Long before our children start to read they begin the process of recognizing the 26 symbols that make up the English alphabet. Most of us don't remember what is what like learning to read, yet this important life-skill is something that has a tremendous influence on future learning. What is it exactly that helps a child learn the alphabet and how can we support the process as parents?
For starters, let's take a quick look at what actually takes place in the learning process. Although not all children develop at the same time and rate, most children go through a similar sequence of developmental stages as they grow and learn. Toddlers are active learners and construct their own understandings about they world as they experience things and interact with others. Toddlers also role play reading, using illustrations and their own experiences, to create stories long before they are able to recognize actual words.
Learning the alphabet requires a child to do more than simply memorize letters. They must also be able to identify which sounds (phonemes) go with which letters. Learning which sounds go with various letters is a rather abstract process, which is why connecting letters and sounds to objects (such as "M" says "mmm..." like "monkey") helps children in this process. Keep in mind that while there are only 26 letters in the English language, there are 44 sounds to be matched with those letter.
Here are a few suggestions to support learning the ABC's with your toddler:
1. Take advantage of different modes for learning. Singing the alphabet song is an easy way to familiarize toddlers with the names of letters. You can further support your toddler by pointing to the letters of the alphabet while you sing the song, adding a visual component to this already multi-sensory activity. Other activities include "sky writing" the letters using large motions with your arms to create each letter and drawing the letters in a bowl of sand or tray of shaving cream. Research has shown the more areas of the brain activated in the learning process the higher likelihood of retention.
2. Play alphabet games to make learning interactive and engaging. We now know the more attention the brain pays to a stimulus, the more elaborately the information will be converted and stored. Games such as Letter Bingo and Alphabet Memory capture a child's interest and really involve them in the learning process.
3. If you include computer/tablet use as part of your family's screen time guidelines, you can find the following early literacy programs online and in app stores:
What other strategies or games have you found helpful with your toddler? Share your ideas and help us build a collection of ABC learning activities!
ABOUT CHRISSY K
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families and design ideas based on our adventures building a home from the ground up.
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