There are so many different options for learning the alphabet. Where do you even begin?
Well, I’m here to share with you 10 of my favorite kid-tested activities for learning and reviewing the alphabet at home.
In which order should I teach the ABCs?
There are many different ideas for the best order for teaching the alphabet. Some people go from A to Z. Others begin with letters that are easiest to write, and some begin with letters that are easy to pronounce.
If your goal is to begin reading and writing fairly quickly, go with an order that will allow your child to start creating short CVC words right out of the gate.
Green Bean Kindergarten has a great chart that shows many different options for letter orders.
I prefer the Montessori order that begins with S, M, T, A, P. Once you have those letters down, you can create many simple words like cat and map.
Don’t stress too much about choosing the perfect order. The most important thing is that you’re working with your child and promoting educational growth in your home. They will benefit from your efforts regardless of which order you choose.
At what age should a child say their ABCs?
Around the age of 3 is a typical age for reciting the ABCs. Keep in mind that all children progress and develop at different rates. Don’t be upset if your child is learning their ABCs slower than your friend’s children. Each child is unique and will learn at their own pace.
Also, remember that writing the ABCs will come much later, around ages 4-5. Don’t push writing too soon with young preschoolers.
Want to read more on this topic? Check out this article from Smaller Scholars Montessori Academy.
What is the best way to learn the alphabet?
You can teach the alphabet in many different ways, and I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other. What is most important, in my opinion, is that you make learning the ABCs fun.
This will look different for every child; however, in my experience, most children learn the best through play. We want to create an environment that allows our children to foster a love for learning.
When I’m planning, I combine activities that appeal to the three different types of learners: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
For example, perhaps we’re working on the letter T. Our first day might include tracing the letter T in sand (kinesthetic) and watching a letter T song on YouTube (visual and auditory).
I stay away from exclusively using pen and paper worksheets; although, there is nothing wrong with incorporating worksheets into your alphabet practice.
Bear in mind: we want any educational time to be fun. It does take a bit of extra time to plan activities for ABC practice. But, hopefully, this list of alphabet learning activities will give you some easy ideas you can begin incorporating into your learning time today!
1. Create Letters Using Playdough
ABC Jesus Loves Me is an excellent resource for alphabet activities. I printed their bubble letters and use them for all sorts of different activities.
One of my favorites is using them as an outline for our playdough letters. When you make these playdough letters, you have two options.
First, you can roll out the playdough into “snakes” and then shape the snakes into different letters.
Alternatively, your child can take small pieces of playdough and push them into the letter shapes.
We’ve done both and had equal fun with either tactic.
2. Water Painting
If you have paintbrushes and a concrete sidewalk or patio nearby, you have everything you need for this next activity.
Fill up a cup with water, and let your preschooler practice writing their ABCs by painting them with water onto the sidewalk.
Easy, fun, and no mess!
3. Alphabet Magnet Mazes
I love using these alphabet mazes from 1+1+1=1 as a way to reinforce letter recognition. I used these with my oldest when she was four, and I’ve started introducing them to my 3-year-old as well.
The paper is filled with all different letters, and you have to follow a certain letter to get you through the maze. We put the maze on a cookie sheet and use magnets to cover up the correct letters to create a path through the maze.
The magnets I bought back in 2017 are out of stock, and I think they don’t make them anymore. These magnets seem very similar, and I think they’d work great for this purpose.
You don’t have to use magnets to complete these mazes, though. Dot markers, washable paint, or bingo chips would also be great options for completing these types of mazes.
We would say we were trying to help the mommy (uppercase) letter find her way to the baby (lowercase) letter, and then once all of our magnets were placed, Annalee would use her fingers to “walk” along the letter path.
4. Alphabet Roadway
I love this free printable from Playdough to Plato. I tried using these as she suggests, with little Hotwheels cars. The idea is you print out the letters in the roadway font, cut them down to your desired size, and put them in a photo album for easy letter practice. Once it’s assembled, the child can take the car and drive over each letter shape.
I found that the Hotwheels cars were too big to easily trace the letters, especially if the letter had curves. I had this in a busy bag, and my daughter only worked with it once and never chose it again for her work.
My solution: small character erasers. I had purchased a bunch of small erasers for prizes years ago when I was teaching and still had a bunch in a baggie. I pulled out a few different characters (kitty cats, unicorns, trucks, and pumpkins) and threw them in the busy bag as well.
Lo and behold, Emma adores taking her “friends” on walks through her letter book, and she comes back to this busy bag again and again. She often lines them all up and has them jump or slide through the road. I’m thrilled that she’s practicing her letter tracing in a fun way!
5. Use Free Apps
Technology can be a touchy subject with moms. How much technology is too much? At what age should I introduce screens? How long should I allow my kids to use technology each day? I honestly don’t have the perfect answer for any of these questions.
I know many people who are completely against the use of technology with their children, and I know others who don’t regulate screen time at all. I find myself falling in the middle.
Incorporating technology can allow you to expand your activity options. You can do so much more on a computer or tablet or even phone than you can with books and paper. As I’m planning, I work towards creating harmony between the activities we choose that include technology and those that don’t.
At the preschool/kindergarten age, I lean towards screenless activities, but there are many fun apps that you can incorporate into your alphabet learning to supplement your lessons.
Starfall was a fun app to use with my oldest when we were introducing letters. You can download the app or visit their website on a computer. Each letter has an interactive presentation that you click through. Some of the letters even include little games to go with the letter. For us, this was a great way to reinforce letter recognition and letter sounds.
Working mom perspective: An app that is not free but that we loved was Hooked on Phonics. My daughter learned so much from the pre-reading modules. I was amazed as I watched her match sounds to the physical letters. I ended up canceling our subscription because she grew tired of it, but even if your child uses it for a few weeks, they’ll learn SO much, and you won’t feel so bad about letting them have some screen time. If you want to try Hooked on Phonics, use this link to get your first month for $1.
6. Sing Your ABCs
Of course, there is the classic ABC song to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle. I know there’s a “new” version of the ABC song with LMNOP being sung slowly, but I’m a creature of habit and will always and forever sing the original song.
Singing the entire alphabet is great for memorizing the alphabet and will assist with alphabetizing later on in elementary school. However, if you want to add some musical variety to your letter study, consider finding letter-specific songs that coordinate with whichever letter you’re introducing that week.
I love these letter videos from Have Fun Teaching. They are very repetitive and give children the opportunity to practice saying the letter sound. This might seem monotonous to you, but repetition is great for little kids. Plus, they have all their songs put to an upbeat track, making these extra fun for little kids to sing and dance to.
Jack Hartman’s letter videos are also fun choices. His videos include the opportunity to practice writing the letters in the air. These are a bit longer, closer to the 5-minute mark.
7. Obstacle Courses
A great way to include some large motor activities into your preschool time is to create obstacle courses. These obstacle courses can be as straightforward or as elaborate as you desire.
You can have your children crawl under a chair tunnel, run around the couch, jump over three blankets, throw three balls into a laundry basket; the possibilities are endless here.
But what does an obstacle course have to do with ABC practice?
Well, let me tell you my secret tip… you make one of the obstacles a small pile of letter flashcards.
Before your child begins the obstacle course, you ask them to bring you back a specific letter. They run through the obstacle course, get to the pile of letters, retrieve the correct letter, and go back through the obstacle course to bring it back to you.
My oldest LOVED this activity when she was in preschool. I loved that she was reviewing her letters and getting some exercise too.
There is so much flexibility with this activity as well. You can do uppercase or lowercase letters or flashcards with both uppercase and lowercase. You can ask them to bring you two different letters. You can even do this with other flashcards like numbers, colors, shapes, or sight words.
8. Q-Tip Painting
What kid doesn’t love paint? These free printables are perfect for incorporating paint into letter review.
I had little containers of poster paint from the Dollar Tree that were ideal for this activity, but you could easily pour some washable tempera paint onto a small palette (they sell these at Dollar Tree as well!) or even a paper plate or bowl. Bust out the q-tips, and let your preschooler go to town!
Working mom perspective: We also did a version of this at our home with tempera paint sticks. Because the circles are a bit larger, it was easier for my two-and-a-half-year-old to do.
9. Incorporate Alphabet Books
I love including literature in our studies, even at a young age. There are many different options for books that focus on the alphabet.
Some of my go-tos are Alphabetics by Suse Macdonald, A Busy Creature’s Day Eating by Mo Willems (the Elephant and Piggie author), Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel, and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault.
Alphabetics is a fun book that transforms each letter of the alphabet into a picture of a word that begins with that letter. For example, the letter J turns into a jack-in-the-box. I enjoy this one for letter recognition.
My kids don’t always understand that the picture is formed from the letter, but I really enjoy Suse’s creativity as we review our letters through this book.
Both Bad Kitty and A Busy Creature’s Day Eating incorporate alphabetical lists into their stories. Bad Kitty has four alphabetical lists interspersed throughout the book, and A Busy Creature’s Day Eating uses its alphabetical list of items to tell the story. Both are fun ways to review alphabetical order and letter recognition.
One of my all-time favorite alphabet books is Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. This is a go-to in our house for reading aloud at bedtime. When we get to the last page with all the letters, we always sing the classic ABC song together.
Working mom perspective: A book we’ve loved for practicing our ABCs is Dr. Seuss’s ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book. It has helped me teach my almost 3-year-old that big and small letters go together. Another is Montessori: Letter Work by Bobby George. Our kids love tracing the letters, which have a rough texture.
10. Practice Tracing with Dry Erase Markers
I’m all for incorporating classic worksheets into letter practice. But, if you want to spice it up a little bit, try tracing with dry-erase markers.
You can print out your own letter traceables and laminate them or put your worksheets into paper protectors for reusable tracing.
Creating your own gives you the freedom to make exactly what you need. Consider making larger letters for your first-time tracers. A traditional workbook-sized font is usually too small for a young 4-year-old to trace successfully.
Another option is a letter tracing book. We love our Write and Wipe Learn to Write from Scholastic. It comes with a dry erase marker that clips into the book. It’s perfect for easy grab-and-go letter practice. Scholastic has other versions as well that might be perfect for your little learner.
Remember, learning should be fun! Take your time, and enjoy this fun stage with your child.
What are your favorite alphabet learning activities to do with your kids? Have you done any of these on this list before? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear from you.
Looking for more ABC practice? Check out our FREE alphabet matching activity!