We’ve all been singing the ABC song for longer than we can remember. Thanks to Mozart and Charles Bradlee, we have a fabulous tune for all our language learners. But the Alphabet song is just the beginning of making those letters into useful language. At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we believe Charles had the right idea. Let’s lose the flashcards and make learning the alphabet fun!
Making It Fun and Keeping It Real
Learning the alphabet and the alphabet sounds is a process over a few years, not an event from a few lessons. We believe that in order for those sounds to really sink in, we need to reach the whole child. So no stress Mom and Dad! No “language lesson” needed. Here are some fun ways you can make alphabet learning a part of your every day life. Fun for you! Fun for them!
1- Integrated Learning
First, we asked some of our UDA Creative Arts Preschool teachers what advice they have for pre-readers, and what we can do as parents to help children recognize letters and their sounds.
Melissa Giraldi, our three-year-old teacher, recommends encouraging your preschooler to notice the letters all around them. You’ll be surprised how quickly your daily life becomes a lesson in language! Keep them interested by just adding your alphabet conversation to the things you are already doing.
For example, while giving a bath, you could discuss the letter “W.” Draw it with soap on the shower wall, or by make it with your thumbs and pointer fingers. Then you can make the “w” sound in “water,” “wash,” “washcloth,” or a toy “whale.” You can also find some fun, inexpensive alphabet bath toys. Spell words in the tub!
2- Sign Search
Amber Blackburn, one of our four-year-old teachers, suggests watching for letters while you’re driving. For older children, you can play the alphabet game, searching for the letters in alphabetical order. You can even make it a habit and do it while driving to and from preschool!
Younger children can simply identify the letters on the signs they see and then discuss their sound.
Stop sign! “S”! What sound does “S” make?
3- Shopping Hunt
The grocery store is a place Miss Melissa suggests to find lots of letter discussion. Encourage your child to look at the letters on the packaging. When you are looking at a jar of peanut butter, encourage them to find the “P”. Then make the “P” sound together as you say “peanut butter.” Easy Peasy!
Besides packaging, you can find letters on the item descriptions on the shelves, on the aisle signs, and at the cash register. When they are getting a grasp on sound/letter connections, you can say things like: “There are the oranges. What letter does ‘O’range start with?”
4- Snack Time
While we’re on the subject of food, who doesn’t love alphabet food? Of course you have your traditional alphabet soup, but now there are a plethora of crackers and other snacks with alphabet shapes. Miss Amber recommends pointing out the letters to them as they eat them.
Miss Melissa suggests using celery, carrot, or pretzel sticks to make an “I,” “T,” “H,” “L,” etc. You can even use smaller pieces in the middle for an “A” or “R.” Or, just notice the random letters like an “O” shaped Cheerio.
Whatever it is, don’t drill it into them, just make it into a game and have fun with it!
5- Get a Little Messy
We all know it’s the extraordinary that we remember. You can make learning the alphabet stick (and sticky) by creating different experiences. Amber says, if you’re not afraid of getting a little messy, let your preschooler write letters in her pudding. We happen to know from experience that shaving cream is also the perfect medium for writing letters and also makes your preschooler smell nice and musky.
6- Make Name Connections
Making connections is an essential part of memory. You can help your preschooler make connections by helping them to recognize what is the same and what is different between two things being compared.
Children love making connections to their name, or the names of people they know. As you point out letters, Miss Melissa advises to help them recognize whose name that letter connects to. You’ll begin to hear phrases like, “Mom! That’s your letter!” Connection made.
7- Read! Read! Read!
There is no better way to see those alphabet letters in action than in a book. As your bookworm develops a love for books, your child will develop a love for language.
Get silly! Miss Melissa suggests turning the book upside down and see what your child does. Help your child understand the mechanics of a book as you joke around with turning the pages the wrong way. Once in a while, track the lines with your finger. Your child will begin to understand the mechanics of a book.
8- Follow Their Lead
Again, we recommend incorporating learning the alphabet into daily activities. So what does your child love? Miss Amber advises following their lead on what interests them.
If your child loves trucks, find an alphabet book about trucks. If your child enjoys insects, connect letters to bugs. Encourage your dancer to make letters with her body. And if your child likes food…well, who doesn’t like food? As suggested before, use snack and meal time to your alphabet learning advantage!
For learning the alphabet on a computer, we like Starfall.com. This is a great website for preschool-aged children to practice learning math and early reading skills.
If you’d like to come see how Melissa and Amber integrate alphabet learning into the classroom, or if you’d like a tour of our Utah facility, we’d love to have you visit us at UDA Creative Arts Preschool! Just call (801) 523-5930.