After your child is able to match letters (A to A, b to b, M to M, etc.), it is time to move to the next step. You may recall that matching letters comes before the ability to identify letters by pointing to them. Being able to point to a letter that is called out verbally is a much higher level skill, so it may take longer for your child to master, but also signifies that they actually know the letter, so it is quite an accomplishment!
Finding the letters will be difficult at first, so rather than letting your child get too frustrated, after they make one guess, then give them a hint, such as pointing in the direction of the correct letter. Once they choose the correct letter (especially if you helped them find it), always reinforce it with a phrase such as “Yes! That’s the capital _B_! See how it has two bubbles on the side?” This gives the child positive feedback about finding the letter, reinforces what it looks like and give them confidence for the next time.
Since we know that children have a special connection to their own names, start with those letters first. You can also use the first letter for the names of other special people in their lives. Example: One of the first letters my grandson learned was P for Papaw. As I mentioned before, capital letters are easier for most children than lower-case, but I always help them learn both for their names. Gradually add other letters into the mix and increase the number of letters they are choosing from as they become more and more proficient. If your child is having trouble, show them a quick peek of the letter on a card and then let them look for it.
One way to work on this skill is to spread out letter flashcards in front of your child and ask them to “point to the B, point to the L, etc., etc.”. However, that is not a lot of fun. I know that you want your child to enjoy learning, so why not make the activities as fun as possible- for you and your child?!?! The following are a few activities to help your child work on this skill while having fun:
ABC Spray Away - Use sidewalk chalk to write some of the letters on your driveway of sidewalk (you could also use a chalkboard). Start with the letters in their name, then try capital letters, etc. and if your child is new to the skill, only write 2-3 letters at a time. Give them a spray bottle filled with water. Call out a letter and let your child find the letter, then spray that letter until it disappears. Remember to help them if needed, but always let them try on their own first.
Alphabet wipe-off - This a great activity for a rainy day—at my house, we use the front storm door, which is all glass. Use a wipe-off/whiteboard marker to write a few letters on a window, glass or mirror. Give your child an old rag, piece of cloth or tissue. As you call out a letter, let them wipe it off.
Dump truck pick-up - Spread out a few alphabet cards or puzzle pieces. Call out a letter and let you child drive his/her dump truck to pick it up and take it back to the construction site.
Scoop ‘em up - Play this game in the bathtub, in a water table outdoors, or just fill a plastic bin with water. Give your child a scoop, cup or ladle and sprinkle a few water resistant letters (such as foam letters). As you call out letters, let them find the letters and scoop them up.
Letter dig - Bury a few letters in your sandbox or a plastic shoebox filled with sand. As you call out a letter, let your child dig with their hands or a small shovel to find the letters. For a variation, fill the plastic shoebox with rice instead of sand.
Book find-the-letter - Let your child pick a favorite book. Instead of reading the book to them, this time play-the-letter by calling out a few letters on each page and let them point to them.
Button, button - On a sheet of paper write many letters scattered all over the page. Give your child some buttons. As you call out a letter, let them find the letter and place a button on it.
Sticker, sticker -Just like Button, Button, only this time your child will place a sticker on the letter instead of covering it with a button.
Go fishing - You can use a purchased magnetic fishing game, or make a simple one of your own. To make one of your own, tie a length of yarn/string to the end of a ruler or pencil. Tie a magnet to the other end of the yarn. (This is your fishing pole.) Make “fish” by placing a metal paper clip on each alphabet card.(If you don’t have alphabet cars, make your own by cutting paper into cars and writing one letter on each card.) arrange the letters around your child, FACE UP, with plenty of room between each card. As you call out a letter, let them “fish”to catch the letter with their magnet.
Environmental print - While your child eats breakfast or a snack, place the cereal/snack box in front of them. Ask them to look for and point to various letters. You can reinforce the association of letters and words by telling them the word the letter is found in. Example: “Good eyes! That C is in the word Cheerios.This is a good time to begin introducing common sight words that your child regularly sees in his/her environment as well: words like STOP, GO and EXIT. Point them out wherever you see them. Even if your child doesn’t know all of the letters, he will quickly learn to recognize the word.
Once you begin playing these games with your child, you may think of many more that are similar or find ways to adapt them to better suit your home. Please feel free to share any that your child especially loves so the rest of us can enjoy them as well.