Before children start to read for purpose and meaning there are a series of introductory steps to undertake before tackling the more advanced reading skills. Even before phonics instruction, we need to teach the alphabet. Preschoolers need to know what the letters of the alphabet are, and how when they are placed together they can construct words.
The key objective when we teach the alphabet to preschoolers is to develop knowledge of symbol to sound or letter name. This is most effectively achieved using multiple methods to cater to different learning styles. Utilizing songs, games, simple writing, hands on and kinesthetic activities will have the most success.
However, if you have not had formal training, or do not have experience then teaching the alphabet to preschoolers can appear like a larger challenge than it actually is. Although there are pages and pages of resources all over the internet to help teach the alphabet there are very few actually explanations on how to introduce to children to it and how to keep them engaged.
In our article below we will introduce both the resources and tips on how to use them to ensure that when you teach the alphabet to preschoolers you are fully prepared. These are short, sharp ideas to match a preschoolers attention span, and all are fun to try. They also aim to cater to learner diversity by using different teaching and learning methods that even at this early age are starting to present themselves in students. .
1. Teach the Alphabet with Alphabet Songs
For over 150 years we have been using the ABC song that we know and love. (Since 1834, by Charles Bradlee to be exact) This one is likely to be the first experience of the alphabet for most children. Parents may sing this to their children, or it may be on a Youtube channel that you watch together. By simple repetition they will start to learn the relationship between the name of the letter and the symbol.
However there are hundreds of cooler, modern, slower and faster versions of the alphabet song. You can have chipmunks singing it, or cartoon characters anything you can think of that may interest preschoolers. You can check out some of these here.
|Alphabet Songs: Do do this||Alphabet Songs: Don’t Do This|
|Use different versions and speeds. You can even slow it down on Youtube. Children need to practice this song they are not born with the knowledge 😛||Don’t be too fast to move on to the more difficult phonics, or English songs. Let your preschooler focus on the 26 letters before the 46 sounds.|
2. Teach the Alphabet Using Movement.
Preschoolers, kindergarten and even elementary love to move. In fact until students start hitting upper high school you can be sure that a game or activity that involves moving around will be a hit. So alphabet games using movement are a good, and different, way to teach the alphabet to preschoolers.
There are programs for this online, for both parents and schools, but a “Simple Simon says” type game, or an assault course to collect letter and even an adapted Easter egg hunt around a classroom, playground or garden will make a nice alphabet activities for your children and students.
|Using Movement: Do do this||Using Movement: Don’t Do This|
|Try to use different methods to teach, don’t rely on just one or two. All children learn differently.||Become to focussed on the game elements ( let the children do this!) you need to keep the educational aspect at the forefront of the game.|
3. Preschoolers love Playing Alphabet Games
Games are great ways to teach the alphabet. These can be online, board or classroom games We have a link to one of our online games below which is great for teaching the alphabet. It also has options for phonics, and more difficult english topics as well. We also have a CVC generator which is designed to practice phonics but can be easily used to practice the names of the alphabet letters as well.
There is also a link to a printable board game which covers phonics, but as it has mostly single sounds is a fun way to teach the alphabet as well. It’s a simple Snakes and ladders game ( but with ladybirds) . You can print it on the link below.
|Alphabet Games: Do do this||Alphabet Games: Don’t Do This|
|Play the games with your students or children so you can model answers and congratulate them when they get it correct.||Don’t just leave to to play on their own, they wont get as much satisfaction, also use games now and then with other alphabet tasks not as the only way to teach the alphabet.|
Some online, some board, some others
4. Teach the Alphabet with Arts and Crafts
It has been said that we educate children out of creatively as they progress through school years. Though perhaps a little dramatic there is certainly truth to it.
How about trying to teach the alphabet with some arts and crafts as well. Preschoolers, as well as most children, love to get the paints out, or to craft something by hand.
There are many ways to try this and we have linked to one site with loads of ideas here. however, to get you started how about the 3 ideas below.
- Playdough Alphabet: Why not buy some playdough and have your preschoolers use it to make the letters of the alphabet. You can move on to simple words and their name. it keeps their hands busy and develops fine motor skills as well as letter recognition.
- Alphabet Beads: Using these may be better suited to older toddlers just to prevent any of the letters ending up in little mouths and tummies. However, if suitable for your children, making bracelets or decorations with words and letters of both your and your preschoolers choice. They will show it off to everyone and try to say the letters they have used.
- Alphabet Arts: Preschool and Kindergarten often have their classes of students make their own letters to to decorate the classroom and help teach the alphabet. These are often themed (animals are popular). This site has great ideas to do this at home as well. As most homes don’t have huge classrooms we would make these letters a little smaller though.
|Teach the Alphabet Arts: Do do this||Teach the Alphabet Arts: Don’t Do This|
|Include painting and hands on crafts and display the work where you can to motivate your preschoolers.||Remember to keep tasks simple. At this age fine motor skills are skill developing, and your aim is to teach the alphabet, not recreate the Sistine chapel|
5. Using Alphabet Toys and Hands On Activities to Teach the Alphabet
We will have a larger article on some of our choices for the best alphabet toys for preschoolers and kindergarten on the site soon. However the three ideas below are great interactive options to help children learn the letter with sounds and touch.
- Tracing Wooden Blocks
Montessori often have ”phonics bags”, which hold little toy models that start with the same letter or sound, you can make these yourself. However something less easy, unless you are good at woodwork, to make are the wooden tracing boards. (linked below)
These alphabet blocks are lovely additions to homes and classrooms and we have used them ourselves. They are tactile and the pen is oversized to help young hands (which are not suited to fine motor skills yet), develop knowledge of the shapes of letters,
They have the additional bonus of being able to extend their life my making simple 3 or 4 letter words when the preschoolers are able. These are a great and fun way to teach the alphabet to preschoolers. As they include the letters on wood they can also be used as flashcards to make games and quizzes out of as well.
- Alphabet Electronic Speaking Wallchart.
A lovely additional to a classroom or playroom wall. We have used to have a simpler version of these in our classrooms, but these modern ones have loads more features included to add both fun and learning into the classroom.
These features include:
- Letter Matching
- Find the Sound or letter name
- Learn to spell
- A mini Piano
- Number recognition
- Full Alphabet names and sounds.
- Alphabet Apple.
Vtech has a reputation for making high quality educational toys. This Alphabet Apple is a great additional for learning stations in kindergarten and is designed to let preschoolers teach themselves the alphabet.
In addition to helping teach the alphabet it also has options to introduce time and numbers to preschooler and kindergarten students as well. As an added bonus, and rare with Alphabet toys, it has a progression system of levels to help children develop their alphabet skills incrementally.
|Alphabet toys: Do do this||Alphabet toys: Don’t Do This|
|Choose games that are quick and easy, also try to cover as many learning styles and methods as you can.||Don’t go over the top using gadgets and toys when you teach the alphabet. They are a useful tool, but your time and patience are more useful than any toy will be.|
6. Using Alphabet Worksheets with Preschoolers
There are certainly things to be aware of and some caution to be shown when giving preschoolers and kindergarteners worksheets. Preschoolers in particular are not fully developed both physically with fine motor skills, and cognitively to understand complicated worksheets.
However simple matching, coloring and tracing worksheets will be developmentally suitable to help teach the alphabet to preschoolers. Simple single task worksheet are better for preschoolers and kindergarten to maintain their focus.
We have highlighted three of these worksheets that are a useful way to teach the alphabet, these are alphabet tracing worksheets, alphabet card games and a set of alphabet bingo. All downloadable and printable for free.
We have a large selection on the website to help with teaching the alphabet, and an even large collection of follow up phonics, word and sentence construction activities if you have older students and children.
|Alphabet Worksheets: Do do this||Alphabet Worksheets: Don’t Do This|
|Use simple tasks on alphabet worksheets that are quick to complete and not complicated. Coloring, or ”dabbing” worksheets are good. or games like bingo.||Don’t use workbooks that are too difficult. Use worksheets that that have to many words or instructions.|
7. Little and Often When Teaching the Alphabet
The temptation when starting to teach the alphabet to preschoolers is to jump into it over enthusiastically and try to do too much to quickly. Although it is great that you have the drive to help your children and students learn to read it is better to play a long game.
Preschoolers attention spans are pretty short and overloading them not only will give them too much information to remember, it will also likely turn them off from learning more. If you can keep teaching to frequent but short lessons and tasks you will have more success teaching the alphabet.
These can be with the games and songs, and tasks we have highlighted on this page, but we also have three below that are nice short activities to both practice and teach the alphabet, each one should be a 5 minute activity you can do throughout the day with minimal preparation.
If you can do these alphabet activities a few times a day, and mix up the letters you use ,your students will be reciting the alphabet in no time at all.
Quick Alphabet Games for Preschoolers
- Floor is Lava ABC game: Might need a little setting up if you don’t have ABC floor mats or tiles, but these can be printed easy enough from our free resources below (or here) You can put these on the floor (any letters you like but make sure there is a selection) and then call out the letter name (or sound if you are practicing phonics) and have your toddler or preschooler jump or step to the correct letter. There can be a little reward at the end if you are using extrinsic motivation as well. ( we suggest a cookie or fruit :P) You can change these up as you need to over the course of days of weeks of teaching the alphabet.
- Eye Spy With My little Eye: A classic car journey game that can be played once your preschooler has a little language to use. Simply say i spy with my little eye something beginning with a-b-c or whichever letter you choose. You can do this with items on the table in front of them to help, but make sure it is vocabulary they already know. We find that animals, toys and colors work best with young children.
- Alphabet Bedtime Stories. One of the most underrated ways to give children access to texts is for teacher and parents to read to their children and students. While the simple act of storytelling is great on its own, you can inject a little learning by reading alongside them, so they can see the pages of the book too, and asking them to find letters on the page you are reading. This can be used with any book, and can be expanded on by asking if they know any other words with that letter. Later on you can do the same with the phonic sounds of the letters as well.
|Teach the Alphabet: Do do this||Teach the Alphabet: Don’t Do This|
|Use short tasks often all through the week. Make sure you mix them up so they don’t become boring.||Don’t do long lessons or tasks at preschool and kindergarten age it is much less effective and makes learning less enjoyable.|
8. Remember Preschoolers Learn at Different Speeds
Children develop at different speeds, one of the advantages parents have over teachers, especially at preschool age, is that they can focus their attention on one child rather than a class of 30 children.
This allows parents to tailor their teaching to the needs of their children and despite having less time they can use this time more effectively. They can choose anytime during the day to do little activities and games to help teach the alphabet.
Dangers of trying to move to fast
However, speaking as a teacher, there is a danger to parents getting carried away and trying to push their children to quickly onto other reading skills . The alphabet is an abstract concept to most preschoolers until they are able to see it used in the construction of words.
So trying to move onto spelling, or word construction before children have a firm grasp of the letter sound relationship is not going to be effective.
Take as much time as your child needs and mix up the games and activtiies to give them this first grasp before they enter kindergarten or formal schooling and you will be doign well.
|Teach the Alphabet: Do do this||Teach the Alphabet: Don’t Do This|
|Mix up the games and activities to make learning the alphabet a fun and shared experience. If you can give your children a love of learning at this early age you have given them a great start in formal schooling.||Compare your children’s progress to others in your social circle or playgroup. All children develop at different speeds, don’t congratulate or berate yourself too much if your child is ahead or behind, it will change. .|
We have given eight tips to teach the alphabet to preschoolers above, and it was in a very long article. There is so much to it. However we are breaking down the methods and options for you in a series of articles. All you have to do is to click the title and it will take you t the the article on teaching alphabet with toys, teaching the alphabet with songs etc.
However whichever methods you chose to teach the alphabet to your preschooler, as long as you move at their speed, take your time and make it fun we are sure you will have plenty of success and fun along the way.
Enjoy teaching them a skill they will carry with them for their entire lives.