We all teach our kids how to sing the Alphabet Song. But there are other ways to teach toddlers about letters and letter sounds–the building blocks of reading. Here are some games that you can do at home.
An important step in language development is to realize that every letter has a sound, and to differentiate among the different sounds. Alphabet books abound (excellent for visual learners), but for many children, learning using different senses may make retention and understanding much easier.
Place five different familiar objects in front of your child. These objects have to start with different sounds, such as a (stuffed) rabbit, a pencil, a (toy) car, an apple, and a (toy) monkey. Identify each object slowly: ‘R-R-R-Rab-bit.’ ‘P-P-P-P-Pen-cil.’ Repeat, and ask your child to follow after you. Once he has accomplished the task, you can say, ‘What starts with P-P-P-P-P? Please give it to me.’ If your child does not get it right the first time, hold up the object (pencil), and repeat the process.
As your child grows older and becomes more adept at this game, you can make the activity more challenging. Instead of putting five objects on a tray, ask your child to find something in his room (with many more objects to choose from). You can add clues. For example, you can say, ‘I see something on the shelf that starts with B. Please point to it and say the word.’ Or ‘What thing on the floor starts with R?’
Still another variation for older children can be giving more clues. For example, you can say, ‘This thing is slippery and it smells good. It can be found in the bathroom. It starts with S. What do you think it is?’ You get the idea.
a. Letter sounds. Start with easy single sounds, such as ‘P’ or ‘S.’ At this stage, do not yet expose the child combination sounds like ‘Sh’ or ‘Ch.’
b. Words. Your child starts to associate a concrete object with an abstract word. He is beginning to learn language.
c. Attention and focus. To be able to play this game well, your child has to pay attention to you. When playing the game for the first few times, let your child choose from his favorite objects. This instantly gets his attention.
d. Listening skills. Communication involves not just talking, but also listening as well. Learning to discriminate, for instance, between ‘B’ and ‘P’, gives your child an advantage in understanding and learning language.
e. Motor skills. You can vary the game by asking your child to point out the object, to touch the object, or to bring it to you. All these involve coordination of the eye, the hand, and other body parts.