Flash cards are a great low-tech way to help your tot learn letters, numbers and even basic first reading words. They’re portable and serve as educational entertainment on occasions when you have to wait somewhere. School Zone Alphabet Flash Cards and Three-Letter Words Puzzle Cards both include instructions with game suggestions for parents to help keep learning fun. Age 3 and up. $2.99 per deck at schoolzone.com.
Turn learning literacy into an action sport with Educational Insights Alpha Catch. Each player wears a fabric catcher’s mitt and tosses lettered sticky balls back and forth while playing games such as Letter Line Up (What letter is that?), Word Catch (Can you make a word with the letter you caught?), Beginning Sounds Catch (Say a word that begins with that letter) and more. Game includes four catcher’s mitts, 26 sticky balls and teacher’s guide with game suggestions. Age 4 and up. $30 at educationalinsights.com.
technology that teaches
Preschoolers can build early reading skills with help from LeapFrog Tag Junior Book Pal, a handheld character that “reads” Tag Junior board books as your child glides it over the words and pictures. With the included USB cord, download audio for the Ready to Read Board Book Set, a set of seven books (Meg’s Pet, Dig It and Get on the Bus! are three of the titles) that introduce short vowel sounds through stories and songs. Ages 2 to 4. More than 20 books available. $35 and $15 at leapfrog.com.
Sometimes the old-school way is one of the best methods. Sit down for some bonding—and learning—time with your toddler and a workbook full of activities. Hooked on Phonics Pre-K Letter Sounds Workbook assists with teaching letter recognition and letter sounds, plus matching. Coloring pages, more than 50 stickers and a progress poster help maintain the child’s interest. Ages 3 to 4. $22 at amazon.com.
board of education
Choose one of four wacky characters in University Games Super Why ABC Letter Board Game (Alpha Pig, Wonder Red, Princess Pesto or Super Why) to navigate the game board and conquer challenges, including correcting silly sentences and learning to read basic words. Age 3 and up. $20 at amazon.com.
It’s never too soon to start reading to your baby; even infants will listen intently as you speak different sounds and words. Now, thanks to Read With Me: Best Books for Preschoolers (Huron Street Press), parents have a go-to list of more than 300 librarian-chosen, kid-approved books to use as a resource. Even better: a list of tips to help you encourage good reading habits. $19 at ipgbook.com.
Maureen Healy is a regular contributor to Baby & Toddler who specializes in new products.