When my niece, Charlie, was two years old, she got a huge alphabet mat for her playroom. Before getting the mat, she’d learned a few letters (C for Charlie, M for Mama, etc.), but within days of having it, she became obsessed with letters and learned them all. I’d like to think it’s because she’s inherited all of her aunt’s genes and is a prodigy, but in reality, she loved learning the alphabet because it was made into a fun game for her.
Rather than drilling her on letters, which is not too much fun for most kids, her parents made the letter-learning exciting. Her mom would say: “Charlie, find the h for hop—h-h-hop.” Charlie would locate the h, pick it up, and hop up and down with it in her hands, giggling the whole time. Next, it might be: “Okay, now find the k for kick—k-k-kick.” Charlie would hunt down the k, pull it from the mat, and kick it across the room. She’d quack like a duck when finding the q for quack. When she had to find “D for Dada” or “J for Joey,” her very handsome newborn brother, she carried the letter to the appropriate person and gave it to him.
This fun game, that Charlie LOVED to play, was doing some pretty wonderful things for her growing brain. Letter knowledge is a hugely important pre-reading skill, for obvious reasons. And, research indicates that it’s best to teach the name and sound of a letter together. So, just the addition of the k sound in “k-k-kick” is really beneficial. The fact that she could pick up and hold the letters really helped her learn their shapes, too. In addition, kids learn best when what they are learning relates to them. So, when Charlie could associate a letter with a person, action, or object she liked, it helped her remember it.
If you’ve been struggling teaching your little one letters or are getting ready to start, give this game a shot. If you don’t have an alphabet mat, a letter puzzle or magnetic letters can serve the same purpose. The key is to make it fun and relatable.