(This image courtesy of Carolina Weick’s Walk With Me Photography)
There are some amazing alphabet books out there (more on that here), but small children learning their ABC’s often benefit from more embodied educational approaches. Being able to handle, create, and manipulate letters provides children with ways to connect their incredible physical energy with their busily whirring brains. Uniting body and mind enhances the images children see on the pages of alphabet books, and makes letters come alive—not as static pictures but as living language.
Here are some strategies for working with the alphabet beyond books:
- Use pipe cleaners to form the letters.
- Twist letters out of Play-dough.
- Play with Scrabble or Upwords tiles (with or without the game boards).
- Put alphabet magnets on the fridge or in the bathtub.
- Write letters on the side of the tub with foam soap.
- Draw letters in the sand or in the dirt with a stick.
- Try to turn your whole body into each letter.
- Trace each letter with your finger on your child’s back.
- Make cookies (or Play-dough shapes) with alphabet cookie cutters.
- Learn the ASL alphabet.
As you try these, embrace imperfections and incompleteness, and keep in mind that learning to craft letters with a writing implement requires significant patience, practice, and highly-developed motor skills. Experiment with these, but don’t force it. If you draw the entire alphabet in the sand and your kid stomps all over it, be cool. That’s learning too, and most importantly, it’s fun.
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