Education is changing based on what we are learning about the brain.
The explosion of knowledge about human development has led us to a rapidly changing approach to early education. Kids between the ages of infancy to four demonstrate a quantum jump in all phases of development, and we know now just what parts of the brain emerge at different ages and how they govern specific functions.
Language acquisition is one of the most exciting periods for parents. We are just floored with that first “Mommy” or “I’m building core memories right now!” (if they have seen Inside Out recently). Infants start categorizing sounds at the age of six months, and from toddlerhood to kindergarten, children can start to assign sounds to symbols1.
We know that kids pick things up faster and more comprehensively when they play, and so there are thousands of entertaining ways to introduce beginning alphabet and spelling with some low-prep games at home. Let’s take a look at a few of these:
- Letter Magnets
This is so easy and fun, and as long as too many of them don’t get swept under the fridge, your kids will enjoy making words with magnet letters for years. As you are making dinner, you can spread the letters out randomly and call out simple words one letter at a time. The kids find the letters and you can help them sound it out to make words.
- Alphabet Hunt Traveling Game
Pick a topic while out, like foods, and everyone takes a turn starting with A, trying to come up with a thing that starts with the appropriate letter. When you get to the end, start again!
- I-Spy Letters
Take the classic guessing game and just make all your clues first letter clues: I Spy with my little eye, something that begins with Q.
- Old Typewriter
Finally, a fantastic reason not to throw your “vintage” typewriter away. If it actually works, your kids will lose their minds with the old hammer keys and the ping when it comes to the end of the line. A spare computer keyboard will also do the trick, but not nearly as charming and doesn’t produce a piece of paper with nifty old school characters on it.
- Alphabet Sounds Jumping Game
Take the fun outside and use sidewalk chalk to draw letters randomly on different squares of cement. Instead of calling out the letter, call out the sound it makes and kids take turns jumping on the corresponding characters.
- ABC Mouse for Kids
This game is an app you can download to your tablet or smart phone that has risen to the top of digital edutainment. It offers many different activities all designed around developmental science and it rewards kids with achievements as they progress. A few minutes a day can keep your little learner occupied, while absorbing information at the same time.
- Alphabet Maze
This game is almost as fun to prepare as it is to play: take some masking tape and make a maze on a wall or other large flat surface. Make sure you add some dead ends so it isn’t really obvious which way takes the player to the center. Then write the letters of the alphabet along the correct path that solves the maze. The letter Z should be at the center or the end.
- Capital and Lower Case Memory Game
Kids really love playing the original Memory®, and this is a wonderful way to start pairing the two different letter cases in their minds. Cut out 54 same size and same shape squares of construction paper (you can also use post-its) and write the alphabet out in all lower case and all upper case. Lay them all face down on the floor and take turns turning over two at a time. Two of the same letter is a pair.
- Photo and Letter Collage Project
Never was there a nobler use for your old magazines! Cut up pictures of easily identifiable objects like animals, vehicles, or other kid-friendly stuff, and cut out the first letter to match them. Arm your kid with a piece of paper and a glue stick and help them match up the first letter with the object.
There are some really fun printable games online that can help, so if your children get bored with one activity, keep trying until you find something they genuinely enjoy. Most importantly, remember that learning has everything to do with interaction at this age, so getting into the activity will really help them reap the value.