Learning the ABC’s - Naming the Letters

In the midst of all the playing and matching and pointing to letters, your child is likely to begin naming the letters as well. While associating the names of letters with the symbol does not really enable you to read (you need to know the sounds to do that), it does make spelling and other skills much easier, and it is part of the natural progression of learning to read. For this reason, some programs teach the letter names first, while others teach the sounds first. Neither is right or wrong, only different approaches. There seems to be a slight advantage for children to learn the names first, but in the end, children need to learn both, so the order of which comes first is less important than the fact that you teach both.

For some children, being able to name a letter is the hardest part. In this post, we’ll explore ways to make it more fun, as well as some fun activities that involve matching the capital letter to its lower-case partner. In a future post, we will discuss connecting the sounds of the letters.

Why is naming the letters so much harder than just pointing to them?

Being able to point to a letter that is called out indicates that your child does know the letter. They are able to distinguish it from other letters and can associate the letter with its symbol. That is a lot of skills to put together!!! Hooray for your child!!  But, being able to actually name the letter on their own requires yet another skill. It requires a child to not only recognize the letter and associate it with the symbol, but also to reach down into their bank of knowledge, and retrieve the name on their own! 

How can help my child learn the names of the letters?

As we have talked about before, learning the names of the letters in your child’s name will probably come first since it is important to them. After that, I would focus on other names that might be important to them, such as siblings, parents or friends. Any of the activities that were suggested in the last post about pointing to letters can be easily adapted to teach the names by reversing the instructions a bit. 

For example: 
Dump Truck Pickup - Let your child scoop up a letter and then name it before taking it to the “construction site”. 

Go Fishing - Catch a letter and name it before catching another.

Additional Letter-Naming Games:


Bean Bag Toss - Write the letters on the sidewalk or with tape on the floor. Let your child toss a beanbag onto a letter, then name the letter. If playing with more than one person, take turns tossing and naming the letters. 

Letter Walk - This game is played like a cakewalk. Lay out the letters in a circle or write the letters in a circle. As you sing the ABC song, your child walks around the circle. As soon as the song stops, your child must freeze on a letter, then name it. Repeat.

Scavenger Hunt - Write the letters of the alphabet on sticky notes, one per page. Stick the notes all around the house. Give your child a basket or bag and have them find all the letters. As they find a letter, if they name it correctly, they place it in their basket. If not, tell them the correct name and replace the letter. Repeat until all letters have been named.

Touch and Feel - Place a set of ABC puzzle pieces in a bag. (Any bag can be used, but a cloth bag makes things easier.). Let your child reach into the bag and draw out a letter. If the name it correctly, keep it out. If not, remind them of the name (and any hints that might help them recognize it next time), and put it back in the bag. Repeat with remaining letters.

Light Up A Letter - Kids love to use flashlights, so you might as well have fun learning letters with them, as well. Write each letter on a sticky note and stick them around your house, as you did in he scavenger hunt. Turn off the lights and let your child use a flashlight to find and name each letter.

Mystery Letters - On a white sheet of paper, write the letters with a white crayon using a firm pressure. Using diluted watercolors, let your child slowly paint the paper, revealing the letters one at a time. (The diluted watercolors do not adhere/cover the crayon.) Let your child name each letter as it is revealed.

Boo Hoo - Cut a piece of paper into small cards and write a letter on each one. On several extra cards, draw a set of crying eyes and the words BOO-HOO. Place the stack of cards face down. Each person draws a card and names the letter. If they name it correctly, they keep the card. If not, the card goes to the bottom of the stack. If a BOO-HOO card is drawn, they say “boo-hoo” and the next person has a turn. This is such a simple little game, but my students have always loved it and get quite a kick out of making the BOO-HOO cards a chance to practice their dramatic crying skills.

 Crocodile Snap game from Growing Kinders

Crocodile Snap game from Growing Kinders

Crocodile Snap - Similar to the Boo-Hoo game, this is a link to a really cute alphabet naming game from Growing Kinders. There is even a printable.

As children are learning the names of the letters, they often begin connecting the capital letters to their corresponding lower-case letters, as well. Stay tuned for fun ways to reinforce those skills.