Now I know my ABCs

 As a homeschool mama to a 5 year old, I am always looking for things we can homeschool with and fresh ideas to teach the basics.  I love posts that say '100 ways to teach counting' and such, so here is my own take on teaching letters.  
Letter Names and Letter Sounds

*Note I have a large collection of letters that take many forms.  We have magnetic letters, flash cards, a large foam play mat with letters, Scrabble letter tiles, Alphabet bingo, pasta in the shape of letters, stickers, cut up magazines, homemade cards with letters, and on and on.
We get bored easily, and switching up the form the letters are in help maintain interest.
**Also, when we use the letters,  I make sure the letters are in order (especially if we are collecting letters to spell words).  It is just easier that way.  If you have handy plastic storage compartments (think jewelry making storage) it makes life even easier.

 ::Letter Dice (I made mine out of wood cubes I ordered from here).  I used a sharpie and wrote vowels on one cube, and consonants on the other cubes.  We roll the dice, and say the name/sound.  Once we master the names and sounds we roll three dice at the same time and make nonsense words (using the consonant vowel consonant or CVC form (words that are 3 letters and easy to sound out 'cat' 'dog')

::Flash cards--I like to mix them up, and deal them out evenly.  We each lay out our letters so everyone can see all the cards.  I hold up a card and say, 'I have an A who has a B'

::Flash cards--I throw all the letters in a bucket/box/container.  If you are crafty you can cut out an crocodile head to put on the top.  We sing 'Crocodile, crocodile down by the lake.  I am gonna reach in and see what you ate'

::Foam mat letters--I will stay in the kitchen/living room area and ask for a letter.  My daughter will race down the hallway to her room, collect the foam letter and bring it back to me.  Timing this seems to make it more exciting.

::Foam mat letters--We play hide and seek with the letters (they are large).  I hide them all over the house, and my daughter searches for them and tells me the letters she has found.
::Sand Tray--we use this for practicing writing letters.  

::Velvet/Sandpaper letters--I made sandpaper letters when my daughter was 2.  We also got these awesome books that have been great for tracing letters.

::Cuisenaire rods are great for creating letters and pictures that go along with them.

::Use Legos to make letters. Wood blocks work well too.

::Shaving Cream can be used to draw letters in, and it is very easy to clean up with a wet rag.

::My daughter was obsessed with small cars when she was about 3, so I took that inspiration, and cut out letters from black construction paper big enough for the vehicles to drive on the letters (here is a great example--hers was much nicer looking than mine.)

::Write out the alphabet on a chalkboard, and hand your child a paintbrush to trace the letters, like this.
::Sensory Boxes are great for focusing on one letter at a time.  Here is a site of sensory bins with letter themes. 

::Make giant letters on the carpet using painters tape.  This is great for children who are full of energy and can't sit still (like my daughter).

::Speaking of children who can't sit still...head outside with sidewalk chalk and draw letters all over the sidewalk.  Have your child jump on 'A' and dance to 'D' then crawl to 'Z'.

::Letters can be everywhere.  Baking cookies?  Pull out those letter cookie cutters and use them.  Ask your child what letters s/he would like to eat.  Making pancakes?  Put some of the batter in a squeeze bottle with a narrow opening, and make pancake letters.  I did this once, when my daughter was 2 and she still talks about it every time we eat pancakes.  

::Play Eye Spy for Letters.

::Use the season as inspiration.  Have a pile of leaves outside?  Collect some, and practice writing on them with markers.  Is it Easter time?  Take those eggs and fill them with letters.  Valentine hearts?  Fill them with letters.  Is the ground covered in snow?  Fill up a spray bottle with water and food coloring and go practice writing letters in the snow.

::Practice makes perfect.  Learning a Bible verse?  Write it out.  Making a grocery list?  Write it.  Encourage children to draw pictures next to the words as well.

::Scrabble letter tiles make for easy manipulatives.    

::Write together.  Create a story where you are the author and your child is the illustrator.  Make another story where the roles are reversed.

::Don't give up.  Be patient.  Sometimes with my daughter I feel we have practiced letters 700 times and she still stares at me blankly when I ask her to tell me the name of the letter 'h'.  Usually when I am at my breaking point, she will nonchalantly tell a grandparent she sees the letter h in their house or on a sign.

::We love Bob books.  We also read Usborne Very First Reading books.  If you search for either of those sets on Pinterest you will find all kinds of resources from other moms who created whole lessons with worksheets and activities that go along with the books.

::Show your love of reading to your child.

::Show your child how often you read.  My daughter told me she didn't think reading was important, because we only do it when we are sitting and reading her books.  Well, that was a reality check.  She had no idea I was looking up recipes, reading road signs, looking at labels, etc.  Now, when I read, I try to read out loud or say, 'I don't know,  let me see if I can look that up and read it to you.'

Hopefully, these ideas encourage you to think outside the worksheets for some new, creative ways to practice letters.  What do you think?  Have you tried any of these ideas?  Do they work for you and your child?  What are your favorite ways of teaching letters?  I would love to hear what you think.  Leave a comment below :)

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