by Jean Warren
The preschool years are the “getting ready” years. Getting ready to read and write means being able to recognize, match, sort and know the sounds of some letters. Children encounter letters all day long. Parents can help them learn to recognize letters and be well on their way to reading before they enter kindergarten.
Interacting with letters can also help young children develop many other important learning skills.
Art Skills – Doing letter rubbings, gluing objects on letters, making letter shapes with dough, all help children develop beginning art skills.
Writing Skills – Finger painting letters, writing letters in the sand, attempting to write letters with crayons and marking pens all help young children develop small muscles needed for learning to write.
Reading Skills – Matching letters, letter walks, learning letter sounds and being able to recognize upper and lower case letters all help children learn to read.
Coordination Skills – Bending wire into letter shapes, holding pencils when writing, making letter shapes with their bodies, all help children develop coordination skills.
Problem Solving Skills – Sorting and matching letters help young children learn beginning problem solving skills.
Social Skills – Learning to recognize the letters in the names of our friends, enables young children to recognize their friends belongings, cubby hole and notes from them.
Musical Skills – Singing about letters can help develop musical as well rhyme skills.
Most adults attack the teaching of letters in alphabetical order. The secret, however, is to start with the letters your child is familiar with. The obvious first choice is the beginning letter of your child’s name. The letter “M” from McDonalds is another popular choice. Just make the learning of letters meaningful and your child will be motivated to learn more about them.
Below are some activities that you can do at home with your child to fill his world with meaningful letters.
Begin teaching your child about letters using the letters in his name. Look for ways to label your child’s things. Put his name on his bed, his clothes, his door, etc. These are his special letters. Recognition skills will develop long before his writing skills.
Play simple name recognition games with your child.
- Put four names on cards. Have your child point to the card with his name on it.
- Have your child pick out the presents at holiday times with her name on them.
- Write notes to your child with his name on them.
- Make up name songs with your child using the letters in her name. (For directions, go to the Music Station at Preschool Express and look for Name Songs.)
A real favorite with most preschoolers is magnet letters. Help your child pick out her letters. Always use both upper and lower case letters when forming names. Have your child arrange the letters in the proper order to spell her name.
Children can learn to recognize the letters in their name long before they can actually write them. A fun project for preschoolers to do, is to make name rubbings. Buy or make small cardboard letters for your child’s name. Glue them in a row on a large piece of cardboard. Have your child lay a piece of paper on top of the letters. Then take an unwrapped crayon and lay it on its side and rub across the paper on top of the letters.
A rubbing of the child’s name should appear on the paper.
To help your child remember the letters in his name, make him a name bracelet. Write his name on a 1” strip of paper. Wrap the strip on your child’s wrist and tape the two ends together. Cut or tear off excess paper. Let your child color his bracelet if he would like.
On a piece of paper write twenty letters at random, plus three of the first letter of your child’s name. Give the paper to your child and have her search for her special letters and circle them when she finds them. Play this game with other recognizable letters for your child.
Surprise your child at the beach by writing their name in the sand. You can also play a letter game by writing familiar letters in the sand and having your child search for a letter one at a time.
For this game you will need a paper plate and 4-8 clip type clothespins. With a pen, divide the plate into 4-8 sections and mark each section with a familiar letter for your child. Next, write the same letters on the clothespins. Have your child choose a clothespin, find it’s matching section on the plate and clip it onto that section of the plate.