You can't believe it. That roly-poly bundle of love you were carrying around on your hip what seems like just minutes ago is actually almost 5 years old. You're pretty sure the little tyke has a good grasp of his ABCs, but then again, he has not begun to string letters into words yet. Does he really know that "B" makes "buh-buh-buh"? When he shouts "DAAAAADDDDDYYYY!" every night when his father comes home from work, does he know it is the letter "D" that makes the first sound of that excited yelp? 

Children enter kindergarten at every imaginable level, from barely recognizing letters and numbers to already being able to read simple sentences. So there’s no need to fret or pressure your child into reading before he is ready. However, there are a lot of fun ways to incorporate the ABCs – how each letter looks and the sound each letter makes – into your child's playtime. Try the following two activities to get your child jazzed about learning his letters: 

Activity #1: Lotsa Lotsa Letters

What you'll need (Use the list below as a guideline only, this activity is all about creativity!):

  1. Washable paint or fingerpaint
  2. Crayons, pens, pencils, and/or markers
  3. Sticks, leaves, dirt, and any other interesting "outside stuff" you and your child can find
  4. Yarn, string, buttons, shiny candy wrappers, stickers, and any other interesting "inside stuff" you and your child can find
  5. Alphabet flashcards (store-bought or homemade), blocks, or magnets
  6. Nontoxic glue
  7. Lotsa, lotsa blank paper

Once you and your child have gathered your materials, pick a letter from your flashcards (or blocks or magnets) and ask your child if he knows what letter it is. If he doesn't, identify the letter for him, if he does, ask him if he knows what sound it makes. Say the letter a few times, and repeat the sound it makes. Encourage your child to have fun with the sound, see if he can make any silly noises or think of any songs that start with that sound.

Now spread out all the things you’ve collected in front of you. Ask your child if he thinks he can make the letter all by himself using any of the fun things you collected. Tell him he can use the paint, glue, inside stuff, outside stuff –anything he wants. Help him if he asks, but back off if he wants to try it on his own. Don't correct his letter formation or try to stop him from making a mistake. The point of this activity is to give your child a sense of playfulness and freedom when it comes to letters and their corresponding sounds. Clap and celebrate when your child finishes his artistic creation, and be sure to repeat the sound the letter makes often and in the silliest voice you can muster. Repeat the activity with as many letters as your child wants. When he starts getting squirrelly, you can save the rest for another day.

Activity #2: Alphabet I Spy
What you'll need:
  1. Absolutely nothing except you, your child, and both of your imaginations

This is a quick and easy variation on the timeless "I Spy" game you probably remember from countless car trips with your own parents. The game is played the same way ("I spy with my little eye something ...), except the clue you give about the object you see is always the letter it starts with.  For example (if the object is a stop sign): "I spy with my little eye something that starts with 'S'!"

The above activities are just two ways to incorporate fun and freedom into learning the alphabet. Spend some time brainstorming other ways you and your child can play with letters and words. Our reading games create an environment where kids can move words and letters around to develop reading and writing skills. More help can be found on our reading resources page.