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My son LOVES learning. I’m not kidding. After he inhales his breakfast, he looks up at me with puppy dog eyes and says, “Mommy, can we play learning now?” Of course, he has his times when he gets worn out or frustrated and needs to stop, but all in all, he’s a kid who simply loves to learn new things.
He picked up the names of all the uppercase letters in about a week and a half. I’m honestly kind of disappointed I didn’t get to do any of the dozens and dozens of activities I had planned out for the ABC portion of the homeschool curriculum I had written when I was pregnant and nursing! He was just under 2 when he learned the ABCs, so it completely took me off guard. We had been playing for about a month with the Melissa & Doug ABC puzzle, but I think the pegs in the middle of the letters make it too hard for children to visualize each letter when it’s a brand new concept; I think this puzzle works a lot better for reviewing rather than initially teaching ABCs.
Another mom recommended the Elmo ABC puzzle to me, and my son was really in love with Elmo from all the Elmo dollar store books I had been reading to him, so I went for it. Of course, he was immediately obsessed. Since he was so curious about the Elmo puzzle already, my method for teaching the letter names was incredibly simple. He just pointed to a letter, and I told him what it was called (as well as the word underneath the puzzle piece if it was unclear… some of those Sesame Street characters aren’t in the books!).
After him asking me about the letter names for 3-6 hours a day, every day, for a week and half, he had them pretty much down! I honestly think it’s because these puzzle pieces are 3-D, and kids can really see AND feel the differences between the letters (visual and tactile learning).
The lowercase letters took much longer because there’s really no lowercase puzzle version (sadly!), but I was fine with slowly doing some of the other ABC activities I had planned to learn the lowercase letters. (There is now a Cookie Monster numbers puzzle they didn’t have back when I got mine! Super cute.)
For learning beginning sounds, my son was also really excited to start “playing learning” with a new topic that would help him eventually learn to read! For this one, I actually had a plan and a strategy to introduce the topic to him and help make it stick.
Teaching Beginning Sounds
First, whenever we played with a puzzle or looked a poster that had ABCs and pictures on it, I started drawing out the first syllable of each picture word. No explanation. No introduction to the topic. I just started doing it. So we would be looking at a poster to review the ABCs, and my son would say, “A is for apple, Mommy,” and I would reply, “That’s right! A is for ah-ah-ah-apple.”
He looked shocked at first. He had no clue what weird new game I was playing. But he wanted to figure it out, so he all of his senses heightened and he paid extra close attention!
“Q is for quail, Mommy.”
“Yep! Q is for kwa-kwa-kwa-quail.”
Mommy surely is a fascinating toy when she starts talking really funny! I did this consistently every time we reviewed with puzzles and posters. I also started doing it whenever he would ask me about the spelling of words… “Mommy, what’s ‘cow’s’ letter?” (This is our short hand for the first letter of a word. For example, Mommy’s letter is ‘M.’ Daddy’s letter is ‘D.’ My son’s letter is ‘R.’ Books letters is ‘b.’) My new beginning sounds response: “Cuh-cuh-cuh-cow. ‘C.’ Cow’s letter is ‘c.'”
He quickly started picking it up and trying to mimic me. Certain letters were definitely easier for him, like A, B, M, and Y.
We started playing games to practice the letters that didn’t come as naturally. Beginning Sounds Bingo is a favorite. We’d also do Beginning Sound Scavenger Hunts where I’d call out a sound, and we’d have to search the house for an item starting with that beginning sound. And he loves practicing beginning sounds with board games!
Once he built up more confidence, I started turning his questions around.
“Mommy, what’s ‘sock’s’ letter?”
“Hmmm… I’m not sure. What do you think?”
“Sss-sss-sss-sock!” He’s got it! Oh jeez, I guess that means I have some new curriculum to write…