Lots of parents try to teach their toddlers the alphabet. They don’t pressure them, but would like their children to learn all the upper and lower case letters before they enter Kindergarten. There are computer programs that do everything for recognizing and matching letters, but they notice their toddlers continue to have difficulties drawing the letters. I have some ideas for them.
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If you are one of these devoted parents, I’m glad you’re making it a fun project. You don’t want to turn your toddler off to school before he starts! First, toss the computer and get a hold of a small chalkboard, three-dimensional plastic or wood letters, a pile of 8½ x 11-inch paper, large pencils and crayons.
Decades ago, a lady name Grace Fernald practiced the theory that young children benefit from a multi-sensory approach to learning. Your computer screen can access worldwide events, but it cannot connect to your child’s tactile and kinesthetic modalities and neural pathways. Here’s how you can. On the large paper, use a magic marker to put dots ¼-inch apart to form a capital “A” at least 8-inches high. Your child can finger-trace the dots while saying “A-A-A”. The visual (seeing), tracing (tactile or touch), and auditory (hearing) modalities are used. But, since the letter “A” dots are drawn 8-inches high, his large shoulder and arm muscles are called into play. This is called kinesthetic input and is better than using small wrist and hand muscles.
Have your child “feel” a three-dimensional wooden or plastic letter “A” for more tactile input. For review, have him close his eyes and feel several different capital letters he’s learned and guess which one it is. Saying aloud while tracing large letters through chalk dust with his index and middle fingers on the chalkboard also call in Grace Fernald’s multi-sensory approach: looking (visual)- saying (auditory)- kinesthetic (large muscles)- touching (tactile).
Gradually, remove the structure! Use fewer dots until only three are used to make the capital “A”. Eventually, he should be able to draw the “A” just by hearing its name. Next, start with “B”.
Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. has retired from his positions of school Psychologist and adjunct professor in the School of Leadership and Policy Studies at Bowling Green State University.