Wednesday, May 15, 2013


My two-year-old niece, Charlie, just got a huge alphabet mat for her playroom. Before getting the mat, she’d learned a few letters (C for Charlie, M for Mama, etc.), but within days of having it, she became obsessed with letters and learned them all. I’d like to think it’s because she’s inherited all of her aunt’s genes and is a prodigy, but in reality, she loved learning the alphabet because it was made into a fun game for her.

Rather than drilling her on letters, which is not too much fun for most kids, her parents make the letter-learning exciting. Her mom will say: “Charlie, find the h for hop—h-h-hop.” Charlie locates the h, picks it up, and hops up and down with it in her hands, giggling the whole time. Next, it might be: “Okay, now find the k for kick—k-k-kick.” Charlie hunts down the k, pulls it from the mat, and kicks it across the room. She’ll quack like a duck when finding the q for quack. When she has to find “D for Daddy” or “J for Joey,” her very handsome newborn brother, she carries the letter to the appropriate person and gives it to him.

This fun game, that Charlie LOVES to play, is doing some pretty wonderful things for her growing brain. Letter knowledge is a hugely important pre-reading skill, for obvious reasons. And, research indicates that it’s best to teach the name and sound of a letter together. So, just the addition of the k sound in “k-k-kick” is really beneficial. The fact that she can pick up and hold the letters really helps her learn their shapes, too. In addition, kids learn best when what they are learning relates to them. So, when Charlie can associate a letter with a person, action, or object she likes, it helps her remember it.

If you’ve been struggling teaching your little one letters or are getting ready to start, give this game a shot. If you don’t have an alphabet mat, a letter puzzle or magnetic letters can serve the same purpose. The key is to make it fun and relatable. So, k-k-kick away!

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