How can I introduce the ABCs to my baby?
There are so many ways to explore the alphabet. From coloring letters, singing the alphabet, reading or playing with shapes, your baby can begin learning the alphabet today.
At Cali’s Book’s, we know that educational books and learning through play are important for kids. This is especially true when learning the alphabet. Since kids learn at a different pace, here are some tips and ideas to get them going!
- When to Introduce My Baby to the Alphabet
- How to Begin Teaching Letters to my Baby
- Reading Alphabet Books
- Alphabet Art and Tracing ABC’s
- Learning Through Play
- My Top 3 ABC Activities for Learning the Alphabet!
- More Tips to Teach Alphabet to Your Kid
- Mistakes to Avoid
When to Introduce My Baby to the Alphabet
Babies are amazing little creatures. They learn so much, even before becoming toddlers! As a parent, it can be hard to know when to start teaching them certain skills. Since babies don’t come with a guidebook that tells us the best time to teach letters, sounds and letter formation, you may have to outsource that information.
Children start to recognize letters before they reach kindergarten, often by the age of two.
This is a great time to start the process of teaching them the alphabet!
By 2 years old, many kids are curious, mobile and ready to learn about the world around them. They can participate in crafts revolving around letter recognition. It’s not about teaching it like you would with 4 years old preschoolers, but they can have fun and learn their shapes too!
How to Begin Teaching Letters to my Baby
There’s no limit on how to teach your baby the alphabet. A little bit of creativity will go a long way to kickstart a love for learning. What are some ideas to begin teaching letters to your baby?
Letter Match:A simple and exciting game. You can use a chalkboard, a sheet of cardboard or anything else that you can write large letters on. Next, have a matching set of letters that your baby can touch and handle. Show them how to match the letters in their hand to the letters on the board. Once they get a hang of it, your baby will love the process of matching letters!
Post-It Letter Party:Slightly more advanced than the matching game, this game focuses on having your kids find specific letters out of a selection of letters. Put individual letters on post-its and stick them to the wall. Ask your child to go and grab a specific letter on the wall. Voila! Learning has commenced.
Introduce New Letters Each Week:Once a week, introduce a new letter in some cool and exciting way. Maybe they come in a decorated shoebox or appear magically in the morning where you eat breakfast. This way, they see a new letter every week to focus on in their ABC learning activities.
Reading Alphabet Books
Babies love to read (or at least be read to)! That means no matter the type of alphabet books you have, reading alphabet books to your kids is the best way to start. For my kids, learning time was always best when we mixed singing and reading to get them accustomed to the sound of individual letters. This routine gave me the idea to make a book for them… Sing the Alphabet!
Easy words and a well-known tune make this one of the best ways to introduce the alphabet to babies. Singing the letters makes learning fun and we know babies learn best when they are having fun! First, they listened and then as toddlers, they sang along. As they grew, we used different music and types of books to help them develop new alphabet skills. Phonetics and letter sounds became the focus of our alphabet learning time!
The book Dinosaur Alphabet was made for exactly this reason. Why dinosaurs? Children are amazed by dinosaurs and what better way to teach them letter recognition than with amazing creatures? Step by step, word by word, song by song, and week by week, the kids were learning their letter sounds and letter shapes. My kids learnt that T stood for T-REX and V was for Velociraptor this way!
Alphabet Art and Tracing ABC’s
What do babies and toddlers love more than playing? Painting! In our home, painting and coloring are regular activities. We introduced letter shapes and alphabet letter fun into our painting time. Familiar words can be paired with familiar shapes. Different letters can get different colors to help them understand that they are different.
Both coloring and tracing are important for the development of motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Tracing uppercase letters or painting lower-case letters can help your babies and toddlers know what these shapes mean. Fine motor skills and dexterity are linked to better results in both reading and math in later years.
Once my kids came up with the idea of putting the uppercase letters next to the lowercase letters. What a huge alphabet learning breakthrough that was for them!
Learning Through Play: Alphabet Activities
If you haven’t guessed it yet, our process for teaching skills such as sound, shapes or anything else is play, play, play! Play is a crucial part of kids’ development and the alphabet is no exception to this rule. We might want them to learn quickly, but many kids will only be thinking of having fun. The good news is that they can do both! If your children are too young to learn the alphabet, just play with them. Play will help improve their memory and grow their brain size at the same time. Sounds like a win-win situation!
I found that my daughter began teaching her little brother while playing with him. They played with ABC blocks and sang the ABC song together. Those exact words, sounds and shapes will stick with them as they grow up. It was almost like she was running her own kindergarten class!
Play has other benefits as well. It helps with impulse control and the regulation of emotions. On top of that, it helps them strengthen and grow their relationship. Since play is the way that kids learn about the world, it makes sense that you would use play as a way to help with alphabet letter learning. I found the games on scholastic a nice and affordable way to get them playing with the alphabet.
My Top 3 ABC Activities for Learning the Alphabet!
1. Become the Letters:
What’s another thing that kids always want to do? Move! Encourage your kids to move and use their body to make the letter shapes while you sing along to the alphabet songs. They will love this. Want another idea? Associate the letter shapes with letter sounds and words. This helps with letter recognition. My favorite is using the uppercase letter A and using your imagination to eat an a-a-apple.
2. Find the Alphabet:
There is nothing better than a good treasure hunt or hide and seek with your toddlers. However, this time, make the alphabet your treasure! You can hide letters in the sandbox or all over your home. When they find them, they must shout out the alphabet letter they found. Is it a lowercase letter? An uppercase letter? As long as they are growing in their letter recognition, it doesn’t matter! We use crafts materials like cardboard or post-its in our home to make sure this remains an affordable game to play.
3. Eat Your Alphabet:
As teachers of our children, we must find opportunities in the everyday activities of life. What do kids seem to be doing every 5-10 minutes? Eating! That is why eating your alphabet is a great way to learn your ABC’s. Every week, we would eat our alphabet in a new way. One week they were cookies, the next week they were made of spaghetti. My kids eventually became excited to see how we were going to eat our ABC’s next week. My daughter once said to me, “I have an idea! Let’s make letter sounds while we make the shapes out of porridge in the morning!” I was so proud that she was learning her ABC’s so we got out a cookie sheet and made porridge letters for breakfast.
More Tips to Teach Alphabet to Your Kid
Use Cartoons: Teaching has a lot to do with knowing how to hold a kid’s attention. A smart teacher (and parent) knows the value of a great educational video. Cartoons are obviously the best choice for young kids. They seem to appeal to their sense of fun and wackiness and the right video can speak volumes for you. This is a great example of a video that is perfect for kids learning their alphabet.
Don’t Worry About the Order: In the beginning, the order of the alphabet does not matter. As adults, we are almost always tempted to begin at A and end at Z. For kids, this isn’t a priority. As long as they are learning the letter shape and letter sounds, you are winning. Creativity and flexibility are more valuable at this point than structure and order.
Lower Case Letters First: Always begin with lowercase letters first. Why lower case? I asked the same question! It didn’t seem to make sense that it would matter which letters they learnt first. It turns out that lower case letters are better for a number of reasons. Lower case letters are easier for kids to draw, requiring fewer strokes than capital letters. Books are filled with mostly lower-case letters, making them more recognizable than upper-case letters. 26 letters are a lot to learn when you are just a toddler. If you were to teach upper-case as well, that is 52 letters!
Your Child’s Name: My children love when I call their names. Sometimes, they just want me to say their names over and over again. Even to adults, your name is a powerful and personal word that holds special meaning to you. That is why it is the best place to start when choosing letters to learn. You can create fun crafts, like a name tree on their bedroom door with all of the letters of their name printed out in large and easy-to-read font. This always makes learning even more exciting.
Mistakes to Avoid
Teaching your kids the alphabet is a process. As any parents will tell you, you learn over time what to do and what works but also, and more importantly, what not to do. Simple mistakes to avoid that can make your life a little easier as you embark upon this journey with your child.
Too Much Material: There is so much great material out there that can seem entertaining and helpful. Find a couple that work for you and stick to those. Simple is always best in the beginning because it is easy to become overwhelmed with too much material. Perhaps you use a wonderful alphabet book from Cali’s Books and an alphabet puzzle from the toy store. At first, two or three options to choose from could be plenty.
Watch the Time: The attention span of a small child is not meant to be stretched with long periods of monotonous learning. Do some alphabet learning and play, then move on to something else. In a while, you can return to the alphabet if you want but there is no need to push it. Their brains are not yet equipped for long learning sessions and it is not a race to be won.
Check Your Expectations: Remember, these are kids! When I was first teaching my kids the alphabet, I had to remind myself to relax. These were 2- and 3-year-olds, not college students. It takes years for a child to fully grasp letters and words and the best thing for their learning is to pace it correctly. Too much, too soon makes for no progress and grumpy kids. Consistent exposure to the ABC’s and play involving the alphabet will inevitably lead to them fully understanding and grasping letter shapes and sounds.
Don’t Be Strict: I wanted my kids to fall in love with learning and I am sure you do too. It is hard for kids to do that if their parents are extremely strict. Completion is important. Progress is important. Learning is important. Even more important than these is the desire to learn and this is accomplished by allowing wiggle room. If something cannot be completed, it can be left till tomorrow. There is a time for rigorous study and learning the ABC’s as a toddler is not one of those times!
This is Quality Time: The time spent with your kids is precious and every moment should be treated as such. As adults, it can be easy to turn learning time into what we remember from school. This is not that! This is a special quality time that you get to enjoy with your beautiful children. Play, laugh, be creative and relish these moments. Even though your kids likely won’t remember, you will look back upon these memories with fondness and love. Learning the alphabet is a foundational part of their education and will help them achieve great things. You get to be the driving force in that process so enjoy it.
The Beginning of a Journey…That first step of their learning journey begins with the alphabet. Paint, play, sing and have a great time because this only gets to happen once. From all of us at Cali’s Books, enjoy!
Hi! I'm Cali, Founder of Cali's Books
“I’ve loved books since childhood and wanted to transmit this enthusiasm to my children”
I'm a mom of two young children who trained as an engineer and worked in investment banking and at Disney. A French of Caribbean origin (Martinique to be precise!), I grew up in Paris. Los Angeles is now the place I call home!
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