Working on the alphabet with your toddler or preschooler? If they’re going to learn it at a young age, it’s going to have to be fun—part of their normal play, with activities that they’re going to enjoy. Of course, you can always read alphabet books, play with alphabet magnets, or point out letters as you pass by them; but if you’re looking for something a little bit different, an apple alphabet might be in your future.
First, print out at least twenty-six apples on cardstock or heavy paper—red, green, and yellow is best. Now, cut them out. This might take a while, so you’ll want to settle down in front of a good television program. Also, consider bribing your spouse. Or your older kids. Or anyone who comes anywhere near you while you still have a pair of scissors in your hand.
Do you have twenty-six little apple cutouts? Great! Now, mix up all the colors (if you did it in different colors; if you just did one, no mixing is required) and write one letter on each card (preferably A through Z, but if that’s not how your alphabet works, feel free to use the method that works best for you). Now, stick it in a bag, because if you’ve had enough time to get all of that done, your toddler is probably asleep, getting into something that’s going to require some cleanup, or happily entertained by someone else.
Once your toddler is bright-eyed and busy tailed and paying attention to you, spread the cards out in front of you. You can do this in order or at random; that’s entirely up to you. Your toddler is likely not familiar enough with alphabetical order yet to notice if you reverse the M and the N, or write the whole thing out backwards, or even go with a completely random mix of letters dependent entirely on how you pull them out of the box.
Now’s the time to get creative. You can help your child build his name, his siblings’ names, his friends’ names…anything that comes to mind. Just remember that you only have one of each letter. (You wanted to spell Daddy? That’s cute. That takes three D’s. You’re welcome to go cut out more apples, if you like…) You can go through the letters one by one and point them out. He might surprise you with just how many he already knows. You can hang them on the wall and go “picking” the letters in his name.
Let your creative juices flow, and have fun with it! Your child might enjoy holding up letters and asking you to identify them. It’s okay to say, “Hm, I don’t know; what do you think?” the third time he holds up the same letter in fifteen minutes. Turn them upside down and play a quick game of “memory.” “Can you remember where the L was? How about the T?” Don’t let them get too scattered, though.
Recognition of all of the letters won’t happen at once; but a little bit of extra practice will help make identifying them easier in the long run. Of course, you’ve probably started with capital letters. Sooner or later, you’ll have to do lower case ones, too.