I feel like there is a huge debate on whether to teach your preschooler the alphabet. In one camp, parents insist that they should know all 26 letters of the alphabet by the time they go to kindergarten. In the other camp, parents believe that you should hold off on teaching your preschooler the alphabet because then they will be bored in kindergarten.
My opinion? You should expose your preschoolers to letters and follow their lead. If they seem to love learning the letters of the alphabet, continue to provide them opportunities to learn more. This fun alphabet activity for toddlers and preschoolers can help you get started. If they are uninterested, don’t force it on them and leave it alone. You can always try again later.
I have been creating fun activities for my kids to learn letters, and their favorite ones are always the ones that include gross motor skills. Not surprising since preschoolers are bundles of energy and cannot sit still!
If you are ready to start teaching your child letters, but you don’t know where to start, check out my Prep Through Play Letter Learning Activity Pack. It is completely no-prep (good for moms!) and is a complete step-by-step guide filled with active learning activities for your child.
Here is one alphabet activity that will get your kids up and moving (and hopefully that means a good night of sleep). Plus, you don’t need to run to the store for any materials because chances are, you already have them around the house!
Related: More Ways To Tire Your Toddler Out
Plastic Cups (I prefer the clear ones so you can check whether they matched the letters correctly)
Write one letter on the bottom of each of the plastic cups with a permanent marker.
Write the same letters on the sticky notes.
Randomly place the sticky notes on the floor.
Have your preschooler cover each sticky note with the plastic cup that has the corresponding letter.
Nice and easy, right?
My 3-year-old had a lot of fun doing this. After the first couple of times, she asked to place the sticky notes on the floor herself. She scattered them all around the house so she could run around to find them. I was able to get some chores done while she did this activity all by herself!
If you do not have sticky notes at home, you can do this by cutting up a regular piece of paper. However, I like using sticky notes because they adhere to the floor. A regular piece of paper may get moved around as your kid run and step on them – they might even get stuck to the bottom of their feet.
One thing I did not address is how many letters should you do at a time. That depends on your preschooler! My toddler just started learning her letters, so we started with 6 at a time. If your kid already knows some of her letters, you may want to include more to make the game more challenging.
Variations of the Alphabet Cup Game
To make the alphabet cup game even more fun, you can try these variations:
Beat the Music.
Play a short song in the background and have your kid race the music to see if he/she can finish matching all of the letters before the song ends.
Beat the Alphabet Monster.
This is probably my kid’s favorite because it really gets them moving. The parent pretends to be a monster (think Godzilla) and walk around slowly, kicking over the cups that your kid has already placed on the floor on top of the sticky note. If the monster kicks over a cup, then the kid will have to come back to put the cup on the sticky note again. The objective is for your kid to have all the cups and sticky notes matched up before the monster kicks any of the cups over.
Beat the Alphabet Thief.
The parent is the alphabet thief, who goes around stealing the sticky notes that have already been covered by cups. The thief then places the sticky notes elsewhere for your kid to find. Your kid will need to pick up the empty cups and find the sticky notes again. The game is finished when all the sticky notes are covered before the thief strikes again.
Beat the Sibling.
If you have two preschoolers at home, they can compete to see who can finish first! Divide the cups so that each kid has the same number of cups and let them race it out.
Find the Letters in Order.
Instead of randomly finding matching cups and sticky notes, your preschoolers can find the letters in order of the alphabet! This is a great way to teach them how to recite letters from A to Z.
Hide the sticky notes around the house and go on a scavenger hunt with your kid!
What is the Best Order to Introduce Letters?
You need to decide on what order you want to introduce the letters to your preschooler. Here are some options:
You can start off teaching your kid the letters in her name. Kids love their own names and they will be especially motivated to learn the letters in their names. This is also good for safety – if your child ever gets lost, she can tell the police her name.
A to Z
You can choose to teach your kids the letters in order of the alphabet. I have chosen to do this because my kids are trilingual and need a little extra help when it comes to knowing their letters. Right now, they know them the best through the ABC or Alphabet Song. Therefore, they can sing the song and find the letters in order while playing this game.
A phoneme is the distinct units of sound in speech. Think of when you are trying to teach your baby how to say a word – you would often repeat the first phoneme of the word. For example, you would say to your baby, “’D, d, d … Daddy!” The ‘d’ sound, often written as /d/, is an example of a phoneme (source).
When teaching your child letters, you may want to start with phonemes such as /f/, /m/, and /s/ along with the vowels because they are easy to pronounce by themselves. Phonemes such as /t/ and /p/ should be taught later.
When you put multiple phonemes together, you get a word. For example, if your kid learns /m/, /a/, and /s/, then he/she will be able to pronounce the name “Sam.”
Phonics is the use of sound-symbol relationship to recognize words and is essential for children who are beginning to read. Phonics teaches kids what sound each letter makes (phonemes) and apply it to reading so that your kids will be able to recognize words.
Here is a good resource on the order in which you should teach your kids the alphabets if you want to teach them phonics.
Should I Teach Upper or Lowercase Letters First?
This is another decision you will have to make. Here are the reasons behind each:
Uppercase Letters First
Capitals are easier to recognize and differentiate. Since capitals are mainly formed with straight strokes, children find them easier to write as they can write the letters on the lines (instead of lowercase letters like “g” that go below the line).
Lowercase Letters First
Lowercase letters are more often used (since we only capitalize the beginning of a sentence and proper nouns). If your kids master lowercase letters, then you can introduce capital letters along with the usage rules. The concept is that you teach the general rules first (hence the most used lowercase letters) and then teach the exceptions (the capital letters).
Some argue that you should teach them upper and lowercase letters in the context of words that are meaningful for the children. For example, when you teach your children their names, they should learn upper case for the first letter and lower for the rest. This way, you are teaching them the rules of when to use capitals as they learn their letters.
No matter what you decide when it comes to the order of the alphabets or upper or lowercase letters, the key to teaching your kids the alphabet is to have fun! Create games that will have them laughing and asking for more. Don’t stress if they do not show interest – you can always try a few weeks later. If anything, they will learn their letters in school!
This is a guest post written by Betty.
Betty is a wife and mother of 2 who spends her time chasing after her kids and digging herself out of piles laundry. She is the blogger behind Mombrite, where you can find solutions to various problems you might experience as a mother. She hopes to enlighten you as well as provide some comic relief because let’s admit it, motherhood is hard!