Last week we wrote about using play for number skills, and this week we’re all about letter recognition. Learning letters is not just about being able to recite the letters on a page; there has to be an understanding behind it to be meaningful. From the age of around 2.5-3, most children will start to show an interest in letters and words around them, and one of the easiest ways to encourage this is through play. As the great Albert Enstein famously said,
“Play is the highest form of research.”
and who are we to argue?
Ways to encourage letter recognition
Letters and words are all around us and as your child begins to notice and take an interest in this, you can take steps to further their learning and understanding. One of the best ways to start is with their own name. Point out your child’s name wherever it appears, and write it down whenever you can- when your child draws a picture, or when you get a new book, for example. Talk about the letters in your child’s name and point out the same letters when you come across them in other places too. Talk about other words that begin with the same sounds and ask your child if they know any words that also start with that letter. Immerse your child in letters and sounds and by using objects to match to those letters, you are giving them a context too. There are oral games you can play:
- Eye Spy- a classic game that is wonderful for teaching letters and sounds
- What begins with… see how many items you can list that begin with the same letter/ sound
- I packed my bag and in it I put…
You can also reinforce letters and sounds throughout the day- whatever you are doing- by talking to your child about every day objects and asking what letter that object begins with.
Toys that specifically help with letter recognition
Children love to explore new conceptions by themselves and we all know how well they learn when they are happy, relaxed and having fun. Toys and games that are designed to help children learn letters and sounds are fantastic for letter recognition and well worth the investment. Some of our favourite include:
- Alphabet Blocks. Possibly the most simple yet effective of all- these blocks have all the letters of the alphabet with corresponding pictures next to them to put them into context. Perfect for young learners just starting out- the younger the better! For slightly older children you can extend the learning opportunities by asking your child to tell you other objects that begin with the same letter.
- Alphabet puzzle book box. This toy is specifically aimed towards teaching letter recognition and building on that to make words too. The magnetic letters are great for hand to eye co-ordination and there are alphabet magnets with pictures on too to help with letter recognition. This toy is perfect for children aged three onwards.
- Alphabet beads. These brightly coloured, chunky beads are perfect not only for letter recognition but for learning the alphabet too. Help your child to thread them in the correct order by singing the alphabet song! Not only does this toy help to reinforce letter recognition but it also flexes fine motor muscles too.
New ways to play
There are other ways to help your child to learn letters and sounds, depending on how creative you can be! Tailor the play to your child’s interests and let them lead the exploration now and then. Some new ways to play include:
- Tap into your child’s interests. Eg, if you little one is dinosaur obsessed, talk about the different dinosaur names and the letters that they begin with. Talk about other animals that also start with the same letter.
- Sand play. Show your child how to use their fingers and other objects to trace letters in the sand. Show them first, then ask them to copy. Show your child how to write their own name,
- Sensory play. Any sensory play material can be used for letter recognition and for developing early writing skills. Rainbow rice, shaving foam, porridge oats- as long as you can trace a letter for your child to recognise and copy!
- Role play. As your child is dressing up to make pretend food in their play kitchen, take the opportunity to write lists with them and to talk about different objects and the letters they begin with. Write shopping lists, menus and food orders.
It won’t be long before your child starts to realise begins to notice letters and around us on shop signs etc, and when they begin to recognise words a whole new world will open up for them. Take advantage of this! The journey towards reading is exciting and a privilege to be a part of and if you make it fun, meaningful and relaxed your child will take it all in their stride.
Do get in touch if you have any questions at all about the toys highlighted in this post- and have fun!