Alphabet Fun~Imagination from A to Z!
Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
Imagination is the language of childhood, so speaking their language when introducing our language only makes sense. Let’s ditch the flashcards, turn off the educational dvd’s, and throw out the worksheets because learning is child’s play!
In Fun with Funoodles we cut up a bunch of foam pool noodles and wrote letters on them for all sorts of funoodley fun!
Alphabet Fishing is a fun game that can be used to introduce letters, match upper and lower cases, work on beginning sounds, build words, and more!
Fill a bathtub or a bucket with a few inches of water (Supervise, supervise, supervise! Never leave a young child alone with even an inch of standing water, not even for a minute!), tie a string to a small plastic rod, and attach a piece of metal to the other end of the string, and then you can play games like:
Catch the Letters
For letter introduction, choose the letters in your child’s name or 3 to 5 random letters and toss them in the tub, then let them ‘catch’ whatever their pole lands on and name it for them. An alternative is to name a letter for them to catch and play ‘hot-n-cold’ until they get it, or show them a letter on a card and have them catch the matching letter.
Catch and Match
For upper and lowercase matching, put a few capital or lowercase letters in the tub and line up their matches beside the tub and let them ‘catch and match’ them. (We call the uppercase letters the ‘Mommy’ letters and the lowercase letters the ‘Baby’ letters, and when the Baby letters fall in the water, my little ones love to come to the rescue and reunite them with their Mommy letters!)
Find pictures of things with the first letters you are working on (like a picture of a dog for D and a cat for C, etc) and either cut them out yourself or let your little one do it if they like to cut (it doesn’t have to be perfect and it’s great practice!), then put the letters under the picture except for the first letters (or vowels if they’re beyond beginning sounds) and toss the missing letters in the tub. Help your child make the sound that completes the word and identify which letter makes that sound, them let them catch it and put it in place.
For sunshiny days, head outside with some sidewalk chalk and a few other odds-n-ends because a ton of learning fun can be had in the sun!
Write out a few of the letters you’re working on or just the letters in your little one’s name. Get a small rock or beanbag and let your child have fun throwing it onto the letters you call out or get a toy truck and let your child try to roll it just hard enough to get it to come to a stop on the right letter.
Have your little one hop, skip, and jump their way through a maze of alphabet letters drawn in sidewalk chalk, calling out each letter as they land on it. Or write the letters you’re working on mixed in with other letters or just random shapes and have them jump over and around the wrong boxes to get to the right ones.
Draw a big wordfind box on the sidewalk with words ‘hidden in plain sight’ (i.e. all of the words hidden horizontally). For earlier learners use no more than a four letter by four letter box, and for slightly older learners use a six by six letter box. Write the words they’re looking for right beneath the box for easy reference.
Wooden blocks with just one letter on them are ideal, but magnetic or foam letters will work, too. Take the letters of your child’s name or another small group of letters and hide them in your yard (or inside your house if the weather is bad). Play ‘hot-n-cold’ to help your child find the letters and have them call out the letter names as they find them.
Write a word on the sidewalk and hide the letters to the word around the yard. As your child finds each letter, they run back and put the letter on top of the chalk letter until they’ve built the word.
Hide letters around the yard and give your child clues in I-Spy form (i.e. “I spy with my little eye a letter hidden under something blue!”)
Circle of Words
Use sidewalk chalk to write action words like ‘spin’ and ‘sing’ and ‘clap’ in a big circle, then either read them to your child or help them sound them out, depending on their reading level. Grab a camera and click away as they spin and sing and clap their way to reading!
For days when going outdoors just isn’t an option, here are a few ideas to keep the learning fun and fresh:
ABC Playdoh Matching
I found an old board game with no game pieces at a yard sale for 10 cents. It had the letters of the alphabet in all capitals, though, so I knew it would make a good DIY game of some sort. We used it as a fun review of the ‘mommy’ letters and the ‘baby’ letters by grabbing some playdoh and making it a matching game! The tactile use of playdoh to make the baby letters is a wonderful reinforcement of their shape, helping little learners to remember them far better than simply looking at them or writing them.
And when your little learner is ready to read, here are some word family activities that they may enjoy:
Fashion Friends Word Family
These little bff’s are mini fashionistas who love to coordinate their clothes so they make a statement everywhere they go! Little Miss Middle chooses which word family shirt to wear, then Little Miss Left chooses a shirt with a letter that makes a word, and, when there are more than one of anything, Little Miss Right reveals her ‘S’uperpower…she gets ‘S’o ‘S’uper excited she becomes ‘S’upergirl and makes the word plural with her ‘S’uper ‘S’! (These are just foam sticker people from Michael’s I cut up and made into the Fashion Friends. Check back next week for the Superhero Friends C, S, T, W, P, and H as they conquer the alphabet universe and use their superpowers to create new sounds that are out of this world!)
Note: As long as your child is having fun, meaningful learning is taking place. But when frustration begins to surface (whining, refusing to cooperate, complaining, etc.) take that as your cue to take a break or make some silly new game rules or let your child take the lead and make up some new games. You never know what you might learn!
Award-winnning author, L.R.Knost, is the founder and director of the children's rights advocacy and family consulting group, Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, and Editor-in-Chief of Holistic Parenting Magazine. Books by L.R.Knost include Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages and Stages of Childhood ; Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages ; The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline ; and Jesus, the Gentle Parent: Gentle Christian Parenting the first four books in the Little Hearts Handbook gentle parenting series, and children’s picture books Petey’s Listening Ears and the soon-to-be-released Grumpykins series.