How to teach your child the alphabet?

Teaching the alphabet lays the foundation for reading and writing. While his/her little hands get strengthened with other activities, there will come a day when you will have to teach your little one the letters. By the age of 2 or 3, children begin to show interest in learning the alphabet. While some kids learn letters very quickly, others need more repetition to learn letters. Remember, the best way to make kids fall in love with learning is by making it fun and immersive. Also, remember that each child is different and it’s critical that we follow their cues when it comes to learning pace.

1. Music- It’s a fact that nearly all children love music. So this is the easiest method for your child to learn the alphabet. Singing the alphabet introduces the alphabet in a fun way. Explore songs that teach the alphabet. This one has worked for a lot of parents, for instance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=60&v=EOueakRcv2Q . Just play the video or the song, and sing and dance with your child as you repeat it with or after him/her!

2. Reading alphabet books- Reading alphabet books to your child can help your child remember them. Pick out books that are visually appealing and ones that your child will relate to. I found Baby Einstein’s, ‘My first Alphabet’ very interesting. It has successfully kept the child distracted by making him/her find the objects based on every alphabet. However, you could choose alphabet books that relate to your child’s interest. For example, my son loves trains. So the book, ‘Thomas ABC book’ helped him to learn the alphabet very easily. Hence, books are a great way to teach the alphabet!

3. Sandpaper letters- Sandpaper letters are part of the Montessori approach to learning how to read. These provide a tactile and visual way to help children learn the alphabet. When you use sandpaper letters you teach them the shape of the letters, how it’s written, and how you pronounce its sound. In this Montessori approach, there is a 3 step process to teach the child. Ideally, practice 3 letters at a time, and avoid clubbing letters that look or sound similar in one session.  

a. Step 1: Introduce the letter. It’s the ‘this is’ section. The best way to teach is by telling your child the phonetic sound. If possible, leverage personal connection. E.g. Your name is ‘Lily’ – Lily starts with the L sound. Now show the ‘L’ board.
Next, have them trace the letter. Each time they trace the letters say the phonetic sound.

b. Step 2: Association: It’s the ‘show me’ section. Please note if this section is difficult, return to the first. Ask your child to follow simple directions with the letter. For example, ‘Pick the letter that has the /a/ sound and set it aside.’ Continue to do this with each letter to reinforce this!

c. Step 3: Recall. It’s the ‘what is this?’ section. Only go to this once the first two are mastered. Put a letter in front of the child and say, ‘Can you trace this and tell me what it is?’ Continue with other letters in the same way.

4.Alphabet Puzzles- Alphabet puzzles are a great tool for teaching letters. It’s a great way to practice vocabulary and verbal skills too. One of the favourite ones is by Melissa and Doug.

5. Sensory play-   You could create bins of objects that start with a particular letter. For instance, a ‘B bin’ could have blocks, a book, a toy butterfly, a ball, a brush and so on! Most children love ‘dumping’ so organize tiny bins and place them under the table. Use foam letters in a big basket and ask your child to take out the letters and put them in the respective bin. Sometimes even if they drop a handful of letters into it, they’re still being exposed. You can help them sort and sound those letters in the bin.

6. Movement- Physical activity is essential for all kids. Children love to play. So this is the perfect combination of movement with learning the alphabet. Make your child perform an action that begins with the letter. For example, ‘G is for galloping like a horse, H is for Hopping like a frog, P is for penguin walk.’ Use your imagination for any movement with each letter.

Parents tend to give their children worksheets and not enough hands-on learning. Often there’s not variety and hence the children do the same activity every day. Instead, use one of the ways every other day not too bore your child. Every child has his/her own way, hence if we insist on getting an activity done the way we expect it to be done it’s not going to yield results. Flexibility is another key factor to keep in mind. Since children can take breaks and their time to learn and grasp each letter.