These fun alphabet games are perfect for helping your toddler or preschooler recognize the letters of the alphabet. I love that the activities mainly just use items you already have around your house and are simple to put together. My favorite thing about these games is that they are fun, low pressure, use so many of the senses and appeal to all of the different learning styles.
I like to gather all of my games and materials into a large plastic bin and store them together high on a shelf in the closet so they don’t get “played with” (aka lost) in between uses. I call it my box of special games, and let my kids know they can only be played with mommy or daddy. My kids beg for them, like they’re the biggest treat in all the world, which ensures that they get plenty of practice.
For younger children, I like to introduce one letter at a time, using a sensory bin (see #6 below) and just as many activities I can think of centered around that letter.
The first step in teaching a child to read is to teach the name of each letter. You can start this as early as age 3 or 4, or whenever your little one starts acting interested in letters.
I like to call uppercase letters mommies and lowercase letters babies, and I like to teach them simultaneously, even though the uppercase letters are typically easier to learn.
It will be immensely helpful to have just a few manipulatives as you play these games. These sturdy ABC sets are a great price and will save you a ton of time. I like to have a set each of the smaller, magnetic letters for the fridge and larger, foam letters for the bathtub. Be sure to buy sets with both uppercase and lowercase letters. If you need to keep costs down, though, you could also print all of the alphabet letters on cardstock and laminate them.
After your child knows the names of the letters, you’ll teach them the sounds. It doesn’t matter if there is some overlap. Be as flexible about everything as you can and just try to keep all the teaching lighthearted and fun.
1. Sing the ABC’s. Easy, peasy, just like you learned in kindergarten. It is imperative, though, that you use an ABC poster or flashcards or some sort of visual and that you point to (or flash) each letter as you sing it so that your child learns that each name correlates to a concrete symbol and that L, M, N, O and P are separate letters and not just a great big, abstract ellomenknowpee, you know?
You could even just write all 26 letters on a piece of posterboard, or print all 26 letters letters on a piece of lined paper and point to each as you go. It doesn’t need to be fancy or pretty, but your child needs to start understanding that the name represents the symbol.
2. Make an ABC book. Start by saving your junk mail, particularly gardening and seed catalogs for a couple of weeks.
Staple 29 sheets of plain paper together along one side and write a large, block letter on each 2-page spread — the uppercase letter on the left side and the lowercase letter on the right side. Cut out photos and letters from the junk mail catalogs and paste them (collage style) on the pages with the corresponding letter.
For example, the first two pages of your ‘book’ would have a large letter A written on them, and you could paste asparagus, apples, apricots, artichokes, etc… on them. Unusual letters, like x and z were difficult may be difficult to find in your catalog, so you may have to find photos online and print them.
Your toddler will love the cutting and pasting as much as actually creating the book.
3. Playdough letter shapes. Knowledge is so much more robust when all of the senses are used. Roll the dough into ropes and use them to outline each letter. This activity is particularly helpful to kinesthetic learners.
4. Alphabet Match. Print out (free printable below) these fun tiles that have alphabet letters and clip-art pictures to match. I let them color the clip art, then we cut the cards apart and laminate them for durability. You can play this game lots of ways:
- Match the picture with the letter it starts with.
- Turn all the cards over to make the matches, ‘Memory’ style
- Match foam letters to alphabet cards laid out in alphabetical order on the floor.
- Write letters on clothespins and match the pictures to the letter they start with.
Get your free printable alphabet letter and clip-art match game using the form below.
5. Disappearing ‘ink’. Use sidewalk chalk to write all the letters of the alphabet on your sidewalk or driveway. Randomize the letters so that there is a search-and-find component to the activity. Then ask your child to find a certain letter and spray it with water to erase it.
6. Letter-of-the-week sensory bin. We like to create a sensory bin for each letter we study. Here is our letter Oo bin with various Os and O objects! You can easily create a sensory bin for each letter you study. I just create one each week, using the same plastic shoebox full of black beans, but replacing the objects inside, to go along with the letter we are learning. These are great for all kinds of learners.
This is our letter ‘B’ bin, with things like: baby (yes, I know she looks scary!), banana, box, block, broccoli, bowl, ball, bowl, boat, bumble bee, butterfly, bike, bell, bus a couple of plastic B’s and of course, black beans. To make it easy on myself, I keep a box of small, plastic, play-food items, small animals, letters and small toys that I can quickly change out of the plastic shoebox, which I always keep half full of black beans. My kids like pulling things out of the bin while saying the name and it gives them practice at making the letter sound over and over.
7. Squirt the letter. My kids have absolutely loved this one! I scatter at least ten foam letters (so they float) in a bathtub full of water. I’ll say “Let’s get the S” and, using two squirt guns, my child and I squirt it until it ‘drowns’. Sometimes we stick the letters to the tile surround and spray them to make them slide down into the tub. You could also play this game outside in a pool. A fun variation to the game is to ‘fish’ the specified letter out of the tub with a small net.
8. Feed the monster. This fun alphabet game from I can Teach my Child, made of a repurposed baby wipes container and bottle caps will delight your child.
9. ABC hunt while driving. Watch billboards, signs and license plates to find all the letters of the alphabet sequentially.
11. Alphabet Soup. Take turns scooping up a letter from a pot with a spoon or soup ladle. You can use actual alphabet soup, or just fill a pot with water and plastic letter manipulatives. Your child can identify the letters spooned out, or you can tell him what to find.
12. Muffin Match. Match upper and lowercase letters with this free printable.
13. Letter memory match. Write pairs of letters on sticker dots and place them on the bottom of several Hershey’s Kisses. Children take turns lifting two kisses at a time. If the letters match, they keep those kisses. If they don’t match, they have to put them back. You can use this game to practice matching uppercase to uppercase letters, lowercase to lowercase, or uppercase to lowercase, depending on what we are working on.
14. Alphabet ‘Go Fish’. I don’t know why my kids find ‘Go Fish’ so amusing, but they do. You could also create your own ‘Go Fish’ game by just writing the ABC’s on a set of 3 x 5 cards.
15. Paint the ABC’s. If your child likes to write letters, they will be thrilled about painting them. Give your child a bucket of water, an old paintbrush and practice painting your favorite letters all over the driveway on a hot day. Make it extra fun by trying to guess what letter your child is painting before they finish.
16. Alphabet puzzles. Looking at the negative of the letter (the outline without the letter) will help your child to better discern and discriminate between similar looking letters like M and N.
17. ABC cup hunt. This is a simple and entertaining way to teach children how to recognize alphabet letters. You’ll find the directions for the abc cup hunt game over at Playdough to Plato.
18. ABC letter toss. Tape a couple of letter tiles into the bottom of a muffin pan, one per muffin. Use pennies, marbles or another small object to toss into the muffin pan. Then identify the letter it landed on. Once your child masters letter names, you can increase the difficulty by having him name the SOUND each letter makes. A fun variation is to give your child a package of small animals and have him try to toss each animal into the space with the letter it starts with. For example, try to toss the pig into the hole with the letter P.
19. Swat the letter. What a fun way to practice the ABC’s! The game is explained at Hands on as We Grow.
20. Rainbow letters race to the top game. Use a block of wood or a small box to create a fun pair of dice with a letter on each side. I just cut up some leftover pieces of 2 x 4’s in my garage and drew a sharpie letter on each side. Use the free printable playing boards at Pre-k pages, roll the die, and use a paint dot marker (laminate them if you want to reuse them) to race to the top.
21. Rainbow Hop letter sounds game. This fun, active alphabet game that teaches letter sounds is explained over at Learning Fun for Kids.
22. ABC scavenger hunt. You can do this around your house, neighborhood, or take a field trip into the city. You’ll have fun doing it repeatedly. Hand your child a digital camera and take pictures of things that start with each letter of the alphabet, in order. For example, apple, baby, cat, dog … then turn it into a digital slide show to sing the ABC song to. A fun variation would be to find and photograph the actual letters on street signs, billboards, etc…
23. Read ABC books. Alphabet books like ‘Chicka Chicka Boom Boom’, ‘Dr. Seuss ABC’s’, and ‘ABC I Like Me‘, will help your child learn that the symbol represents the sound. Be sure to point to each letter as you say its name.
This is not a game or activity, but I have to include them because children’s shows about phonics can be so effective. My kids have enjoyed ‘Letter Factory’ and ‘Between the Lions’. You’ll be amazed at how quickly and young your child will begin talking about letters. My babies and toddlers watch alongside my 4 and 5-year-olds, and it seems like they know their letters almost from the time they start talking.
You can also look for free phonics apps online. I’m very wary of letting my little people spend much time in front of the TV or tablet, but when I need to use those items anyway, like on long car rides or in waiting rooms, I try to make it educational.
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This post is part of 10 Days of Tips for Homeschool Moms. I’ve partnered with 18 other homeschooling bloggers, all sharing their wisdom as part of this 10-day series. Be sure to check them out by clicking on the links below.