As a thumb rule, remember that listening, speaking, reading and writing need to be taught to the child in this order.
By Amita Bhardwaj
If you have a toddler, odds are that teaching him or her the alphabet is on top of your priority list. While most children start recognising letters between the age of two and three years, remember not to expect them to master the alphabets immediately. As with other things, while some children learn letters very quickly, others may require more time. The key is to ensure that the act of learning remains a fun activity for them and does not seem like a chore, as that could then become the foundation for their whole relationship with academics, growing up.
Here are some fun ways to teach the alphabets to a child:
Sing to them
Singing the alphabet song to the child even as a baby is one of the best ways to help the child internalise it. Before you know it, you will hear the child singing it along with you.
Another handy way to teach them the alphabet without it seeming like it is “study time” is to get them a set of colourful alphabet puzzles. Each time the child completes a particular alphabet, remember to make a routine of stating which alphabet they have just assembled and point out their favourite fruit or an activity they love, beginning with the alphabet. You would be surprised to know how much information they retain.
Nothing works like those lovely picture alphabet books to introduce a child to alphabets. By setting aside dedicated time to go through the books together, you are doing many things besides teaching the alphabet; you are also setting the precedent for spending quality time with each other as also inculcating the love for reading early.
Next time you are in the car and travelling together, make a game of hunting for letters on billboards, on other vehicles and more. Magnetic letters are another way to have fun with alphabets. Remember to undertake this activity though, when the first stage of introducing the letters is done and the child is ready to graduate to the next stage of association and recall.
Celebrate the letters in the child’s name
Once the child moves to the letter recognition stage, have fun with finding the letters of his name. You could look for them on cereal boxes, in books and more. You could set up fun challenges around this activity and see the child enjoying the entire journey. Playing alphabet bingo can be another fun way to build in repetition.
Bake a batch of Alphabet Cookies
Now this one offers food for thought! Use alphabet cookie cutters to create a batch of alphabet cookies. There will be enough and more opportunities to teach the alphabet as you put the ingredients together and point out that the “B is for Butter” or “E is for Egg”. Once you have the cookies in place, you could ask them to point out the “M for Mommy” or “D for Daddy”.
Letter Scavenger Hunt
This one could follow from the cookie baking activity itself. Hiding these cookies and getting into a fun scavenger hunt game will make for one great afternoon. The giggles when each letter is found will be an added perk!
Creating hats with the first letters of their name or even personalised A B C books where each letter has a picture of their favourite things are other fun ways to help them go over the alphabet without it seem like a “revision” exercise.
Whatever else you do, do not make alphabet recognition time one of frustration and tears for the child. Instead, try to find coachable moments where you can weave letter recognition naturally into the conversation or play. It’s important to understand and accept their unique ways of learning, instead of treating it like schoolwork that needs to be somehow completed. As a thumb rule, remember also that listening, speaking, reading and writing need to be taught to the child in this order. Therefore, to try and get the child to start writing when he is not ready for it, just because someone else’s kid has been taught to do exactly that, can prove to be counterproductive.
(The writer is the Director – Curriculum with Footprints Childcare, a national Play School and Day Care chain.)