As a parent, nothing is more thrilling than teaching your child something new and giving them the freedom to learn and be curious. But how important is it to teach them everything—things that they will eventually learn once they start school or even day care. Today, Parents Ask expert Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Series of books for parents shares her thoughts:
Q: Should I teach my toddler the ABCs before she starts school? If yes, what is the best way to teach her?
A: One of the many wonderful things about toddlers is their exuberant curiosity about everything new. Given the opportunity, your little one will likely enjoy learning her ABCs. Learning the alphabet is an important step in early reading skills since it allows a toddler to make the connection that letter symbols stand for sounds. The natural progression is that your toddler will learn that when letters/sounds are put together, these sounds make words.
You should never be afraid to teach your toddler anything new, such as letters, numbers, words or any other skill. Just don’t think you must teach everything at once, or that the lessons must be structured or mastered according to a given time table. The key to teaching a toddler something new is to follow his lead and keep it fun and relaxed.
Books are a great teacher
There is an endless supply of wonderful alphabet books for toddlers, and these never fail to bring pleasure to a budding reader. Reading a variety of these is best, and your local library is a great source for an ever rotating supply. Look for books with creative presentations of the alphabet, such as photographs of items that begin with each letter, or books with lift-the-flaps that show a picture beneath each letter.
The beauty of reading books to your toddler is that any and all books will help him to become a good reader when the time comes. At this age, your primary goal is to help your toddler develop a love of books and a joy of learning.
Letter games that toddlers love
There are many ways to incorporate letters into your everyday play. Just keep the idea of looking for learning moments in the back of your mind every day and look for opportunities. What follows are just a few examples to get you thinking:
• As you bring out the box of cereal in the morning point to the big, colorful letters on the package and read them to your little one.
• Purchase letter refrigerator magnets and incorporate them into your day—when you are heading for his glass of milk spell M-I-L-K with the magnets.
• Play with alphabet puzzles, block letters and foam bath letters.
• Buy a chalk board with colored chalk, or sidewalk chalk and draw letters and let her try to draw them.
• Use crayons or markers and print his name in big, bold letters. Hang it up!
• Bake cookies using letter shaped cookie cutters.
Using music to teach
The traditional A-B-C song that you most likely learned as a child is still effective today as a tool to teach the alphabet. We all learn more easily when facts are set to music, and most toddlers love singing simple tunes like this one. Just remember to enunciate each letter distinctly as many toddlers think one of the letters is “Elle-em-en-opee.”