“A-B-C-D-E-F-G-L-M-N-O-gee…I know my ABCs. Won’t you sing with me,” my 3-year-old sloppily sang.
We all have fond memories of the alphabet song, but let’s face it, it isn’t the best way to teach the alphabet to preschoolers. 26 letters turn into a jumbled mess when you have no idea what any of it means.
Learning the alphabet is the foundation for learning to read and the preschool age is the perfect time to begin laying that foundation.
At this age, it’s important to keep learning fun. There are a few fun ways that I’ve started teaching my son the alphabet at 3 that can work with your child too.
How to Teach The Alphabet to preschoolers (The Easy Way)
When Should Kids Learn the Alphabet?
Kids should learn the alphabet at any point from age 3-5. Once the toddler years are through, children have more of a capacity to sit and concentrate on presented information for longer periods of time. Children at this age also become curious about new things. It’s a great time to start learning.
Time to Devote to Learning
At this age devote no more than 30 minutes a day to learning a specific skill. Play is extremely important in brain development and you don’t want to take away from that to formally educate your child. But your child will enjoy some one-on-one time with you while he learns (especially if he has younger siblings).
The Ground Rules
Teaching a preschooler can be challenging for a number of reasons. But you never want to make learning a chore for them. If you ever feel yourself getting into a power struggle with your preschooler over learning, back off and try again another time.
You always want to keep a positive attitude towards learning so your child doesn’t develop a negative association with it. Don’t be pushy because kids at this age are highly sensitive and rebellious to our agendas. If you use learning as a punishment, they will learn to think of it as a negative. If you force them to learn when they want to do something else, they will stop wanting to learn.
How to Combat An Agenda
Present it as something exciting and privileged that they get to do. Something like, “Guess what? Mommy is going to start teaching you your ABCs. Won’t that be fun? Pretty soon you’ll know all your letters and be able to read books like Mommy.”
Be a little resilient. Say you introduce the idea and your preschooler responds that they don’t want to learn or something of the sort. You can push a little with something like, “Oh really? You don’t want to do this fun activity with Mommy? Look you get to….” And show the activity to them.
Back off until your child is ready. If you still get pushback from your child, stop and tell them you’ll put the stuff away until they’re ready. Tell them to let you know when that is. Chances are they’ll soon tell you they want to do it. If not, you can try again in a few weeks.
Make it no big deal and wait for a willing learner. Don’t get upset if they don’t want to learn. Just shrug and say, “Ok, let me know when you’re ready.” It doesn’t matter to you, you already know how to read. (Even though it does matter to you. Pretend it doesn’t.)
Best Books to Start Recognition
Start to teach the alphabet with a few simple ABC books. Our favorites are Dr. Seuss’ ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book! and A to Z by Sandra Boynton. Both of these books are simple and fun. They give your child words to associate with each letter and have a way of rhyming that helps them remember them.
- Point to each letter as you read.
- Point to the images the book describes.
- Emphasize the letter of the alphabet in each word.
- Point out how that word starts with the letter.
- Make this a part of a bedtime routine.
- Make this a focused one-on-one activity.
Games to Teach the Alphabet
Games are a great way to teach the alphabet. My son loves this Giant ABC Train Puzzle (it also comes with a number train which I’d set aside for now–one thing at a time). It helps with letter identification. I’ll sing the alphabet song to figure out the next letter and ask him if he can find it. He loves looking and gradually learns to recognize more and more letters this way.
Growing Book by Book has a great list of tons of alphabet activities. Choose some that you think your child will enjoy and try them out. It’ll be a fun way to engage your preschooler with the alphabet.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Even with books, puzzles, and games, your child might need some real practice identifying letters. You want him to be able to say and recognize the letter on sight. These Dr. Seuss ABC Flash Cards are a great tool to help with this.
If you’ve used the Dr. Seuss ABC book (recommended above), your child will recognize most of the images from the book. Each card has a capital and lowercase letter, so I like to say, “Big A, Little a, what begins with A?” and have my son tell me. This statement mimics the book and helps him remember. He’ll often list a few extra items from the book that start with the same letter.
Learn and Have Fun
If you immerse your preschooler in the alphabet and teach the alphabet in this simple way, pretty soon he’ll be able to sing the whole song without it turning into a jumbled mess.
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