Letter Knowledge: ABCs

Parents and caregivers make the difference by just modeling the importance of reading, surrounding children with books, and engaging in the learning process. By doing these simple things, children have a better chance at succeeding in school and throughout each aspect of their lives. Today, we wrap up our series on the six literacy skills and strategies you can use to practice each skill at home with your family.

kindergarten clipart

Our final topic is LETTER KNOWLEDGE, or knowing the ABCs:

  • Make finding letters and sounds fun.
  • Play spelling games.
  • Use materials like magnetic letters, sand and glue, stamps, flashcards and stickers to practice spelling.
  • Explain what is the “same” and “different” between objects.
  • Read alphabet books with clear letters and pictures.

As children begin to learn the letters of the alphabet, it is also important they learn to identify shapes, colors, and numbers. Our letters are made up of many different shapes–the capital A has a triangle, the lower case d has a circle, the s looks like a snake. Many of our letters have similarities, but they also have big differences. When children learn these concepts, it makes identifying letters easier. Remember, you can use almost any book to teach letter knowledge. It doesn’t have to be a book strictly about the ABCs.

Here are some great books your child will love reading:

Sue MacDonald Had a Book by Jim Tobin
If Rocks Could Sing by Leslie McGuirk
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin
A You’re Adorable by Martha Alexander
Alphabet Under Construction by Denise Fleming


Nature Scavenger Hunt

School is out. It’s finally summer. And the weather is finally acting like it. The best part of summer is playing outside and doing the things you don’t get to do the rest of the year: play basketball, jump rope, play four-square, hide and seek, take a bike ride, visit the park, plan a picnic, etc. Eventually, though, these activities get old. And after day three, you start hearing, “There’s nothing to do outside. I’m so bored.”


The best way to fix this is to be proactive. Plan activities that can be done throughout the summer. And just because it is summer, doesn’t mean you can’t practice colors, shapes, letters, and numbers. Here are some Nature Scavenger Hunt ideas from around the Internet that will make being outside much more enjoyable after the novelty of summer has worn off.


backyard-alphabet-hunt-cover-The Backyard Alphabet Hunt from TeachMama.com

Using either a giant roll of paper or several sheets of construction paper, write out the alphabet in big letters. Place it on a flat surface outside: driveway, sidewalk (away from the road), grass, porch, etc. Secure it with something heavy on each end (buckets, rocks, planters, etc.). Then let your children have fun exploring the yard as they look for items that begin with each letter of the alphabet. When they find something, tell them to put it under that letter on the large paper. See how many letters you can fill.



Nature Scavenger Hunt from HowtoNestforLess.comsummer-camp-scavenger-hunt-791x1024

Print out the scavenger hunt from HowtoNestforLess.com and give your child a paper bag, bucket, or other item that can be filled with all of the items she finds. As you walk around your yard, look for the items on the list. This list includes more than just specific items; it asks children to find shapes, colors, and different textures.


ss_102094276 Color Spy from Parents.com

Stop by your local home improvement or paint store and collect a few paint chips in various colors. (Usually it’s not a problem–just don’t take hundreds at a time!!) Punch out large holes on each color. As you walk around the yard or park with your child, place different objects in the hole to see if they match the colors. How many matches can you find?





Homemade Monday: Write a Letter

Looking for something creative to do while on Winter Break? Why not write a letter? There’s nothing like running to the mailbox to find a letter from a friend or relative!


Stop by the library and pick up a couple books to inspire your writing. Sitting down at a table, on a couch, or on the floor with your child to write a letter to someone special is a great way to give him or her attention, bond and communicate: the three most important things a child needs.


Homemade Monday: Apple Picking Teaches Early Reading

It’s fall. There is a certain chill in the air. The leaves are beginning to change. It’s time to start picking apples and pumpkins from the orchards and patches in the area. It’s also a great time to teach early reading skills like letter recognition and matching.
This idea comes from Growing a Jeweled Rose.

You’ll need a few apple cut-outs, a tree with low-lying branches (or some branches to create your own tree) and a clip for each apple. Label the apples with letters, numbers, or words depending on where your child is developmentally. Use the clothes pin clips to attach the apples to the tree branches. Give your child a basket or paper bag and tell them it’s time to go apple picking in the backyard!

Give them instructions on what to do–perhaps they will match upper and lower case letters, identify each letter of the alphabet as they pick them off the branches, or count the apples as they pick them. There are so many different ways to make this game new each time you play it.

As you can see, I had to improvise to make mine. Since I’m located in an urban setting with very few trees around (and it happened to be raining the day I wanted to make mine), I found an old centerpiece and repurposed it.

What have you done to repurpose an object to help teach literacy in your house?

Homemade Monday: Sensory Literacy Game

Toddlers and preschoolers learn best through play, and it helps if the play involves sensory activities. Sensory activities involve anything that is tactile–slimy, gooey, doughy, smelly, rough, soft, colorful, sticky, smooth, etc. It is pretty simple to turn sensory activities into literacy activities.

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Sand play is a great example of a sensory game that can be used for literacy. If you do not have a big tub or box for sand or rice, go to your local grocery store an ask the butcher for a clean meat tray. They are usually happy to give you one or two FREE–especially if they know it’s for a children’s activity. You can use regular sand, colored sand, plain rice, or colored rice (see the recipe for this below). Pour the sand or rice on the meat tray or in your box and let the children explore. There is no structure to this play. They have to get a feeling for the sand or rice.

After the first play or even just the first few minutes, you can offer alphabet cards for your child to view while trying to draw the letters in the sand. Write out their name and ask them to draw their name in the sand. Some children may need you to help hold their finger as they begin this tactile way of writing–and that’s okay. They will get the hang of it eventually.

Messes will be made with sand and rice. So make sure to put a towel or newspaper under your sand or rice box/tray. Messes are okay as long as they are cleaned up–especially with preschool and toddler-aged children.

To color your rice:
Place rice in a sealable plastic bag. Pour in a couple tablespoons of vinegar or rubbing alcohol. Add a few drops of food coloring. Seal the bag and mix it up. Pour the bag on to a tray to dry–the vinegar or rubbing alcohol will allow it to dry quicker. For darker colors, use more drops of food coloring.

Homemade Monday on a Thursday

I’m going to start a weekly post called “Homemade Monday” with literacy activities you can make at home. We are currently doing a program at the Main Library (and several branches) to show parents fun and easy ways to make reading fun at home. So this week (even though it is technically Thursday), I wanted to show you some of the fun activities planned for this evening. I’ve added credit where and when appropriate.

Cardboard Tube Letter Matching

Supplies Needed: Marker, Circle stickers, toilet paper or paper towel tubes.
Instructions: Write a random assortment of letters (capital and/or lower case), numbers (actual number, words, or dots), or even shapes on the tubes. Then write the matching letters, numbers, or shapes on the stickers. When you are ready, just place the stickers over the corresponding item on the tube. Thanks to Testy Yet Trying for this neat and very inexpensive idea!!



Spoon Matching

This fun matching game requires 26 white spoons and 26 clear spoons. You can use stickers for the letters or just use a Sharpie to write the letters on each spoon. You’ll want to do one set with capital letters and one set with lower case. You could also use one set of spoons for letters and one set for stickers or small pictures of objects that start with the different letters of the alphabet turning this game into a sound matching game! Thanks to From Kindergarten with Love.


Alphabet BookCreate your own alphabet book! Use stickers or draw each letter large on each page of your book. Cut out letters from different sources: newspapers, magazines, junk mail, etc.<br />By using different fonts and letter styles, children begin to recognize the many ways one letter can look!