As more parents are interested in teaching young children letter recognition at home, either through homeschooling or giving extra support, the issue of children not being interested comes up over and over. After all, keeping 15-25 kindergarten and preschool kids engaged and learning in my classrooms was a constant balancing act. However, what I found worked best was planning with my tiny bosses in mind because at the end of the day I was there to serve their educational and developmental needs. So no matter what skill or concept I taught, I always had one question in mind – Will they find this fun? Or the variation – How can I make this fun?
What is letter recognition?
Above all, letter recognition is the ability to recognize the size and shape of a letter by sight. However, there are also skills that are often taught alongside and this leads to confusion for parents and young children.
This is why very young children who have good visual perception skills are able to recognize – point to, group, and name (if they have the verbal skills) letters. To that end, all that is considered letter recognition.
Why do children struggle with letter recognition?
In short, teaching young children how to recognize letters is actually a visual perception skill. Because of this, children who struggle or who appear to struggle with this fall into one or more of the categories below.
Asked to perform a task they are not developmentally ready for
Given unclear instructions or expectations
Presented the task in a way that does not hold their attention so they do not master the skill
Addressing each of these is pretty simple once you are aware of the issue.
First, be sure you’re clear about the actual outcome you want. When you’re asking your young child to recognize letters of the alphabet you’re asking them to point to, match, or name. That’s it.
Next, remember that letter sounds are a different set of skills. While they can be taught at the same time, your expectation for each learning experience needs to be clear in your head.
Third, make sure your child is ready for this skill. In fact, there are lots of activities that can be done before teaching young children how to recognize letters. Because there are sometimes subtle differences between letters, it’s best to start with major differences (putting together 3-4 piece puzzles for example) before asking your child to begin to notice small differences in letters.
Finally, make sure the way you’re teaching is fun! In order to help with this one, keep reading.
10 Fun Ways to Teach Young Children Letter Recognition
Tip 1: Use letter tracing mats with cars
First off, this play-based approach allows children to literally feel the shape of each letter as they zoom their cars around each letter. Being that letter recognition is a visual skill, this is important because some children learn best by doing!
Tip 2: Create alphabet art
Another way to practice is by helping your child tap into their creativity by using crayons, pencils, and watercolors to paint or draw letters. In addition to teaching letter recognition, this is a highly valued skill by employers and entrepreneurs alike. Use mixed media to stimulate their senses. Also, providing alphabet templates as an option or for inspiration helps as well.
Tip 3: Read fun alphabet books that focus on letter recognition
Generally, alphabet stories are a fun way to help your child become familiar with letters. Choose books that have simple fun plots for your child to follow. In case you need a few suggestions, check out this list of fun alphabet books.
Tip 4: Use music and movement
In addition, music and movement paired with alphabet cards help children to remember the letters. However, always keep in mind that different types of learners need different ways of teaching. For example, YouTube is full of great resources but one most preschool and kindergarten teachers swear by is Jack Hartman songs. His songs and videos help young children learn the letters of the alphabet among other skills.
Tip 5: Games & Puzzles for Letter Recognition
Play is the work of childhood. For this reason, children are learning and rehearsing skills they need to master for success while playing! So, let’s take advantage of that! Specifically, simple puzzles that have children put together letters are a low-stress way for them to learn letter recognition. Furthermore, make sure pieces are 2-4 pieces per letter, and (depending on their ability) a guide would be useful.
Tip 6: Magnetic Letter Recognition Sensory Bin
Another way to teach letter recognition is by placing some magnetic letters in a sensory bin and having your child attract and match letters. Although colored rice is a fun bin filler, there are loads of different ideas for bin fillers if you want to switch it up. Since young children love playing with magnets, this resource is both educational (letters and science) and loads of fun.
Tip 7: Start a Collection/Alphabet Wall
Create an alphabet collection. As you go about your day help your child identify and collect letters they find. For example, they may recognize a letter on a cereal box while having breakfast. Help them cut it out and add it to their collection/alphabet wall.
Tip 8: Bake Alphabet CookiesA yummy treat awaits them (and you) at the end of this fun activity. First, get some alphabet cookie cutters or freehand the letters with the dough. Next, bake and decorate if you’d like. As you eat be sure to ask your child to pass you an R cookie. You could make different types of cookies to add to the conversation. For example, “I like the chocolate chip R cookies better than the sugar R cookies.”
Tip 9: Stamp the AlphabetFinally, you can use rubber alphabet stamps and let your child go to town! These are great for art or you can have your child match by stamping the letters using different color ink.
The Last Thing You Need to Know about Teaching Your Child to Recognize the ABC’s
Above all, always start with two things in mind:
A clear understanding of what outcome you’re looking for
Would my child find this fun? Or How can I make this fun?
Letting these two thoughts be your guide will help to make teaching your child how to recognize letters much more fun and interesting for both of you. Also, if you’re looking for activities or games, check out the free Resource Library where I upload weekly printables. For example, this week I’ve uploaded Dots of Fun practice pages that can be paired with these ideas to help young children recognize upper and lowercase letters.