding to that letter.
5. There’s an app for that!
Endless Alphabet is the most expensive app I’ve ever purchased for Cub, at $6.99. FULLY worth the price. This app is exceptionally good for teaching letters and spelling. This app doesn’t stick just to words like “Dog” and “Cat.” Cub is being exposed to words like “Contraption,” dragging each letter to spell the word (as you drag each letter, you hear the sound it makes), and once the word is spelled, a little animation shows the word’s definition. Honestly, if you’re going to get one app to teach the ABCs, get Endless Alphabet.
6. Food for Thought
Making letters out of food is something that Cub instigated. He held up a carrot stick and told me it was an “I,” and it just went from there. He likes to eat alphabet noodles and pick out what letters he’s eating, and he likes to make letters with any food that comes in sticks. We’ve also got place mats and dishes with letters on them for extra fun at mealtime. (We often do more ABCs at dinner than actual eating…)
7. Bath time ABCs
We picked up our Munchkin Bath Tub ABC/123s at Target and they remain the only sure-fire way to get Cub into the tub. He loves the bath once he’s in, but he seems to forget that until his toes hit the water. He loves to stick the letters on the side of the tub and tell me what they are. He also likes to throw them out of the tub, a game encouraged by his Papa.
8. Stuck on Magnets
Alphabet magnets are a classic! I remember playing with mine as a child on our fridge, and was pretty disappointed that our fridge now isn’t magnetic. Luckily, our front door and balcony door are magnetic, so Cub can play there.
Heather at The Parenting Patch has a great series of alphabet-inspired hand and footprint crafts. Cub also enjoys cutting letters out of flyers and gluing them all over the place. He has some foam alphabet stamps that he enjoys, too. When he’s doodling and “accidentally” draws something that looks like a letter, he’s psyched to point it out to me.
I reluctantly admitted it at the start of this post: Super Why! is one of the main reasons why Cub got so interested in his ABCs. So I can’t not suggest this show that drives me kind of nuts. On Netflix, you can find Super Why as well as two other ABC-related shows that he enjoys: Animal ABCs (NOT the Barney one, the one with a monkey) and LeapFrog Amazing Alphabet.
How does your child like to practice his ABCs?