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Sixteen Ways We're Learning the Alphabet

Teaching the alphabet is pretty simple and straight forward, but it can seem daunting! There are a million activities out there that are great for working with littles on alphabet recognition. We've been collecting different activities for Beckett for a while now, and if I sit down to play with him I almost always reach for one of these items. We've been intentional about teaching the alphabet for about 2 months now and Beckett (19 months) knows almost 5 letters. [Update: At 21 months, he knows over half of his letters, so something's working!]. He LOVES pointing out the letters that he knows and asking mommy or daddy to tell name the letters he hasn't gotten down pat yet.

I don't have a particularly special method for teaching. I went back and forth on whether I would start with letter names or sounds, but since Beckett is not super articulate and I think most sounds would come our pretty similar, I decided to start with names.

When we sit down to play, we mostly do just that: PLAY! We build, explore, laugh, etc. When introducing a new letter, I point it out and say, "this is an A! Can you say A?" And repeat as necessary. When we're playing with whatever toy we've chosen, I randomly choose letters I know he has mastered and ask, "what's this letter?" He gets excited every time to show off his skills.

Regarding letter order, I started with A because it's at the beginning. :) From there, I went with whatever letter he pronounced well when I asked. Some sounds come much easier than others, so his letters he currently knows or is working on are: A, O, L, E, and I.

The most important thing for ME to remember is that we are in NO HURRY to learn the alphabet. It's fun for me to teach my little guy, and I definitely want to be intentional about working with him, but it's definitely not worth stressing about or comparing to any other kiddos out there.

And so, Sixteen Way's We're Learning the Alphabet:

Beckett's favorite thing to do with these blocks is stack them high & then knock them down! These were a fabulous gift for his first birthday. Great wish list item!

ABC Magnets
These are everywhere. I think we got ours at Walmart for a couple bucks. Be careful for the dollar tree "magnets!" We bought a pack and they aren't actually MAGNETS! Just letters. Make sure the pack says "magnets" on it. :)

Obviously, this particular one is discontinued and therefore listed at $140 on Amazon! WHAT? We found ours at a garage sale for $4. Beckett plays with it ALL. THE. TIME. And it's great for when I'm working in the kitchen. There are a TON of these types of products out there. I highly recommend grabbing one! It sings the alphabet to him, tells him what letter he's working with, and the sounds it makes. It also will spell words or tell you what word you've spelled (once you're to that point).

This puzzle is so neat! We left ours in the plastic for a long time because he got it for his birthday and I didn't want the pieces going missing before we could even use it. Even in the plastic we had fun with it. We would sing the alphabet and point to the letters, identify the ones we could, etc. When I first opened it, I put most of the letters back except the couple he was working on and focused on playing with those & fitting them in their spots. Now, even though he can't NAME the letters, he can place about a third of them back in their spot without help. I'm sure this is really good just for exposure to print (right side up), recognizing the order of the alphabet, etc.

I have these letters from when I used them with low ELLs in the classroom. His favorite activity is to dump them all out and then "swim" in them. :) Hey... whatever entertains you, kid. These beads are also great for sorting, placing in order, pointing and singing with, searching through a pile, etc.

We have SO. MANY. alphabet books, and I never tire of them! We read them, find letters, point out pictures, sing the alphabet while pointing, and whatever else entertains us.

ABC Song
I've been singing the alphabet to Beckett since he was born. When he was little I would sing it to him really slow and quietly, like a lullaby. Now he "sings" it to himself. He's got a long way to go, but he knows the tune and a few specific parts. :)

Big Letter Wall
One of the projects I insisted on having in my playroom was a huge magnetic letter wall. I'll have more details on this wall when I (finally) get my playroom reveal ready to share, but in the meantime, here's a sneak peek!

Flashcards are fun and simple. You can play with a fly swatter (or just smack with your hand), practice stacking or flipping through them, drop them around the room and march or dance around them, etc. Littles are easily entertained, so let your imagination run wild!

We were given one of these Alphabet trains before Beckett could even walk and it has definitely grown with him! Before, he was more concerned about riding on the train, or pushing it around. He loved playing with the blocks. I actually carried a few in my diaper bag and they would keep him entertained forever! Now he is learning to pay attention to the letters and noticing that the attached book has letters too! The train talks to the kiddo & asks for specific letters for an extra challenge. This is definitely a toy that you could keep around for several years!

Coloring (crayons & markers, chalk, window crayons)
Coloring is an easy way to entertain, cheap to do, and very versatile! When it's nice out, we like to head to the sidewalk and play with chalk. When it's storming (like in this photo), we color inside either on paper or on the sliding glass doors. These window crayons are so much fun! I draw letters and let Beckett identify them as he feels like it, but we also just color whatever our hearts desire.

iPad (Elmo & Starfall)
Yes. I let my child have screen time (gasp!). I have loaded his iPad (an old first generation we handed down to him) with educational games and activities & books that will read to him. It's AMAZING. His favorite apps are Starfall ABCs and Elmo Loves ABCs. This photo is when we took a 5.5 hour train ride to Chicago. He's reading Another Monster At the End of This Book - which he LOVES (but is not quite as educational). Praise the Lord for technology!

We have a couple of Leap Frog DVDs, but Netflix also has several Leap Frog episodes. My personal favorite right now is the Amazing Alphabet Amusement Park because it is very intentional about naming and identifying the letters. All of the episodes are good, but because we are working on learning names right now, this is the one we watch the most! If I am sitting with him (which is rare because it's a good time to get things done!) I sometimes point out letters on the screen, even pausing if I feel particularly motivated. :)

Household & Every Day Items
Once your kiddo realizes that the alphabet is all around him, he'll start pointing out letters in new places. Beckett's two places he tends to notice letters are on our t-shirts and on my laptop keyboard. This is a fun way to sneak in some extra practice in between specific alphabet learning times. This picture, by the way, is a rare thing in my house. He's not supposed to play with my laptop but this is what happens when I leave it unattended. ;)

Dad does bath & bed time in our house. It's my FAVORITE THING. By the end of the day, I'm ready to be done with Mommy duties, but Dad hasn't spent nearly enough time with his kiddo, so he loves this ritual. It's also a great time for Dad to get to have an intential and special opportunity to practice letters. I have a couple sets of foam bath letters. I only put the ones in the bathtub that he knows or is working on so that he and Dad can focus on them.

Involve Everyone
Grandparents are easily entertained. All of our grandparents are so impressed & entertained when Beckett can tell them certain letters. I make sure to keep them up to date on which letters he's practicing so they can be intentional about those while they're hanging out with him. Beckett also attends Parents Day Out once a week. Our teacher there is really awesome and has asked for a list of words he knows or is working on so she can be intentional about those with him. I keep a running list in his backpack, and make sure to add the letters he's working on too. The sweetest though is when his older cousin works with him. Eli is 4 and learning the alphabet too, so it's fun to see them practice together. :)

I'd love to see your favorite ways to practice the alphabet with your toddler or preschooler! Comment here or post & tag me on Facebook or Instagram!
6 comments on "Sixteen Ways We're Learning the Alphabet"
  1. This is the cutest post ever! I love how intentional you are being and all of the cute pictures of Beckett!

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Rachel! :) Before you know it, you'll be doing these with Rubie Kate!!! <3

    2. Thank you for stopping by, Rachel! :) Before you know it, you'll be doing these with Rubie Kate!!! <3

  2. Great ideas. Can't wait to learn more about your magnetic wall!

    My Bright Blue House

  3. What is that alphabet book he's reading?! I love how there's a grove to trace the letters!

    1. It's A is for Apple by Georgie Birkett! You can grab it here: