In this post, we will explore some of the best ways of teaching letter recognition at home. And because children learn best when having fun, you will discover 12 fantastic games to teach the alphabet as well as five alphabet recognition worksheets (13 pdf files in total) which are FREE to download.
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How to teach letters at home
You notice that your child got to the point at which s/he manifests interest towards the written word. That’s great! That means you can start teaching the alphabet and having some ABC fun.
But what is the best way to teach the alphabet? Is there a certain order in which letters should be introduced? Is there a preferred method when teaching kids the alphabet?
The answer to the first question is simple: KEEP IT FUN. Incorporate songs and chants about the alphabet in your routine, read books, play sensory games with letters, do puzzles, arts and crafts, make full use of all the free alphabet printables out there and generally make the child aware of the written words around him.
Also, when planning the activities for teaching alphabet recognition to your child it would be a good idea to keep in mind your child’s learning style and tailor the activities accordingly.
As to the second question, there isn’t an exact answer. When teaching the alphabet to your child you may choose to introduce the letters in order. You can choose to introduce one letter a day or multiple letters a day. You can choose to practice one letter for a few days. It’s really up to you and there isn’t a magic recipe that will work for everyone. Simply take into consideration
However, the preferred way is introducing letters, as well as their phonetic sound, in 6 phases of 4-5 letters at a time. Try to include the letters that will allow the child to form short words in the first sets. An example of the order in which you can introduce the letters and their sound is:
- First set: m s a t
- Second set: b f o x
- Third set: w i g l j
- Fourth set: c u p z
- Fifth set: h e n r d
- Sixth set: v k q y
But remember, you can play around with the order, as this is just a suggestion. You may choose to introduce the letters that form your child’s name in the first sets.
As to the best method when teaching letter recognition, again, there isn’t a straightforward answer. Personally, I am in love with the Montessori method. Some of the characteristics of his method are that:
- They introduce the letters by theirs sounds rather than calling them by their names (this will help children form and read words easier)
- They introduce lowercase letters first (the logic behind this is that they see more lower case letters in a book for example than uppercase)
- Some Montessori schools will choose to work with cursive letters first as they are easier to trace
- They use a lot of sensory experiences when teaching the alphabet.
Whatever method or order you choose remember to always tailor your activities according to your child’s level and preferences.
Fun Activities to support alphabet recognition
Here are some letter recognition ideas to support you when teaching letters to your child. All the activities are aimed at children who are in Stage 1 of their Literacy Development and focus mainly on alphabet recognition rather than writing or reading.
1. Alphabet Matching with bottle caps
Do you have some bottle caps lying around? 26 bottle caps to be more exact. I have hoarded bottle caps recently because there are so many DIY activities that can be done with them. If you don´t have the patience to gather them, don´t worry, you can buy the bottle caps.
One such fun activity is Alphabet Matching. Here is what you have to do:
- Draw 26 circles on a big piece of paper (I glued 2 A4 pieces of paper together).
- Inside each circle, I wrote the letters in pencil. The reason why I’ve written them in pencil is that I can easily erase and either leave the circles blank or rewrite them in uppercase, lowercase, cursive and so on.
- Take your bottle caps and write a letter on each one.
- The aim of the game is for the child to match the letters on the paper with the ones on the caps. You can name the letters together with your child so they get some practice in.
I love this game because there are many ways of playing. You can practice lowercase, uppercase, cursive letter recognition. You can erase some of the letters on the paper and ask the child to find the bottle caps that correspond to the missing letters. You can erase the letters altogether and encourage your little one to put the letters in order while chanting them. After the child can confidently recognize the letters and their sounds, you can put a picture in the circles on the paper and ask the child to pick the cap with the letter with which each picture starts.
2. Arts and Crafts with Letters
Most kids love painting, colouring, decorating and making things. So, naturally, a fun way of teaching kids the alphabet is by having your little artist decorate each letter. You can use play dough, stickers, glitter, paint, pom-poms to mention just a few. Let their imagination fly.
3. Letters Scavenger Hunt
I just love treasure and scavenger hunts. Besides being so fun you can make them educational as well.
Hide the letters around the house and have your little one find them. Encourage the little explorer to name each letter as he finds them (with your support, of course). For my son, who is just starting his journey into alphabet recognition this is the perfect activity as it has movement, we can add a little bit of role-playing (we have a pirate figurine that is searching for his alphabet treasure) and, of course, he practices his ABCs in a fun way.
For kids who more or less recognize the letters, you can take the game one level up and hide certain letters that make up a word that the child is familiar with. After he has found all the letters, help him put them in order so that he forms the word.
Letter Scavenger Hunt is a brilliant way of teaching letters that kids adore.
4. Balloon Letter Pop
Prepare to have a blast with this game. All you have to do is insert a letter in a balloon, inflate it and have your little one try to pop it by sitting, stepping on it, pinching it, or whatever inventive method you come up with to pop the balloon. Once the balloon has been popped, encourage your child to say the letter’s sound or name, depending on how you choose to teach. You can also think of words that start with that letter.
I generally put 2-3 letters in a balloon to avoid too much waste.
5. Make letters a constant part of your day
Letters are everywhere, right? So, why not make the most of it when teaching letter recognition to your child? All you have to do is make him aware of them whenever possible.
Eating cereal for breakfast? The cereal box surely has some colourful letters to be named.
Going for a walk? Look at the big letters on the billboards, name the letters on the number plates on cars.
Eating out? The menu is made up of so many letters.
So, whenever you find the opportunity and your child is receptive, name the letters that you see around. It is a great, casual way of encouraging alphabet recognition.
6. Singing or chanting the alphabet
Children are naturally attracted to songs and rhymes. This is a powerful tool when teaching letters. Just happily sing or chant the alphabet together. Ideally, offering visual aid will help the child form a connection between the sound and the letter.
Although I don’t advocate for a lot of screen time, there are many nice alphabet videos on Youtube that we can make full use of. For example, my son loves all alphabet songs from Super Simple Songs Channel.
7. Tracing Letters
Tracing has many proven benefits, like improving visual-spatial skills as well as refining fine motor skills which are vital for when children start writing. In addition to this, tracing helps children notice details. So it goes without saying that tracing letters will help kids notice how each letter is formed.
I absolutely love the Montessori Sandpaper letters. They are little wooden tablets that have each letter printed in fine-textured sandpaper. It provides a multi-sensory approach for learning the letter sounds. Children are using their fingertips to trace the letters, essentially building muscle memory so that they know how to write them later on.
Another option would be to simply print each letter on paper and trace them in the same manner. This will not have the sensory element to it but it’s still a valuable way for kids to notice how each letter is formed.
Whichever option you choose, tracing is a great letter recognition activity to do with your little one.
*If your child has good hand control, he can try tracing the letters with a pencil.
I love flashcards games because they are so versatile and fun. Here are a few flashcard games that you can use when teaching kids the alphabet.
8. Lift the correct letter
Lay the letters that you want to practice in front of your child and start chanting them. Your little one will have to lift the correct letter as he hears it. This is a perfect game for when the child can already recognize the whole alphabet or a group of letters previously taught.
9. Letters darts
For this game, you will need flashcards with letters (or, like I´ve used, some rubber/felt letters) and a softball. The game is very simple. Just put the flashcards with the targeted letters on a wall. The child will have to hit the letter that you name with the ball.
10. Matching lowercase to uppercase letters
If you choose to teach lowercase and uppercase letters at the same time, or if your child is more advanced when it comes to the alphabet, then you must try this matching game.
Simply mix the flashcards together and put them on the playing surface. The child will have to quickly pair the lowercase letters to the uppercase letters together. If you want to add to the fun, set a limited time in which your little one has to match the flashcards.
*The jigsaw cards in the image are part of the Happy Letters Busy Book. You can get a FREE sample of 11 worksheets (including the jigsaw).
11. What’s missing
Lay the flashcards with the target letters on the playing surface. Ask the child to close his eyes and remove one of the flashcards. When the child opens his eyes, s/he will have to say the missing letter.
12. Liar, liar
Display the targeted letters in a line on a surface. You will start by saying the name or sound of each letter in order. Repeat them as many times as you like but at one point, intentionally, point to a letter but say another name/sound. Your little one will have to pay attention, spot your lie and correct you.
Then, reverse roles. The child will have to name the letters and you will have to spot the lie.
It’s a great game to practice alphabet recognition in a fun way.
You will also love:
CVC Words Activities and Worksheets
How to improve your preschooler´s Literacy Skills- Practical Tips
Letter Recognition Fun Worksheets
In addition to all the above activities, we also have a surprise for you.
A set of 5 fantastic letter recognition worksheets (a total of 13 PDF files) that we are sure kids will love, have fun with and best of all, THEY ARE FREE TO DOWNLOAD.
Here is what you´ll get:
1. Alphabet Maze
Help the bee get to its hive by colouring the letters in each pentagon in order. A fun worksheet that will teach kids letter recognition as well as their order. Have fun colouring!
2. Alphabet Bingo
Who doesn´t like a good game of bingo? Combine the excitement of bingo with teaching the alphabet, you can´t go wrong.
Ideally, the more participants to this game the merrier, but it can very well be played with just one.
Simply cut the individual letters and the letter cards. Put the letters in a pile, upside down. The player will have one card with letters and a pen.
Extract a letter from the upside-down pile, ask the child to name it, and, if the letter can be found on his/her card, cross it out. Continue the game until three letters in a row have been crossed out.
3. Connect the letters and discover the image
A classic worksheet but always fun used both for practicing numbers and letters.
Begin at Start and connect the letters in order from A to Z to discover the cute animal.
4. The Alphabet Train
First of all, you will have to cut out the letters (there are upper case and lower case) which will go on each train cart. I used blu-tack to help fix the letters in place.
On the first worksheet, the child will have to identify and add the missing letters. On the second worksheet, s/he will have to add all the letters in order.
5. Colour by letter
Another classic worksheet for letter recognition as well as numbers. Since many kids love colouring, it is a guaranteed success.
Look at the top of the page where you will see the letters with their assigned colour. Use that code to colour the image.
Teaching letters should be a fun activity that comes naturally with no pressure. Remember to always let your child’s needs, mood and learning style guide you through this wonderful journey.
If you need any guidance or have any questions we are one email away. If you found the information in this article useful be sure to share it with other moms in need of inspiration.
Mom of two wonderful children, dedicated teacher and book lover.
27 thoughts on “The Best Activities for Teaching Letters to Toddlers”
I absolutely love the letter worksheets! Those are always good!
I am trying really hard to remember what it was like for my kids when they started learning to read. I do have a video somewhere of my daughter at the age of 4 reading a birthday card from her grandmother. Lol!
Ok, I have no experience with kids but after what I read here I believe these are indeed great activities to teach kids the letters.
I love that you embrace that there are different ways to teach. Everyone thinks you have to do a-z or whatever the norm may be…but you don’t. You do what feels best for the situation!
I used to search articles like this when I had my toddlers. Such information a mom can get.
That is such a comprehensive list of ideas for teaching kids alphabet. Great tips and resources for parents and teachers of young kids.