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Early literacy activities for learning letters?

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This topic contains 8 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Aaron Paker Aaron Paker 5 years, 7 months ago.

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    Does anyone have suggestions for good activities to help toddlers learn their letters? My son and I sing the alphabet song of course (he has that one down!) but I’d love some new projects to work on visual letter recognition.  Any good pre-reader literacy activity ideas that will keep a toddler interested?


    Alphabet books with spectacular pictures like Animalia by Graham Base are great.  I also like to use textured letters like sand paper, bubble wrap, or whatever else you can find and have them trace over the texture with their fingers, or let them draw their letters in chocolate pudding and then lick their finger clean for the next one.  If you have them writing in the pudding while young it helps to have the letters written on a paper plate and just put a thin layer of pudding so they can see through it.  It also helps (surprisingly) if you write the letter on their backs as they are writing it in the pudding.  Also try making the letters out of play dough or with your bodies.

    Profile photo of Macy

    My kids were always fans of the magnetic letters on the refrigerator door! Also a good activity to keep them busy while prepping dinner.


    Read to them. I think just knowing the letters without context is just memorization that doesn’t have much meaning. Read, read, read.


    I agree with Ruth. Letter memorization without meaning won’t do too much to keep the motivation going for a toddler. I have done the magnetic letters on the refrigerator, which my daughter loves, but what has truly piqued her interst in letters is labelling her artwork with her name. As a teacher, a child’s name I found is the place to start with letter recognition. Children love their name; it represents them and kids are naturally egocentric. In my classroom, I have always labeled the kids’ belongings with their names and picutres. Name and picture was used for an attendance board that they used each day. Their names were on their snack placemats. It wasn’t too long before each recognized their name to find their spot to sit and eat! (snack time–very important to a 2/3 year old!) At home, we created an art gallery. I write my daughter and son’s name on all their art work that we hang on the wall. Mercy also has a laminated picture of herself with her name in dots that she can trace with a dry erase marker. She loves looking at her picture and tracing her name. Mercy (my daughter) now 3 yrs old, points out all the Ms, Es, Rs, Cs, and Ys in any word that she sees, proudly reporting "Look M, like Mercy" or R like Mercy!", etc. She also loves her brother and points out Js everywhere (his name is Jeremiah).  I also have labels writtten on her dollhouse and other things that she is interested in, her chair that she sits in, the radio (she loves music!). So now she also points out "D like my dollhouse", etc. We also send drawings to family and friends that she makes and we write the loved ones name at the top and her’s at the bottom like a letter.

    Anyway, I will stop rattling on, but the point is connect your literacy activities (naming, labelling, magnetic letters, sending mail, etc.) to things/people that your child is already naturally motivated to love and the letter recognition will be more natural and rooted in something useful instead of simply memorized.  Hope this helps!


    Just read to him.  To make it fun, you can "sing" the words too. I used to do that with my son and he would laugh and laugh. My husband used to read the sports pages to my son when he was an infant.  Children need to hear the language first in preparation for reading and writing.

    The Dr. Seuss books and Sandra Boyton books were my son’s favs when he was a toddler.


    If your son enjoys sensory activities, having him draw letters in shaving cream or a thin layer of salt on a tray can be a lot of fun. Play dough is also a good activity for young children. You can have him roll out the play dough and shape letters out of it. This is also a Handwriting Without Tears activity! If he enjoys books, you could find a book with large print and see if he can find specific letters on the pages. Show him what the letter looks like and see if he can find the letter that looks the same.

    I teach pre-k and I recently took the blocks from our classroom and made letters out of them. I then took pictures of each letter and made a little book. The children in the preschool classes at my school use the books and blocks to form letters. The children love this activity and the letters can be made with other materials as well. Might be a fun idea for your son.


    Chick a chick a boom boom is a great book to help with letter identification.  I also like to use post it notes to write my child’s name and play with that.  If you have an Ipad or Iphone, there is a really great Elmo alphabet app.

    Profile photo of JT

    READING! And coming up with your own stories together. It can be fun to write the stories down in a "book"…have your child illustrate the pictures. Creating an alphabet book where eat page is about a different letter is a fun way to learn.

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