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Research shows that familiarity with the alphabet is the number one predictor of a child’s success at reading.
I believe it.
As a reading specialist (I hold an MS in Elementary Reading and Literacy), I have seen first hand how important alphabet knowledge is.
As a mom to nine kids, I know how important it is to cherish childhood, and not spend time pushing hardcore academics too early.
So, I’ve discovered a happy middle ground. It works!
Here are three simple alphabet games that will increase your child’s knowledge of letters. And best of all:
1. They are super simple–prep just one time for all of the games!
2. They don’t require crazy materials, just index cards and markers
3. They are fun
4. They are effective
5. They are quick, and perfect for filling in little gaps of time between other activities.
These games are appropriate for young children, I typically start playing them around age three.
The more you play, the better at identifying letters your kids will get.
Just remember to KEEP IT FUN, and KEEP IT SHORT!
Ready to play?
Prepare Your Index Cards
First you have to get your index cards ready.
Write a large capital letter (A-Z) on 26 cards.
Then write a large lower case letter (a-z) on 26 cards.
So there will be four a cards; two A’s and two a’s, and four b’s; two B’s and two b’s, and so on, all the way to Zz.
Now you are prepped for all three games.
Pick five sets of capital letters (AA, BB, CC, DD, EE for example)–or any letters you want to practice.
Have your child shuffle the cards.
Lay the cards out face down, in a 5X5 grid.
Take turns selecting two cards to flip over.
Say the letter name (or sound, or both for slightly older kids)
Ask your child if they are the same. For younger children, you will probably have to answer. Say something like, “Yes those are both As.” Or, “No, this one is a B and this one is a C.”
If they match, the person who flipped them over gets to keep them. If not, the next person takes a turn.
Continue until all the cards are matched.
Variations for more challenges:
1. Use capital, lower case letters and match those
2. Use more cards. Just remember that the more cards, the longer the game.
3. Have your child say the letter sound along with the letter name, or say a word that starts with it.
Ever heard of 52 card pickup?
This one is more academic!
Gather 1 set of capital letter cards.
Throw them up into the air and let them land. Have your child help spread them out if needed.
Call a random letter.
Ask your child to go find it.
You will have to help younger children find the letters. Be excited about it–“Oh look, the F is hiding over here!” or, “The G landed on the couch, silly G!”
Collect the letters in ABC or ZYX order
Lay the letter cards out in order as you find them (more challenging for older kids if you call letters randomly and then have them order them as they find them.)
Where’s My Mommy?
Confession. I call capital letters Mommy letters and lowercase letters Baby letters in the early years. Kids get parents and kids. This simple wording change allows children to use their background knowledge to build a connection, and it works really well.
For this game, Mommy and Baby letters work better than capital and lower case.
Though you could certainly call them that too!
Pick 10 sets of letter cards (Aa, Cc, Ff, etc.)
Put the Mommy letters in one pile
Put the Baby letters in another pile
Have your child close his or her eyes while you hide the Mommy letters around the room. (Keep your hiding simple for young kids–out in plain sight even, and bump up the difficulty with practice.)
Hand your child a baby card from the stack, and say, “Oh no, I can’t find my Mommy, can you help?” (Or something like that!)
Your child’s job is to find the Mommy letter for the Baby and reunite them in a safe location (like on the table.)
Continue until all the lost Mommies are found.
Help your children at first, and soon they will be matching letters on their own!
Use more cards
Hide the Baby letters
Use only Mommy or only Baby and match the two that are identical
Say a word that starts with the letter after you match them up as a password to enter the safe location
There you go.
Three super simple games that will increase your child’s familiarity with the alphabet through play. Give them a shot and let me know how they work for your family.
What other alphabet games can you think of with just an index card and markers?
This post was originally published on August 22, 2015. It’s been updated with new pictures and some clarifying information.