The alphabetic principle is the understanding that letters represent speech sounds. Alphabet knowledge includes the ability to recognize letter shapes, letter names, and letter sounds. It also includes how to form uppercase and lowercase letters. According to research, alphabet knowledge is the single best predictor of later reading and writing success, so it’s a crucial part of your preschoolers’ learning foundation.
Just like most early childhood milestones, children learn their letters at all different times. Some little ones learn them as early as two yeas old, while others don’t master them until they’re in kindergarten. And that’s ok! Our goal as early childhood educators and parents is to give our little ones repeated exposure to the alphabet. We are not looking for mastery at this age, but we do want to make learning the alphabet fun, hands-on, and apart of their everyday routine.
5 Tips for Introducing the Alphabet
Here are 5 great tips for introducing the alphabet to your preschooler. These are low-stress activities that don’t require you to spend hours on flashcards or quizzing your little one. The goal is not to push them if they’re not ready…it’s simply to expose them to the letters in an authentic way to facilitate their learning!
1. Read, Read, Read
Reading is the best way to introduce the alphabet to your little ones. Read nursery rhymes, rhyming books, picture books, chapter books, any kind of books! Aim to read at least 15-20 minutes every single day. (This can be broken up over the course of the day). Not only will it help your preschooler learn the alphabet, but it will also create fun and lasting memories!
2. Environmental Print
Notice print around you! Call attention to signs, billboards, the letters on cereal boxes, in the grocery store, on TV…everywhere! This will help little ones see that letters are part of everyday life.
3. Names First
Learning the alphabet is a big job! There are 26 lowercase letters AND 26 uppercase letters, and they are all abstract…none of them have much meaning for kids. When you start with the letters in their name instead, it makes learning the letters much more personal for preschoolers. Plus all kids love their names and get so excited when they can spell them!
4. Use Music
Music helps preschoolers more easily learn letter names and sounds…plus it makes it way more fun! But I’m not talking about the typical “ABCs” song. I’m thinking of great videos on You Tube, such as the videos from Jack Hartmann. Those are sure to entertain and educate your preschooler at the same time!
5. Don’t Stress!
This last tip is probably the MOST important of them all…don’t stress! Children learn their letters when they’re ready, and no amount of pushing or stressing will change that. Meet them where they are and keep it fun, and you’ll be surprised how quickly they learn!
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