As more parents are interested in teaching young children how to recognize letters at home, either through homeschooling or giving extra support, the issue of children not being interested comes up over and over. In my classrooms keeping 15-25 kindergarten and preschool kids engaged and learning was a constant balancing act. 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 the 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?
Letter recognition is the ability to recognize the size and shape of a letter by sight. Though there are also skills 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. All that is considered letter recognition.
Why do children struggle with learning how to recognize letters?
Teaching young children how to recognize letters is actually a visual perception skill. Often children who struggle with this 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 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. Remember, letter sounds are a different set of skills and while they can be taught at the same time, your expectation for each learning experience needs to be clear in your head. Second, make sure your child is ready for this skill. 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 so 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. Third, make sure the way you’re teaching is fun! To help with this one keep reading.
10 Fun Ways to Teach Young Children How to Recognize Letters
Tip 1: Use letter tracing mats with cars
This play- based approach allows children to literally feel the shape of each letter as they zoom their cars around each letter. This is important because though letter recognition is a visual skill some children learn best by doing!
Tip 2: Create alphabet art
Help your child tap into their creativity – a highly valued skill by employers and entrepreneurs alike- by using crayons, pencils, water colors to paint or draw letters. Use mixed media to stimulate their senses as well. Providing alphabet templates as an option or for inspiration helps as well.
Tip 3: Read fun alphabet books
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. Here are a few suggestions for fun alphabet books.
Tip 4: Use music and movement
Music and movement paired with alphabet cards helps children to remember the letters. Always keep in mind that different types of learners need different ways of teaching. 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
Play is the work of childhood. When children play they are learning and rehearsing skills they need to master for success. So, let’s take advantage of that! Simple puzzles that have children put together letters are a low stress way for them to learn letter recognition. Make sure pieces are 2-4 pieces per letter and depending on their ability a guide would be useful.
Tip 6: Magnetic letters Sensory Bin
Place some magnetic letters in a sensory bin and have your child attract and match letters. Colored rice is a fun bin filler but there are loads of different ideas of bin fillers. Young children love playing with magnets so this one 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. Perhaps when they having breakfast they recognize a letter on the cereal box. Help them cut it out and add to their collection/alphabet wall.
Tip 8: Bake Alphabet Cookies
A yummy treat awaits them (and you) at the end of this fun activity. Get some alphabet cookie cutters or free hand the letters with the dough. 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 Alphabet
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
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?