Like numbers, letters can be challenging unknowns for kids when they arrive at school but early play turns letters into familiar friends.
When young children arrive at school, their biggest challenge will be learning to read, this is figure out what the lines and squiggles on a page mean. It’s a huge task and it will affect them their entire life. We all want kids to succeed at it. We can help smooth some of the bumps in that road by giving them opportunity to become familiar with letters thru play. That way, when a child encounters letters at school, the brain can say, “Oh, I’ve played with these before. Two hands have felt their shapes, and I can even call some of them by name. I’ve heard some of their sounds. This isn’t so bad.”
Have you ever had to go somewhere you hadn’t been in a long time and couldn’t remember the way for sure? That sense of relief you felt when you finally saw a few landmarks you knew is what a child feels when s/he recognizes a few letters in the sea of lines and marks that make up letters and words. That’s why play with letters is so valuable.
What are some activities so play turns letters into familiar friends?
As you can probably guess, reading books is tremendously important. From exposure to lots and lots and lots of books, kids make the connection that the marks on a page have meaning. In a simple book, you may be able to show your child a few words. “Oh, look at this. Here is a page of things that are red. See, this is the word ‘red’ written down.” Pointing with fingers is allowed.
Foam and magnetic letters are more than toys. Even if kids don’t know the names, the brain is recording the specific shapes. Occasionally, you can say the names of some of them and make the letter sound.
Names are some of the first words kids recognize. Show them their name written down and help them trace over a letter or two. When out on a walk, at the store, or in a favorite restaurant, notice some names. Are any letters the same?
When your child is playing with playdough, roll out some letters. Hmmm, speaking of rolling, roll out some cookie dough and bake up a batch. Letters can be yummy to eat and what a tasty way for play to turn letters into familiar friends.
These are only a few suggestions for play experiences with letters. The words ” to steal a march on someone” are used to say someone has an advantage. Finding ways for your child to play and have fun with letters gives your child that march, that advantage. How can you support letter play for your child?