Teaching Preschoolers Their Letters
I love working with my preschool kids to teach them their letters but one thing I learned very quickly with my firstborn was that kids can get frustrated if they are pushed too quickly. I thought teaching them to write their letters would be the easiest way – but it caused a lot of frustration for both of us starting with writing.
Think of it like this – when you teach a teenager to drive a car you don’t teach them in a stick shift, but in an automatic. That way they can learn the rules and rhythm of driving, without having to ALSO master the physical timing of the clutch at the same time. Likewise, I learned that my kids could learn their letters much faster if I wasn’t also trying to teach them the fine motor skills of penmanship at the same time.
These alphabet activities for preschoolers are things I’ve done with my kids for the last five years to help them learn their letter names and sounds in a fun, hands on way that is playful and engaging.
Names and Letter Sounds
While letters have NAMES – which is often what parents focus on when teaching letters – it is more important for a child to practice the sound that a letter SAYS. “Oh look! A “B” – that’s the name of the letter that says B. B-b-b-bean. B-b-b-baby. What animal do you know whose name starts with B-b-b-b?”
Whenever you work with the letters, see them around town, or have a chance to remind your child of the letters, remind them what the letters SAY. Just like dogs make a sound and cats make a sound, the letters make a sound too. And that’s what they need to know to form words from letters.
Glued Letter Posters
One of our favorites, this activity involves making letter posters – a fabulous tactile way to introduce your child to his letters.
You will need:
- One sheet of construction paper
- Small bits of some kind of crafting flotsam (beans, sequins, tissue paper squares, pom-poms, etc.)
- Elmer’s glue or glue stick
To assemble the letter, simply write the letter in a full size on the construction paper. If your child is old enough to do the glue himself let him use the glue to go over the line you made. Or you can lay the glue down and let them decorate the letter with whatever crafting bits you have on hand. In this case we used beans – B-B-Beans. (See what I did there?)
Introducing Penmanship with Indoor Sandboxes
One of the best ways I’ve found to introduce penmanship and letter shapes to my children, without frustrating them, is by using a playful method. I fill a brownie pan with any kind of rough sand-like substance. Playground sand is nice if you have it. Cornmeal or salt will also work and are usually easy to find. Put about an inch into your brownie pan.
Look at your large letter poster you made together, or draw a large size example for your child, and let them practice trying to make that shape in the “sandbox”. The larger form means that minor wibbles and wobbles aren’t noticeable and won’t distract your child from the overall letter shape they are trying to achieve. Brilliant AND they think it’s fun!
Animals and Alphabets – Walk it Out!
If you want to take letters to the large scale, one fun game we like is to use masking tape or washi tape on the floor to make a huge letter – as big as the biggest room in the house will allow us to make. March out the shape of the letter. Think of an animal whose name starts with the sound of the letter. Then walk out the shape of the letter in the way that animal would walk. Or making the sounds that animal would make! Guaranteed hilarity. Your child won’t even know they are supposed to be learning.
There’s plenty of time for desk work and lines when your child starts school. Until then keep learning fun and exciting and your pre-K child will be eager to learn and explore new letters with you!