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Article:    Teaching the Alphabet to Preschoolers



 

When you really think about it, the letters of the alphabet are rather abstract shapes. However, don't think too hard when you are trying to encourage letter recognition skills in your preschooler. In fact, letters are pictures, and children will enjoy learning the unique shape of each member of the alphabet. As long as the lessons are not heavy-handed, many young children have a great time identifying letters. 

One of the ways you can teach your child letters is by introducing letters as casually as you would any other object. Reinforcement is, of course, the key. And, since all 26 letters can be overwhelming, make it part of your day to introduce one letter at a time until you're sure your young child has absorbed each. Go backwards before going forward. 

You may only need some colorful markers and paper, or chalk and a chalkboard, to serve up letters to little ones. You can get creative by using your child's favorite food, like Cheerios, to form letters as extra reinforcement. You can even bake cookies using alphabet cookie cutters (we've included a recipe below). However, we've selected our favorite books, videos, puzzles, and electronic toys that will help back up your own efforts.

Alphabet Books

Books that help teach young children the alphabet are easy to find. We've rounded up some of our favorites--each of our book selections uses a different, but creative, approach to presenting letters. 

"Big A, little a, what begins with A?" So begins the classic Dr. Seuss's ABC, a delightful rhyming adventure through the letters of the alphabet. Besides the bouncy rhyme, what makes this book special is its attention to both uppercase and lowercase letters. For the very young, it's probably best to have the board book edition--the book is likely to receive a lot of attention, and this edition will last longer!

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Dr Seuss's ABC: An Amazing Book (Bright... (board book edition) at Amazon.com]

 

Museum ABC presents a tasteful selection of images--four for each letter of the alphabet. This new book, featuring art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, offers children different perspectives on each object. For example, A is for apple, and four works of art represent an apple in different ways--through the eyes of artists like Paul Cezanne and Brian Connelly. 

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Museum ABC (hardcover) at Amazon.com]

 

In Toot & Puddle: Puddle's ABC, Otto the turtle doesn't know what the letters in his name represent, so Puddle picks up a paintbrush and, through his paintings, endeavors to teach the turtle each letter of the alphabet. The watercolor illustrations are wonderfully winsome and the story is sweet. Children are treated to phrases like, "woolly bears waltzing" and "zooming zucchini". 

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Toot & Puddle: Puddle's ABC (hardcover) at Amazon.com]

 

A brightly colored ABC book that features plentiful photo-objects for every letter of the alphabet is My First ABC Board Book by DK. This board book edition is sturdy and "totable". It's excellent as a vocabulary builder, and although the letters of the alphabet play second fiddle to the gorgeous photos of familiar objects, the book is irresistible to the very young.  

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: My First ABC Board Book (hardcover) at Amazon.com]

 

coverThis fabulous book is authored by Joan Novelli, whose work appears in Sesame Street Parents, Parent & Child magazines, to name a couple. It includes exceptional multi-sensory activities designed to not only teach children the alphabet, but encourage them to love learning all about letters! The activities are designed for early childhood educators, but parents will love to incorporate the games and projects into play at home. 

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Irresistible A, B, Cs (Grades PreK-K) at Amazon.com]

Parents looking for a different way to teach their children the letters of the alphabet--through direct association--might want to try Obvious Letters: The Associative Alphabet Every Child Will Remember. This unique book features letters as the objects they represent. In other words, a tie looks like the letter T, and a backpack is in the shape of lowercase b. The illustrations of animals are in black-and-white, but the letters themselves are in color--calling attention to themselves! It's a clever approach that most children will enjoy, but it's particularly appropriate for children struggling with letter recognition. A CD-ROM edition of this book is also available here: obvious LETTERS: The Associative Alphabet Every Child Will Remember (CD-ROM).

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Obvious Letters: The Associative... (hardcover) at Amazon.com]

 

Don't let the size of the picture of Kipper's A to Z fool you. It's really an oversized picture book that sends children on an alphabet hunt with Kipper the dog and his friends, including Zebra (pictured) who is anxious to get in on the fun. This book is special because it tells a very clever and humorous story as it introduces kids to letters and objects that begin with each. This is our favorite Kipper book. It's truly fantastic.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Kipper's A to Z: An Alphabet Adventure (hardcover) at Amazon.com]


Alphabet Puzzles

The best alphabet puzzles are those that feature individual cut-outs of the letters. These wooden alphabet puzzles are large, solid, and very educational. Learning the distinct shapes of each letter is certainly easier when kids can hold the letters in their hands and when they actually have to seek out a similar form on the board.

The Alphabet Art Puzzle from Lights, Camera, Interaction is a large wooden puzzle featuring each uppercase letter of the alphabet decorated with an illustration of an object that begins with the letter. For example, the letter "P" sports piano keys, "N" is decorated with nuts, and a colorful rope adorns the letter "R". The size of this puzzle is just right, and the letters are attractively decorated. 

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Alphabet Art Puzzle at Amazon.com]

The ABC Puzzle Upper and Lower Case is another wooden puzzle that is extra special because it features both upper-and lower-case letters side-by-side. It also features peek-inside illustrations of familiar objects that begin with each letter (such as a quail for "Q" and an ice cream cone for "I". For families who want their children to learn to associate the "big" and "little" letters with each other, this puzzle is ideal. 

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: ABC Puzzle: Upper & Lower Case at Amazon.com]

coverA puzzle that not only helps reinforce alphabet recognition but also alphabetic order is the Alphabet Train Floor Puzzle. This puzzle is long, featuring a large puzzle piece for each letter of the alphabet. Pictures of objects that start with each letter are included, so that a horse, panda, apple, quail, and more, ride the train. When kids complete the puzzle, they have built a fantastic train more than 10 feet long! 

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Alphabet Train Floor Puzzle at Amazon.com]

 

Electronic Aids

Although you don't necessarily need batteries to teach kids their ABC's, the following electronic toys can be quite helpful: 

A conveniently portable and exciting toy that teaches lowercase letters, letter sounds, and simple spelling is Leap Phonics Library. This electronic toy features each letter of the alphabet atop book-shaped buttons, and its seven modes determine how a child plays with the toy. For electronic learning in almost any room of the house (not just the computer room) and on the go, this toy is hard to beat. Leap Phonics Library will help teach your little ones the alphabet--and some of the cool words it can make. 

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Leap Phonics Library at Amazon.com for approximately $20 US]

The Phonics Writing Desk is better for children who are ready to try their hand at writing letters. The desk has an erasable writing screen that is similar in function to a MagnaDoodle, and an attached pen. Children are shown letters on a small LCD screen, and are asked to copy them by writing directly on the toy's writing screen. Beginning levels teach simple letter recognition, and higher settings introduce spelling and phonics. It's a fun and affordable toy that will grow with a child.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Phonics Writing Desk at Amazon.com]

Alphabet Videos/DVDs

So Smart! Letters is a creative video/DVD that teaches without intruding. Designed to be used with caregivers alongside, this video brings letters to life, one letter at a time. Adults need to do the letter-naming (the only audio is classical music). See our review for more information about this video.

See our article, The Best ABCs and 123s Videos for more of our choices of videos that teach the letters of the alphabet.


Bake the Letters of the Alphabet!

Using alphabet cookie cutters, you can bake the letters of the alphabet! Here is our yummy and easy recipe for basic sugar cookies. 

Quick Sugar Cookie Recipe (No Chilling Necessary!):

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1-2 tsp. vanilla, to taste
2 tsp. baking powder
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a mixer, cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl, stir together flour and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients, about a cup at a time to the moist ingredients and mix after each addition. You may need to mix in the last cup of flour by hand. 

Roll out half of the dough to about an eighth of an inch thickness. Use floured cookie cutters (for easier handling) to cut out desired shapes. Bake on a baking sheet for approximately 7-8 minutes; repeat.


A nice set of cookie cutters that includes not only letters of the alphabet, but also numbers and familiar objects is the 100-piece Plastic Cookie Cutter Set by Roshco. Because they're plastic, you can also allow your preschooler to use the cutters with play-dough. This set is inexpensive, and it includes a wide variety of small and medium shapes, such as airplanes, cars, trees, ice cream cones, people, and so forth. It even includes basic holiday-themed shapes.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Roshco 100-Piece Plastic Cookie Cutter... at Amazon.com]


Software

 

A wonderful program that helps children cozy up to the unique shapes of each letter of the alphabet is Alphabet Express Preschool, an older title that retains its merit. Children "paint" pictures, watch short animations, play dot-to-dot activities, and more with this excellent title that features both uppercase and lowercase letters. Highly recommended. Rating: A 

[Buy: Alphabet Express Preschool at Amazon.com]

 

As a companion to the book, or as a stand-alone program, Dr. Seuss ABC presents the pages of the book onscreen, with plenty of items to click. This is an older title, but it remains fun and appropriate for young children as long as they have learned to use the computer mouse. It is now available at discounted prices due to its age, so be sure you don't pay full price for this title. It's a pleasant program that features, just like the book, lowercase and uppercase letters and silly rhymes. This fun CD-ROM is now available in a value-added bundle of 3 software titles: Adventure Workshop Grades Preschool-1st Dr. Seuss.

[For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Adventure Workshop Grades Preschool-1st Dr. Seuss at Amazon.com]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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