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parenting toddlers

Getting to Know My ABC’s: Teaching Toddlers Letters

One of the best ways to teach something is to make it fun.  This is especially true when you’re working with toddlers.  Here are some suggestions for fun ways to help young children learn their letters.

  1. Write with bathtub crayons.
    Buy some erasable bathtub crayons and take turns drawing letters.  As much as possible, connect the letters to her environment, emphasizing the sound as you write the letter.  S is for Soap.  SSSSSSSoap.  B is for Bubble.  B-B-Bubble.  Accomplish educational and hygiene-related goals at the same time!
  2. Name a letter of the day.
    Borrow from “Sesame Street” and name a letter of the day each morning.  Write it on a sticky note and take it with you from room to room and into the car, pointing to objects that start with that letter.  Come back to it several times a day.
  3. Make letters out of objects.
    Using rope, blocks, blueberries, legos, or anything else you can find, make letters.  Talk about each letter and its sound, and have your child copy you.
  4. Sing.
    We all learn better when music is involved.  Google the phrase “songs to teach kids letters,” and you’ll be amazed at the number of songs available to you.  Some you’ll already know, and some you’ll get to learn along with your child!
  5. Trace letters everywhere you can.
    In the air, in the dirt, in water, in pudding:  Wherever and whenever you can, make it fun to write letters by tracing them in different substances.  This will aid in letter recognition and develop muscle memory that can help kids distinguish among different letters.  Make the sound each time you write a letter.
  6. Use what’s in front of you.
    Everywhere you go, point out letters on signs and products and buildings.  Kids love to play the “Name that letter” game.
  7. “Write” on your child.
    Let your child sense what each letter feels like.  Trace a letter on his hand, or on his back, and name the letter.  After he begins to get a few by memory, play a game that tests his knowledge.  Then when he’s old enough, switch places and have him write on you.  (You might want to verify that he’s not holding a Sharpie before you turn around and tell him to write on your back!)
  8. Read, read, and read some more.

Read to your child all the time.  As much as you can, keep books in front of her.  Even if you’re not constantly stopping to ask her about the alphabet—and make sure you don’t take the fun out of reading by making it about learning the letters—help make her comfortable with words and letters, and their connection to the ideas and stories sh

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Teaching Toddlers Numbers: Let Me Count the Ways

Kids are naturally curious and will pick up all kinds of information in their normal, everyday lives.  That doesn’t mean, though, that we can’t give them a boost along the way.  For example, when it comes to helping children learn about numbers, there are lots of ways we can help build a foundation for the math concepts they’ll soon learn at school.  The key is to keep it fun.

  1. Play Follow-the-Leader
    Have your child imitate what you do.  Mommy’s going to hit the drum once, then you hit it once.  Good!  Now I’ll hit it two times, and you hit it two times.  Continue to ten, assuming it remains fun for your child.  If she’s still enjoying the game when you get to ten, then work your way back down to one.
  2. Sing Songs
    There are plenty of great songs that teach kids about numbers.  Work these into your repertoire.  Every time your child sings “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed,” or “Five Little Ducks Went Out One Day,” he’ll gain a deeper understanding of how numbers work.  (I don’t recommend “One Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall—not so much because it might encourage underage drinking, but because of how annoying the seemingly never-ending song can become.)
  3. Use textures
    Have your child fingerpaint numbers in pudding, or have him use a stick in the sand to trace out numbers.  Anything that allows him to practice writing numbers in novel ways will engrain the practice in his mind.    
  4. Connect Numbers to their Interests
    One boy I know is obsessed with Noah’s Ark.  His playsets offer all kinds of opportunities for counting different animals—and then learning to count two-by-two.  The same goes for dolls, cars, bubbles, baseball games, and practically anything else.  
  5. Count During Activities
    Whenever you think of it, let your child hear you count—and have her count along with you.  Count when you’re pushing her on the swing, when she’s brushing her teeth, when she’s taking steps between the car and the school building. 
  6. Sense Numbers
    While you’re teaching about numbers, teach about the senses as well.  Have your child close his eyes then listen to you clap or snap.  Quiz him on how many he hears.  Or tap his leg and have him count the taps.
  7. Count with the Body
    Teach numbers with activity.  Have your child jump four times, or run back and forth to the fence twice.  Or, play a game where you put out a set of numbers written on pieces of paper, and your child has to run to find the number you name and bring it back to you.
  8. Count with Food

Use mealtimes to teach concepts like more, less, and equal.  Count the number of blueberries or peas on the plate, or chairs at the table.  Again, make sure to make this fun; your child shouldn’t feel like she has to sing for her supper.


Numbers are everywhere.  By repeatedly pointing to them, we help kids seem them and understand them in ways that will form the foundation for future knowledge.


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