“Do not keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play.” – Plato
In my own words — learning through play is the only way. Truly, I think it is very important to let children learn at their own speed and only with their own desire and games is the perfect way to lure them into such learning. I also think learning should be a very lively activity. After all, children are just not meant for sitting. 🙂
I introduced the letters to both boys from the earliest age — we have little letters from HABA for them just to play with in whichever way they choose, we discuss letters a little bit while reading books at night, we have a very large alphabet chart (see the DIY instructions here) in their play room. I just try to keep the letters there for them to see, to become familiar with and when they have interest learn about. At times I casually talk about the letters on the chart, or pick up some letter cubes and start looking at pictures, looking very engrossed and fascinated. Of course they want to see what all that interest is about. Target achieved! 🙂 One thing they both always really like are these little alphabet cards with animals I got a while back. These are the same cards we used to make our alphabet chart. I really like them, so I got 2 sets. And recently Ale and I came up with a little game using these cards that he enjoyed playing many times over.
We use the mentioned above cards. I really love them for their charming illustrations that have images relatable to small children — animals. Unlike explaining what is a “King” or “Jocker” to a 1.5 or 2 year old these cards feature cute animals, something one can easily grasp and if animal is unfamiliar it could be easily learned about through pictures and videos. Such we learned about Narwhals for example, I myself didn’t even know they existed before! 🙂 .
Each letter in this set has 2 cards — one for its capital and one for its small form. And the illustration is very associative — big letter ‘H’ has mama horse and little letter ‘h’ has baby horse. I think it is fun and both boys really love them.
Also, while not letter related, the set includes 3 little cards teaching how each baby animal is called. For example, a baby pig is a piglet, while a baby rhino is a calf.
We also own letters, which only came as capital letters unfortunately. I like them as they are easy to hold and you can lay them down or put them upright. They are neither too big nor too small. When we play our card+letter games Ale particularly enjoys placing the physical letter over its written form in the picture and these letters are just perfect for that!
Our letters are from HABA, but they don’t make them anymore. However there are plenty similar ones on ETSY, like these ones or these ones which even come with small letters! (and what a beautiful ETSY account by the way, I wish I could buy one of everything! 🙂 )
Game 1: Match the letter to the animal card
“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.” — Mr. Rogers
One day I told Ale I thought of a fun new game. Instant interest of course 🙂 .
— Me (as I’m holding the cards): Ale, do you think you can find me letter B? (show him the BEAR card)
— Ale (excitedly): I can!! (Runs over to the letter box, rummages through the letters and proudly runs back with B)
— Me: Ok, lets put it here, where it says B. (Ale neatly places the letter right over its written form)
— Me: How about letter V like in VULTURE? Here, look at this cool mama vulture! (Ale loves vultures!)
— Ale: Vulture! I can!
We went through the entire alphabet numerous times over at his request. And he wanted to make sure I was carefully moving to the side the cards to which he already matched the letters. Very proud of his work.
We played it few times over and over the first time. Few times after that. And then he was done 🙂 I was hopping I could transition to the game of making little words, but he had absolutely no interest. Instead he suggested his game of making some very very long words by putting all sorts of letters in random order and I had to read that. 🙂
Here are a couple of other ideas for letters and reading learning games using these same supplies.
Game 2: Big letter to small letter
This little game we played a lot when I first got the cards. Ale loved finding the mama animal for each baby and vise versa. Nothing fancy, but again, I believe the play makes the concept and shapes familiar and child’s mind is so incredible that I know for sure all that observation never goes to waste.
Game 3: Making simple words
This game so far went like this:— Me: Ale, how about now we find all the letters in this word FOX! Like here, look F, then O, then which one do you think?
— Ale (excitedly): No, how about we make this word! (He places KFPROUNQ and then keeps adding more letters)
— Ale (excitedly): Here mama, read this word I made!
So there was our attempt at reading/writing :))) … After few of those words that evoked most of alphabet that I was obliged to read to his excited giggles I was done, although I should have played his game to his fill. I’m going to offer him to play his game again, but actual reading going to leave alone for now and try again later. Obviously no interest at this point.
So there you have it! Hope you will also find these little games and supplies fun and enjoyable. Closing with this great quote.
“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.” — Leo F. Buscaglia