Friday, July 8, 2011

Teaching Your Child The Alphabet

I felt pressured to be the BEST mom. There's just so much mothers need to teach their kids.  As a first time mother, I felt overwhelmed.  For starters, how on earth was I supposed to start teaching my boy his alphabet?  I didn't even know where to start.

I knew that on the developmental track, being able to recognize a handful of letters by age 2-3 and most of the alphabet by age 4-5 was within the realm of normal, so I didn't necessarily HAVE to force alphabet learning on my two year old son.  By all accounts, he seemed completely uninterested, and I knew it might be better just to back off for a while*.   But still, I felt pressure to try out different teaching methods.  I mean, maybe I just hadn't hit upon his learning style yet, right?

There are a lot fun ways to introduce the alphabet:

  • Sign his name onto EVERYTHING.  His bed.  His sippy.  His artwork.  The door to his room.  Sound it out for him and point out the letters.  Eventually he'll get the idea that those letters work together to make a word.
  • Help him play with alphabet puzzles or refrigerator magnets.
  • Keep reading to him!  And point out specific letters for him.  Focus on a few letters per week.
  • Once he starts recognizing letters, play word games like "What words begin with B?  Ball, boy, baby..." or if he's especially attached to the letters in his name (like my child), use those letters as a starting point.  "Your name has a special letter M in it?  Can you think of any other M words?"  You can also make simple letter-word matching games on flashcards (Letter M matches to a picture of Mommy, the letter P matches to a picture of pancakes, etc.)

I tried a bunch of different method, but kids have a funny way of being perfectly unique.  My son was incredibly active, uninterested in listening to me "talk" at him about letters, and had the attention span of a chipmunk...unless he was watching PBS television shows.  THEN he would sit still for a whole 15-30 min while the episode flashed across the screen.

And then we stumbled upon a learning dvd, The Letter Factory, by Leap Frog.  If your child is one that will sit still for TV, it can be a powerful learning tool.  The Letter Factory is formatted well so that even if your child won't sit still for the whole 35 minute movie, each segment on each letter is relatively stand-alone, so he doesn't have to finish the movie to get the learning going.  My son learned ALL the alphabet, upper and lowercase, and ALL of their sounds in two weeks.  I was astounded.  The Letter Factory has gotten rave reviews across the board ever since it came out a decade ago.  If you haven't tried it, I'd recommend borrowing it from a friend and giving it a go.  See how your child takes to it.

So, the DVD worked magic on my child, but he's the type of kid that would rather watch "things" (like TV or battery-powered toys) than people.  Remember, every kid has a different learning method.  I imagine if my boy was more of a social type, he would have enjoyed discussing letters with mommy a little more.  So, what kind of methods have you used?  What has been effective?  What was ineffective?  For those of you with more than one child, have you noticed a difference in how each of your kids took to learning the alphabet?  Make sure you describe your child's personality as well, so other moms have a starting point to get ideas for their own kids alphabet learning!

Thanks y'all!


*Special Note:  This is an idea forum...not a guilt trip generator.  If your child is under age 4 and shows no interest in letters, don't worry.  Child development experts say that there's little correlation between early alphabet learning and super advanced reading skills later on, so if your child is still young and uninterested, it might be best to let it go for a while.  We all know kids are geniuses, and there's just a lot for a toddler to learn.  He might be trying to figure out something else right now.


Laura said...

My daughter is a talker--she does work very well with talking about letters. We point them out EVERYWHERE, and she'll make quite a game out of sitting in front of the bookshelves or movies and pointing out all the letters she recognizes.

I'm curious about the Leap Frog DVD. I've heard it mentioned by several people now. It must be good. :)

Heather said...

We go the Letter Factory given to us as a birthday present and it also taught my daughter the alphabet. I feel bad saying that, but it did a good job. My friend's son was totally stuck on cars, trucks, etc. She tried sticking colored dot stickers on the little vehicles and each sticker had a letter that they were working on. So, she'd take a few letters at a time and each letter was represented twice on the cars. As they were playing with the car mat, she'd try to get in the learning that way. I thought it was pretty creative.

Alyssa Harper said...

Heather: What a great idea! I wish I'd thought of that for my boy. His eyes will follow anything with wheels on it too! :)

Laura: I love that your girl makes a game out of finding letters. My son just recently started doing it too. I thinking getting in on the game as mommy and acting really excited about her letter finds adds some spice to the game. :) It's so cute! Oh, and the Letter Factory does a surprisingly good job. It was seriously like magic. I never was a fan of the average learning dvd until I came upon this one.