They say young children develop one skill at a time. My lil man is a bit behind on speaking full sentences. When I compare him to friend’s who were born the same year, I’ve noticed many of them are all speaking full sentences. He’s now 26 months and just started stringing words together in English. Our pediatrician assured us early on it’s because he’s been able to speak sentences in Chinese and has learned sign language as well so she says it’s because he’s multi-lingual. While speech wasn’t his first development unlike this friends, lil man developed his motor skills very early on. For example, he was able to kick and hit a ball before he was one years old. At 18 months he was hitting balls with a bat.
Then we noticed another skill set he developed earlier than his friends. By the time he was two years old he knew his entire alphabet. I thought this was odd since he wasn’t really speaking much. But, then I realized it wasn’t by accident.
Ever since he was teeny, I’ve been teaching him his alphabet in English and Sign Language. Seriously, from day one. But, I never truly encouraged speech. I didn’t really spend a whole lot of time speaking to him like a friend of mine did with her son the same age. I simply focused a lot on the alphabet, numbers, shapes and colors. All of which Lil Man is now pretty good at recognizing.
What do we do to help him learn? It’s all about engagement. You can have all the tools and toys you want, but if you’re not participating – playing with your child while using the tools then it’s pointless to have all the tools. When doing every day things in life in the house & outside or watching television, we ask Lil Man questions such as:
- What color is that?
- Do you see blue?
- Where is the “E”?
- What letter is this?
Through this type of engagement, it’s encouraged him to look for things himself… to use his eyes to observe the things and world around him. He surprised us often times when he recognizes something and tells us what it is such as animals. All this being taught to him in multiple languages. I never thought he was actually picking anything up.
So, when friends asked me what I was doing to teach him the alphabet, I realized we have a lot of toys we’ve always used that I’ll share with you here.
First, are these alphabet books from Baby Einstein. One book per letter. Each book features three words accompanied by a photo to describe the word. Through these books, lil man learned his alphabet and recognizes the photos by name. And because he recognizes letters out of order, he can spell the words also when you ask him what each letter is in the word.
Next, he developed an interest in technology earlier on. Since I work from home much of my work is done via computer. So, we bought him this laptop from LeapFrog. It’s fantastic because it recites each letter when you push a button, followed by the pronunciation of the letter and a word that begins with the letter. It also has other features, but he loves the alphabet part the best and learned a great deal from pushing these buttons.
Third, since I’m a WAHM I try my best to take Lil Man out for walks around the neighborhood whether it’s a walk around the block or stroll to the mall or the park. One of our regular stops used to be Ikea. He enjoyed walking around and browsing. I particularly like the “as is” section. One day, we went to Ikea and I saw these magnet boards. They were $1.00 a piece and because they’re lil man’s favorite color, I bought a load of them. My hubs, mounted three in the bedroom and three in the playroom. Then he decided to buy letter, number and shape magnets. I’ve spent many hours showing the alphabet letters to Lil Man & reciting the letter they represent. He’s learned the most from these magnets and now recognizes the letters in “big” and “small” letters. We bought the letters from amazon. They’re by far the cheapest investment yet as far as learning tools we’ve purchased. Through these letters, lil man also learned that he could flip certain letters to make them different letters. It’s not anything I taught him, so I’m not sure where he got it from. But here’s an example. Take the letter “W” – he’ll tell you it’s a “W” then flip it over and tell you it’s a “M”. Other letters he does this with:
- Big “H” can become a big “I”
- Small “P” becomes a small “d”
- Big “Z” becomes a big “N”
- Big “E” becomes a small “m”
- Small “u” becomes a small “n”
As far as word recognition, he can spell the words for you so we’ve been practicing that with these books where he can associate a word with an image. In an attempt to teach him Chinese early, I had my Sister-in-law write the Chinese characters onto the book. He can spell and tell you what the image is, but I’m pretty certain he’s still learning to associate the word “chair” verbally to the word on paper. I’ve not tested him by writing the word “chair” on a plain paper and asking him what it says. I do know he’ll tell you what letters there are in the word.
A friend of ours bought these next two books for him for his first birthday – we had a book party where everyone bought books for Lil Man and brought an additional book to donate to a local shelter. He enjoys looking at the animals and telling us what they are.
And those, my friends, are our tools of the trade for teaching our lil man the alphabet before he was two years old. He can’t sing the alphabet though. We’re still working on that part. Do you have any items at home you’ve found success teaching your child the alphabet? We’d love to know about them. Leave us a comment to share with others.