Phonological Awareness – The #1 Skill Your Child Needs to be Ready to Read

Phonological Awareness – The #1 Skill Your Child Needs to be Ready to Read

If you are the parent of a preschooler or Kindergartner, you may have heard the term “phonological awareness” and wondered what it means. “Phonological awareness” is a reading readiness skill that is often confused with the terms “phonemic awareness” and “phonics.”

These terms are related, but they each mean something different in the world of learning to read. “Phonics” is a method of teaching reading that focuses on sounds and letters in printed text. “Phonemic awareness” is a subset of “phonological awareness” that I’ll discuss later in this blog post.

What is phonological awareness, then?

Phonological awareness is the ability to

  • hear and recognize that orally spoken words are made up of smaller pieces of sound, such as syllables, onset (initial sound) and rime (the blended ending chunk of a word), and phonemes
  • manipulate, work with (play with) these pieces of sound in a language.

An important part of this definition is “orally spoken words.” Phonological awareness is about the sounds we hear and speak, not about the print we see.

Why is phonological awareness important?phonological awareness

Before a child can learn how to read, they must be able to pay attention to the sounds of spoken words.

When kids have progressed to the point that they can notice, isolate and work orally with the very smallest sounds in words (phonemes) they are ready to benefit from phonics instruction. Along with strong alphabet knowledge, phonological awareness is a foundational skill that leads directly to learning to read. Strong phonological awareness is a highly accurate predictor of your child’s success in learning to read.

What are the components of phonological awareness?

There are five parts to phonological awareness:

  • word awareness
  • syllable awareness
  • onset and rime awareness
  • rhyme awareness
  • phonemic awareness

This sequence progresses from the largest pieces of sound (words) to the smallest pieces of sound (phonemes.)

How does phonological awareness develop?phonological awareness

As children move from working with larger pieces of sound to smaller pieces of sound, they progress from

  • recognizing the sounds to producing the sounds
  • matching the sounds to blending the sounds to segmenting the sounds
  • hearing and working with the initial sounds, then the final sounds, then the middle sounds

They also progress from

  • learning with objects and pictures to learning through activities that are strictly oral
  • using concrete objects such as Lego pieces, chips or blocks to represent sounds to using letters to represent sounds

Let’s take a look at these pieces of sound, from largest to smallest.

Word Awareness

Word awareness is the understanding that sentences are made up of individual words. Imagine how speech must sound to a baby – just a continual stream of sound. As a child’s language develops, they begin to notice and hear individual words.

A later application of word awareness is the understanding that when we see one word in print, we say one word. The concept of leaving spaces between words when we write is also part of word awareness.

Quick Tip – My favorite way to teach this is to have children count each word of a short, fun sentence on their fingers. For example, I might say “We love to go to the park.” I ask the kids to repeat it with me while we all count the words on our fingers. Then I ask, “how many fingers, how many words?”

rhymingRhyme Awareness

The ability to hear, recognize and “play with” rhyming words is a powerful predictor of a child’s success in learning to read. When kids play with rhyming words, they are learning the sound patterns that will help them learn and apply phonics skills as they learn to read.

Quick Tip – The easiest and most powerful way to help kids learn to rhyme is to read rhyming books.

Syllable Awareness

Syllable awareness is the understanding that words can be divided up into chunks of sound.  A syllable is a “chunk” or section of a word that has only one vowel sound.

Kids need to be able to hear and count how many syllables are in a word. For example, the word “eat” is one syllable. It has only one vowel sound, even though that sound is spelled with two vowels together. The same idea applies with “house” and “rain.”

The word “playground” has two syllables because it has two chunks or sections that each have one vowel sound.

Quick Tip – In the United States, it’s common to have students clap once as they say each syllable in a word, and then count “how many claps?” If you teach your little one to clap syllables, chances are good that this will match what they are later expected to do at school.

Onset & Rime Awareness

Syllables can be broken down into smaller sections of sound. These sections

  • Segment a word in the correct place (“c-at”)
  • Delete the first sound, called the onset (“_-at”)
  • Substitute a new ending sound, called the rime, in the correct place (“h-at”)
  • Blend the new sounds/word parts correctly (“hat”)

In the skills listed above, the first sound in a word (“c-at”) is called the “onset.” The last word part (“c-at”) is called the “rime.”

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, recognize, and work with the very smallest pieces of sound, called “phonemes.”phonemic awareness

Kids who have strong phonemic awareness can:

  • Isolate sounds (beginning, ending and middle sounds)
  • Blend sounds into words (“cat”)
  • Segment words into individual sounds (“c-a-t”)
  • Change sounds to create a new word (“c-a-n”)

When children can orally isolate, segment and blend these smallest pieces of sound, they are ready to benefit from phonics instruction and begin learning how to read.

Changing sounds to create a new word is much trickier. For many kids this is not a reading readiness skill, it is a skill that develops while they are learning to read.

Quick Tip – Work on blending as a riddle game. “What’s the mystery word?” Say the sounds of a word slowly and separately, and have your child practice identifying the word.

What does this mean?

If you want to teach your child how to read, your first step is to teach phonological awareness.

If your child is having a hard time learning to read, go back and spend time on phonological awareness activities.

Phonological awareness is the key to success in learning to read.

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Phonological Awareness


How to Quickly Explode Your Child’s Language Development

How to Quickly Explode Your Child’s Language Development

Did you know that oral language skills and vocabulary development are better predictors of reading success than a child’s IQ? This is good news for parents, because we have so much influence on these critical areas of child development.

In this post you’ll learn a powerful strategy for dramatically improving your child’s oral language and vocabulary development that you can start implementing TODAY.

How Oral Language Development Leads to Reading Readinessoral language development in babies

Humans begin to develop oral language skills in the womb before birth, when they hear and process the sounds of language in their environment.

Babies begin to develop language skills when they hear adults and older children talk to them, and they babble in return. When their efforts are celebrated, babies are encouraged to continue using sound to communicate. They memorize the sounds and patterns of sounds they hear, laying the groundwork for understanding and speaking later. Babies with parents who frequently interact with them develop better language skills by ages two and three, and better reading skills at ages five and six.

Babies begin to develop an expressive vocabulary of words that are important to them – for example, “mama,” “daddy” or “cookie.” Their receptive vocabularies are much, much bigger.

As toddlers hear words and spoken language around them, they begin to use words, phrases and sentences. When the people around them provide encouragement, toddlers rapidly improve their oral language skills. They begin to respond purposefully to what people say to them. A toddler’s vocabulary can often increase by several words each day.

Preschoolers can talk for longer periods of time, and begin to take turns in conversation. When they are encouraged and supported, they begin to use a wider variety of words and more sophisticated sentences. They often show an intense interest in learning new words.

Preschoolers begin to develop the ability to recount experiences to adults, and to talk in a coherent way about what is happening around them. They are able to listen to and understand books and stories, and they enjoy talking about them with others.

When this begins to happen, it is a sign of reading readiness.

The Easy Way to Explode Your Child’s Oral Language Skills and Vocabulary Developmentvocabulary development in babies

The easiest, best and most enjoyable way to explode your child’s oral language skills and vocabulary development at every stage is to read books aloud. Any time spent listening to stories read aloud is valuable for children. However, with a just little bit of planning, you can level up your read alouds and maximize the benefits for your child.

Do this by making sure that for at least some books, you and your child spend time talking purposefully about the story. Of course, many read alouds are just you reading the book and your child enjoying the story. This is wonderful, especially at bedtime when you are both trying to wind down from a busy day.

However, each day pick a book to approach in a more deliberate manner. A popular, effective way to do this is to use “Dialogic Reading,” which was developed by Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst.

The Dialogic Reading approach gives you a structure to use to make sure that when you read aloud, your little ones are getting the most oral language benefit and vocabulary development possible. Tons of studies have shown that dialogic reading dramatically increases the benefits of reading aloud.

How to Use Dialogic Reading to Level Up Your Read Alouds

To use Dialogic Reading, parents can use the PEER interaction with their child.

  • Prompt your child to say something about the book. (see specific prompts below)
  • Evaluate how your child responds.
  • Expand on your child’s response by rephrasing it and adding information
  • Repeat the prompt to double check for learning

Here is an example. When you are reading a book with your child, you might point to a character and ask (prompt) “who is this?” Your child might say “that’s Piggie,” and you would say “Yes!” (evaluation) “Piggie and his friend Elephant are getting in the car.” (expansion) Then you might ask “can you point to Piggie and Elephant getting in the car? (repetition)

You can use the PEER interaction model with books that are new or books that are familiar. The sample prompts below will work with almost any book you and your child enjoy together.dialogic reading

There are many ways to prompt children to respond to books. Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst suggests using the CROWD acronym to guide your prompting.

The CROWD model includes five types of prompts to use in Dialogic Reading.

  • Completion prompts: create a “fill-in-the-blank” sentence for your child. This works well with rhyming books and books with lots of repetition.  For example, you might say “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, ________” and help your child chime in with “Sam I am!” This type of prompt lets children experience the structure of language in a fun, natural way.
  • Recall prompts: ask literal questions with concrete answers that come directly from the book. You can use them at any time with books you have already read, or at the end of a new book. For example, you might say, “What did he finally eat?” Recall prompts are great for developing sequencing skills and comprehension.
  • Open-ended prompts: the very best open-ended prompt is “tell me what is happening in this picture.” This prompt provides endless opportunities for improving your child’s expressive language. Be sure to choose books that have engaging, detailed illustrations.
  • Wh- prompts: this category of questions expands on recall prompts.  Questions that begin with “what,” “where,” and “when,” are literal and usually have definite answers. Questions that begin with “why” and “how” encourage kids to make inferences, draw conclusions and describe at greater length. Easier Wh-prompts focus on the illustrations in a book. More difficult Wh-prompts focus on the story itself.
  • Distancing prompts: these are wonderful for helping kids see that books can be connected to every aspect of our life. A distancing prompt asks children to relate something in the story to experiences they have had in real life. For example, when reading a book about visiting grandparents, you might say, “Amanda and Oliver are visiting their grandma. Remember when we visited Grandma last week? What did you do at Grandma’s house?” Distancing prompts teach children to make text-to-self connections, text-to-word connections and text-to-text connections.

After using any of these CROWD prompts, be sure to follow up with the remaining steps of the PEER process: evaluate, expand, repeat.

oral language developmentDialogic Reading Works!

Kids who have regularly enjoyed Dialogic Reading with their parents are typically miles ahead in oral language skills and vocabulary development. In fact, if a child is behind in oral language development, Dialogic Reading is a powerful technique for helping them catch up.

Be sure to mix up the prompts, and keep the whole experience light and fun. And remember, you should never do Dialogic Reading with every book you read. Sometimes, just snuggle up and enjoy the soothing rhythm of an uninterrupted story with your little ones.

Oral language skills and vocabulary development have a monumental impact on reading readiness. Isn’t it great to know that adults can have a monumental impact on oral language skills and vocabulary development?

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oral language development in babiesoral language development oral language development strategies for toddlersoral language development




13 Easy Ways to Develop Reading Readiness

13 Easy Ways to Develop Reading Readiness

Concepts about print and book handling skills are usually paired together as one of the earliest reading readiness skills that children develop before they can learn to read successfully. In this post, you’ll discover 13 easy ways to help your child develop a strong understanding of concepts about print and book handling skills.

The most fundamental idea of print concepts is that print has meaning. In other words, those squiggles and marks on paper actually mean something, and by looking carefully at them, people can figure out what they mean. Kids need to know that the individual marks on the paper are letters and that a group of letters creates a word.

The term “book handling skills” refers to the understanding of how books work. It includes knowing how to hold books, and how to turn pages correctly.

The key to helping your child these skills is to provide a literacy-rich home environment.  Then, create opportunities for your child to interact with it.

Use these tips to transform your home into a literacy-rich environment that will make it easy and natural for your little one to develop strong concepts about print and book handling skills.

baby playing on floor with books and toysKeep Books as Handy as Toys

1. Have books widely available and readily accessible. Keep children’s books available throughout your home in places your child can easily reach. Add plastic books to your collection of bath toys, place baskets of books in every room, and always keep some in the car. You want books to be as commonly found in your home as toys.

2. Encourage children of any age to “read” books. Babies will play with them, toddlers may look at the pictures and preschoolers might retell the story as they flip through the book. Kindergartners and early readers may look for words they know. These are all examples of children developing their understanding of how print works.

Make the Most of Time With Books

3. Sit next to your child when you are reading, so they can see the pages of the book.

mother and baby looking at a book4. Before you start reading book with your child, point to the title as you read it. Run your finger under the author’s name as you read it, and then explain that the author is the person who thought the story up in their brain and wrote it down. Read the illustrator’s name the same way, and explain that the illustrator is the person who made the pictures to go along with the story.

5. When it feels natural and the print is big enough, point to the words as you read them.

6. Encourage your child to gently help you turn the pages sometimes.

7. Model how you use print throughout the day. Draw your child’s attention to it when you are writing an email to a family member, reading a recipe card, or reading a sign in the environment. Have them help you write a grocery list! Let your child see you read and write for fun and entertainment, and also for practical purposes.

8. Write out a daily schedule with your child at the beginning of the day, and then check off each activity together as you complete it.

9. Point out signs in your environment when you are out and about in the community. Draw your child’s attention to common traffic signs, and familiar street names and store names.

little girl scribbling in book with mom watching herMake it Fun and “Hands-on”

10. Create a writing corner with a wide variety of materials. Add different types of paper, and provide crayons, colored pencils and markers. You can even staple paper together to create little books for your child to write in. Provide time for your child to explore and play in the writing corner every day.

11. Have alphabet materials available, too. Alphabet books, alphabet puzzles and alphabet toys are fantastic ways to immerse your child in print. Keep alphabet stickers and alphabet stamps in the writing corner or craft area. Display a couple of alphabet charts at your child’s height in different rooms of the house.

Label Your House

12. Attach clearly written labels to as many items in the house as you are willing to. Post-its are great for this, or you can use index cards. When my kids were little we took a fair amount of teasing from a visiting uncle when he entered a bathroom and found the toilet conveniently labeled. Label toy containers, doors, windows, kitchen appliances, rooms, tables, chairs, sinks, cupboards etc.  You can have your kids help you write the labels and put them on, or do it yourself.

13. Regularly encourage your children to “read the house” by touching each label with a pointer or a finger and saying the word. It doesn’t matter if they aren’t really reading it. The idea is to make print very familiar to your child. You want them to take it for granted as part of your home environment.

Easy and Natural

With just a little bit of purposeful attention on your part, you can help your child develop print concepts and book knowledge easily and naturally.

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young boy sitting in chair in library reading a book mom and baby looking at bookmother and girl looking at a bookpreschool girl looking at a book to learn to read books


How to Know if it is Time to Teach Your Preschooler to Read

How to Know if it is Time to Teach Your Preschooler to Read

Reading readiness and pre-reading skills are topics that parents of preschoolers think about often.

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If you have a preschooler, you may be tempted to start teaching them to read, and wonder if it’s a good idea or not. You certainly don’t want to push your child too early and risk turning them off reading. You also don’t want to hold your preschooler back if they seem to be ready.

While I am a huge believer in a developmental approach to early childhood education, I think its fine to follow your child’s lead if they are showing you that they are ready to learn how read.

Signs of Reading Readiness

But how can you know? What are the signs of reading readiness, and what are the pre-reading skills that kids need to have before they learn how to read?

Before you start teaching your child to read, be sure they are showing these five signs of reading readiness.

Interest and Motivation

reading readiness pre reading skillsKids who are ready to learn how to read are interested in looking at books and listening to stories read aloud. When the time is right and other reading readiness skills are in place, this interest expands into motivation to learn how to read.

You’ll know your child is interested in books and reading if they bring books to you and ask you to read to them. You may notice that your child falls in love with a particular book and wants to hear it over and over again.

Kids who are interested in books may sit and look at books by themselves. They may retell the story out loud as they look through the book, pretending to read it.

It’s fine if attention spans are short and reading sessions are brief, but a child who is ready to learn how to read is willing and hopefully eager to listen to an adult read books to them.

A child who is ready to learn how to read views books and reading as a wonderfully positive part of life.

Oral Language Skills and Vocabulary Development

Kids who are ready to learn how to read are able to listen to and understand stories, and then talk about them. These pre-reading skills support independent reading comprehension later on.

If you make casual comments about the story when you are reading books aloud, you may notice that your child begins to do the same thing.

Older preschoolers and Kindergartners who are ready to learn how to read can answer simple questions about the story you are sharing together. They may be able to answer your open-ended questions such “What do you think will happen next?” or “Why do you think she (the character) did that?”

A child who is ready to learn how to read understands stories and is able to talk about them with others.

what allows children to master the ability to read?Concepts About Print & Book Handling Skills

Concepts about Print include the understanding that the writing on a page is letters, and letters create words, which we can read in order to understand what they say.

Kids who are ready to read might point to the print (randomly) while they are looking through a book and telling themselves the story.

They have noticed that you run your finger under print from left to right, and start at the top of the page.

A child who is ready to learn how to read can recognize their name and other common words and symbols in their environment, such as “Target” or even just the Target bulls eye.

A child who has good book handling skills can hold a book the right way and turn the pages from right to left.

A child who is ready to learn how to read understands that print conveys meaning, and knows how books work.

The Two Most Important Pre-Reading Skills

The last two pre-reading skills your child needs are phonological and phonemic awareness and alphabet knowledge, and they are crucial.

The development of these two skills can also be supported in very natural ways, but these natural supports usually require more direction from an adult.

I’ll summarize and discuss phonological and phonemic awareness and alphabet knowledge here, but they are subjects that deserve much more coverage than this brief mention in a single blog post. Look for links to my other blog posts for more in depth discussion about these topics.

what allows children to master the ability to read?Phonological and Phonemic Awareness

Phonological awareness is the understanding that language is made up of words, parts of words, and individual sounds. This understanding helps kids recognize and work with the parts of spoken language. Phonological awareness is completely oral – it doesn’t have anything to do with matching sounds to printed letters.

I recently heard someone describe the oral nature of phonological awareness in this way: If you wanted to, you and your child could work on it in the dark. This was so direct and clear – I loved it!

Phonological awareness can seem like a mish-mash of related skills that are easy to get mixed up.  I find it helpful to think of phonological awareness in four parts. These four parts are word awareness, rhyme awareness, syllable awareness and phonemic awareness.

Word awareness is the ability to recognize individual words in spoken language. Rhyme awareness is the ability to recognize and then produce rhyming words. Syllable awareness is the ability to break words into syllables orally, or to blend syllables into words orally.

Phonemic awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate (play with) the individual sounds in spoken words. Phonemes are the very smallest units of sound in a language. (The English language has 44 phonemes, which we use to create all the words we use to communicate with each other.)

Phonemic awareness is the most complex part of phonological awareness, and it is also the most important. Strong phonemic awareness in your child is the biggest contributing factor leading to later success in learning to read.

It’s worth repeating here that phonemic awareness is an oral skill rather than a written skill.  As soon as written print comes into play, we’ve crossed into phonics and “learning to read,” instead of “reading readiness.” When we add letters in print, phonemic awareness morphs into phonics, which is a different (and very important) set of skills used for a different purpose.

Alphabet Knowledge

The last main reading readiness skill is alphabet knowledge.

Before a child is ready to learn to read, they need to be able to recognize and name most letters. They need to be able to match most letters to their sounds, and vice versa.

Alphabet knowledge does not have to be perfectly in place before reading instruction starts, but your child should have a strong understanding of letters and sounds.

These five areas of reading readiness are not sequential, and they do not develop in isolation.  Given the right conditions, these pre-reading skills develop simultaneously during the early years of childhood, and each supports the development of the others.

Before your child receives formal reading instruction, be sure that they have developed these five areas of reading readiness.

To learn everything you need to know about cultivating your child’s reading readiness and pre-reading skills, take my online course for parents, “How to Raise a Reader – Reading Readiness Edition.”


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pre reading skillsreading readinesssigns of reading readinesssigns of reading readiness



How to Teach the Alphabet (And Make it Easy and Fun!)

How to Teach the Alphabet (And Make it Easy and Fun!)

How to teach the alphabet is the often the first thing parents wonder about when they want to start developing pre-reading skills in their children. And it’s a great place to start!

(To learn everything you need to know about developing reading readiness skills in your child, take my online digital course for parents, How to Raise a Reader – Reading Readiness Edition.)

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, A Family of Readers earns a small commission.

How to Teach the Alphabet to Kids. | reading readiness | preschool | kindergarten | learning to read |Why is Teaching the Alphabet Such a Great Place to Start?

For the most part, teaching kids the alphabet is straightforward and easy. It’s an area in which parents generally feel confident – we all know the alphabet song, right? 

And materials are easy to find – alphabet books, magnetic letters, alphabet toys and alphabet puzzles are readily available on Amazon, and at Target, Walmart and dollar stores.

Best of all, it’s FUN.

No matter what age your child is (birth to late Kindergarten), I believe that you should be “teaching” the alphabet, at least at some level. (Yes, I know this is a controversial statement, but stay with me here.)

“Teaching” the alphabet to kids looks and sounds very different depending upon the ages of the children.


How to Introduce the Alphabet to Babies – Yes, Babies! how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet

For babies, it’s all about low-key, natural exposure. Make the alphabet an ordinary, expected part of your home environment and daily routine.

Think about this – nursery decor, books, and toys for babies are themed with basic concepts such as colors, shapes, animals, foods, nursery rhymes, etc. Make sure that the alphabet is included in there somewhere, too.

My favorite way to do this is by reading aloud lots of alphabet books. Just as you would point out objects in a book when you are reading to a baby – “Look, there’s the elephant,” – you can point out letters just as naturally. You might say “I see the letter B,” while you point to it, and then keep moving right along through the book.

I also like to have a simple, clear alphabet chart or poster as decor in a nursery.  And be sure to include the alphabet song in your repertoire of lullabies.

I want to be very clear here. You are NOT teaching the alphabet, per se. You are making it an ordinary part of your home environment and family culture. The goal is to make the alphabet a natural part of the background in your baby’s life.


Helping Toddlers Learn the Alphabet

Take a look at that heading just above – notice that I used the term “learn” as opposed to “teach.” With toddlers, it’s all about helping them LEARN the alphabet, as opposed to TEACHING them the alphabet.

To help younger toddlers learn the alphabet, start casually building on the exposure you established during babyhood. This is the time to add a few alphabet toys to your child’s toy box.

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabetBe more purposeful when reading alphabet books. Transition from telling the name of a letter to inviting your toddler to point to a letter – “Where is the B? Show me the letter B.” If they can’t, point to the letter and say, “There’s the B!” Keep it fun, brief, and low-key.

Use your home’s alphabet chart in this same way. “Read” it together once each day, perhaps as part of the bedtime routine.

Toddlers are usually able to point to letters before they can say the names of the letters. Once you notice that your little one can say the names of some letters, start asking, “What is this letter?” as you point. If they have trouble, say it yourself and encourage them to repeat it. Keep it conversational, and don’t ever let it sound like a demand or a test.


If Kids Can Learn That a Cow Says “Moo,” They Can Learn That the /b/ Sound Goes With the Letter B

For older toddlers who seem ready, you can repeat this process with letter sounds. Always start by modeling – “That’s the letter B. /b/, /b, /b/.” When the time seems right, move on to prompting “What sound does B make?” Again, if they have any trouble, say it yourself and encourage them to repeat it. Keep it as casual as any other conversation you share with your toddler.

The goal is for your toddler to learn to identify letters by name and know their sounds in the same way that the rest of their language is developing – naturally, and on their own personal timeline.


Tools for Learning the Alphabet

Toddler-hood is the time to introduce magnetic letters and foam letters for the bathtub. Keep a set of jumbo magnetic letters on the fridge and draw attention to them in the same way you do with alphabet books. I like to have uppercase magnetic letters and lowercase magnetic letters.

Use magnetic letters to form your child’s name, and point it out to them every day. This is a great way to start developing the concept that letters form words, which convey meaning. 

Toddlers love to play with jumbo magnetic letters, stacking them, rearranging them on the fridge, and taking them in and out of containers. Continue modeling by commenting casually – “You’re putting the letter M in the tub, aren’t you?” Then move along to inviting participation – “Can you hand me the letter W?” You can make these same activities a part of your child’s bath-time by adding foam letters to your collection of bath toys. Early on in your child’s journey to learning the alphabet, magnetic letters should be more of a toy, not a formal learning tool. It won’t be long before you’re using them to reinforce letter sounds and early spelling skills.

If your older toddler seems ready, do the same sort of activity with sounds.

how to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabetAlong with plush toys, blocks, play vehicles and dolls, be sure to include alphabet puzzles and alphabet games in your child’s toy box. This is another way to make letters and sounds a natural part of your home’s culture and environment.

Alphabet puzzles help your child develop fine motor, visual discrimination and problem-solving skills while physically touching and exploring the letters of the alphabet. Work on these together at first, until your child has built some success in fitting the letters back into their spaces. Try offering one letter puzzle piece at a time, and pointing to the general area of the puzzle frame where it can be found. Offer clues – “Can you find the picture of the ball, for the letter B?” 


Teaching the Alphabet to Preschoolers

Up until around age three, I recommend keeping letter and sound activities informal and casual. At around age three, as kids move into the preschool years, they should interact with letters and sounds in a more purposeful way. Start including 10-15 minutes of more structured (but still fun!) alphabet activities in your daily routine.

Continue modeling, especially with sounds, but invite your child to actively participate more often. In addition to taking advantage of learning opportunities as they come up, start intentionally creating fun teaching opportunities. Add a few alphabet games to your home and establish a weekly family game night. Suggest doing an alphabet puzzle together, and then comment on or ask your child to identify most of the letters rather than just a few. Have your child watch LeapFrog’s Letter Factory while you are cooking dinner. (It’s an incredibly effective way to reinforce letters and sounds.)


Flashcards Can Be Fantastichow to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet

While I don’t recommend using flashcards to “drill” your preschooler, they are invaluable for playing games and creating alphabet activities. A great physical activity is to have your child lay alphabet flashcards out on the floor in order, and then read them aloud, walking or crawling along the line of cards.

Or, grab your tub of magnetic letters and have your preschooler place each one on top of its matching flashcard. You can tape flashcards around the house and send your child on a treasure hunt to see how many letters they can find.

Buy two of the same sets and use them for playing matching games or “concentration.” Play bingo by pulling a few flashcards from one set to create a bingo card, and using the other set for letters to “call.” With two sets, you can even play a limited version of “Go Fish.”

Once each day, point to each card in order from left to right and “read” the card with your child. This activity is a great addition to your bedtime story routine. For babies and toddlers, just say the name of the letter and the name of the picture. For preschoolers and Kindergartners, say the name of the letter, the name of the picture, and the sound.


Invest in an Excellent Alphabet Curriculumalphabet activities for kids

If you are homeschooling, or you want to provide activities in a more systematic way, invest in a high-quality alphabet curriculum. This Reading Mama has an unbelievable, affordable product called the “Learning the Alphabet Bundle.” It’s jam-packed with powerful hands-on activities for learning letters and letter sounds. To get the most bang for your buck, I recommend purchasing a downloadable bundle product such as this rather than just picking up alphabet workbooks here and there. You’ll receive many more activities to choose from, and you can download and print out exactly what your child needs.

Any of the activities the Learning the Alphabet Bundle would be great for that 10-15 minutes of structured alphabet learning time that I recommend for preschoolers. When we provide engaging activities like these, kids learn much more easily and quickly. I guarantee there is something in this bundle that your child will fall in love with, which will totally supercharge their alphabet learning!


Developing Deep Letter Knowledgehow to teach your child to recognize the letters of the alphabet

In order to become a skilled, fluent reader and writer, your child needs to develop deep letter knowledge. And the time to do this is during Pre-K and the beginning of Kindergarten. If you haven’t started using a curriculum like the “Learning the Alphabet Bundle,” now is definitely the time to add 10-15 minutes of structured alphabet activities to your child’s day.

Having deep letter knowledge means that your child can:

  • Readily identify all lowercase and uppercase letters by name.
  • Write each lowercase and uppercase letter.
  • Hear a vowel or consonant sound and immediately know which letter represents it.
  • Look at a letter and articulate the sound it makes.

True mastery of these four skills takes time – from informal babyhood exposure to direct instruction during Pre-K and Kindergarten. It takes steady, age-appropriate practice and review at the same time your child is developing other reading readiness skills.

Whether you are homeschooling or reinforcing what your child learns in preschool, Pre-K or Kindergarten, isn’t it wonderful that you can set your child up for success in learning to read by something as simple as teaching the alphabet? You’ll never regret taking advantage of this amazing power and precious opportunity.


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Alphabet activities - worksheets, games, puzzles, hands-on activities.How to develop "deep letter knowledge" in your Kindergartner. Learn how to teach the alphabet to your baby. Learn how to teach the alphabet to your toddler.