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How to Teach the Alphabet to Preschoolers

Is your preschooler ready to learn the alphabet? If so, this post is for you! Jam-packed with letter recognition activities designed to help you teach the alphabet, this post contains enough fun to keep your child busy for months!

Read on to discover more about this valuable pre-reading skill for young children, or scroll down to download eight of our free, top-quality letter recognition activities.

Dog looking at the letter T

What Is Letter Recognition?

Letter recognition—also known as alphabet recognition—is the ability to:

  • distinguish between the 26 letters of the alphabet
  • say the letter name

If your child already knows “The Alphabet Song,” that is a great start! But there is more to letter recognition than being able to sing the ABCs. You want your child to be able to pick out the individual letters and name them, and that’s where the downloadable activities that follow really shine.

Advantages of Learning the Letter Names

Children who know the names of the letters have three major advantages:

  1. Kids who know letter names will learn the sounds of the letters much more easily. By contrast, children who don’t know the letter names often have tremendous difficulty in learning the sounds of the letters.1
  2. Children who can easily name the letters of the alphabet have an easier time learning to read.2, 3
  3. As they learn the letter names, children tend to be more motivated to discover more about the letters and about the words around them.4, 5, 6

So you know that teaching the letter names is important, but now you may be wondering…

Should Uppercase or Lowercase Letters Be Taught First?

Puppy looking at letters E

Developmentally, it will be easier for your child to learn capital letters first. That’s because the visual form of the capital letters is more distinct. Take a look at this row of capital letters:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

The only letters that could be flipped and mistaken for another letter are M/W.

Now take a look at this row of lowercase letters:

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

With the lowercase letters, there are several pairs of letters that could be flipped.

Letter d morphing into letters b, p, and q
  • b/d (flip on the vertical axis)
  • b/p (flip on the horizontal axis)
  • d/p (flip on the horizontal and vertical axis)
  • p/q (flip on the vertical axis)
  • n/u (flip on the horizontal and vertical axis)

So that’s why I recommend starting with the “easier” uppercase letters.

But what about the fact that most text is composed of lowercase letters? After all, this sentence has 57 letters, and only one of them is uppercase. Doesn’t it stand to reason that kids should learn the lowercase letters first?

The fact is that your child will learn all of the letters–uppercase and lowercase–before he learns to read. So why not start with the letter form that is easiest to learn?

Honestly though, it isn’t critical. If you want to teach lowercase letters first, that is fine. Just be aware that some kids do mix up those letters mentioned above. (And here’s help if your child already reverses similar letters such as “b” and “d”.) The most important thing is that your child has an enjoyable introduction to the alphabet, and that she can recognize the letters with confidence.

Now let’s dig in to the fun stuff!

Here Are 8 Free Letter Recognition Activities You Can Download!

3-page spread of ABC Building Blocks activity download

Creating the Alphabet with Building Blocks

Creating the alphabet with colorful bricks is a fun way for preschoolers to become more familiar with letters and enjoy a favorite playtime activity—building!

3-page spread of ABC Playdough Mats activity download

ABC Playdough Mats

Crafting letters out of playdough allows children to feel the alphabet as they roll and bend the dough to form the letters. Your child may not even realize he’s learning!

3-page spread of ABC Caterpillar activity download

ABC Caterpillar

As your child inches his way through the alphabet with this colorful caterpillar, he’ll get plenty of hands-on alphabet play, including putting letters in alphabetical order.

3-page spread of ABC Bracelets activity download

ABC Bracelets

Your little one will admire her “letter of the day” every time she glances at her wrist. And tomorrow she’ll get a brand new bracelet to “show off” to family and friends!

3-page spread of Tactile Letter Cards Activity download

Tactile Letter Cards

Children learn about the world around them through their senses. Our tactile letter cards let children use their sense of touch to learn about uppercase and lowercase letters.

3- page spread of Fabric Alphabet download

Make Your Own Fabric Alphabet

Playing with the alphabet is a great way to help your preschooler get ready to read. This easy-to-make, soft, and colorful alphabet turns learning letters into a tactile activity.

3-page spread of Feed the Puppy Alphabet Game download

“Feed the Puppy” Alphabet Game

Our “Feed the Puppy” Alphabet Game lets kids practice the names of the letters in a super-fun way. After all, who doesn’t love learning with a cute puppy?

Alphabet Picture books library list 3-page spread

Alphabet Picture Books

Alphabet picture books are the perfect way to increase letter knowledge. No crafty mess required! All you need are books, a comfy couch, and a cuddly preschooler.

These activities will give your child hours and hours of fun while helping prepare him for formal reading instruction.

Keep Track of Which Letters Your Child Knows

When you are teaching letters to your child, make sure that you get to the end of the alphabet. This may seem obvious, but all too often, young children don’t master the last several letters. Be sure that your child knows U, V, and W as well as he knows A, B, and C!

To help you keep track of which letters have been learned, you can download this great little alphabet progress chart. Post it on your fridge or playroom wall.

Downloadable alphabet progress chart

Letter Knowledge Is One of the Big Five Skills

Did you know that there are five skills that your child should master before beginning formal reading instruction? We call them the “Big Five Skills” and these skills lay the foundation for learning to read. In fact, they’re so important that we cover all of them in the All About Reading Pre-reading program.

If you’re ready to tackle the rest of the Big Five Skills, be sure to check out the All About Reading Pre-reading program. Your student will enjoy special games, crafts, and story time read-alouds, and you will love the way your student effortlessly learns essential pre-reading skills.

All About Reading Pre-reading set-up

Which of these letter recognition activities are you going to try out first? Let me know in the comments below!

___________________________________
1. Mason, Jana M. (1980). When do children begin to read: an exploration of our year-old children’s letter and word reading competencies. Reading Research Quarterly, 15, 203-227.
2. Bond , Guy L., and Dykstra, Robert (1967). The cooperative research program in first-grade reading instruction. Reading Research Quarterly, 2, 5-142.
3. Chall, Jeanne S. (1967). Learning to read: The great debate. New York: McGraw-Hill.
4. Chomsky, Carol (1979). Approaching reading through invented spelling. In L. B. Resnick and P. A. Weaver (eds.), Theory and practice of early reading, vol. 2, 43-65. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.
5. Mason, Jana M. (1980). When do children begin to read: an exploration of our year-old children’s letter and word reading competencies. Reading Research Quarterly, 15, 203-227.
6. Read, Charles (1971). Preschool children’s knowledge of English phonology. Harvard Educational Review, 41, 1-34.

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Mary

says:

This is very much helpful. Thanks for this

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re very welcome, Mary!

Regina Grace Ola

says:

Hi, My name is Regina. I just want more ideas for effective way of teaching kids. I am currently working as Teaching Assistant in KG2. I have one student who is very behind in the class. He usually got bored in writing and don’t like to do writing stuff. He start doing silly things once I gave him work to do. Every minute is a battle for me. I am looking for activities that I can engage him to do. Fun but at the same time he is still learning.

Thanks.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m sorry your student is struggling, Regina. School can be taxing to little ones’ attention spans at times.

Were you able to find activities here that may help him? Is there something else you are looking for? Let me know.

Inca King

says:

Inca
Hi, I have a daughter who is almost 12 and we live in South Africa ( almost no school that help with learning issues)
She hates reading, cannot spell and has totally given up on school and just trying. Everyday we have tears and stress, what can I use to help her read and spell!

Thanks

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Inca,
I’m sorry your daughter is struggling so.

Check out these articles for more help:
Free Resources page
10 Tips for Reaching Your Struggling Learner
Signs of a Reading Problem
The “No Gaps” Approach to Reading and Spelling

Smita

says:

great info!! thanks for sharing great tips!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad you like it, Smita! You’re very welcome.

Bridget Sumlin

says:

I Love This Great Information. Different Ways of Introducing Letter Recognition!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Bridget!

Jennie

says:

Thank you for this wonderful free resource!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are very welcome, Jennie!

Faith

says:

The resources was very helpful

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad to hear it, Faith!

crystal

says:

Play Dough Mats , my kids love PLAYDOUGH and i been doing letters and these mats will help them do them with me now just to get them laminated :)
So glad i found this site

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad you are finding helpful things here, Crystal!

Karen F

says:

We LOVE Feed the Puppy!! It is so much fun!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Feed the Puppy is such a fun activity, Karen. However, if your child would enjoy a changeup, try our Feed the Monster activity too. You’ll find a download of it on our 16 Ways to Make Practice Sheets Fun blog post.

Asegun Aderonke Faith

says:

Wow, this article was so helpful. Thanks!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re very welcome, Asegun. I’m pleased you found it helpful.

Najah

says:

Thank you sooooo much

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re very welcome, Najah!

Amy Charter

says:

Wow! I came upon this site and I am so so grateful for all of the beautifully designed and FREE resources! Thank you so so much :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Amy! I’m pleased you have found the site helpful.

Anne

says:

Great resources. Thanks!

Dee

says:

The Puppy Game
And Progress Chart

trisha

says:

I can’t wait to try the building with legos activity! My kids love to build but are struggling with the alphabet . Hopefully this will help them!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

The Lego alphabet activity does tend to be very well received, Trisha!

One helpful thing for children that are having trouble learning the alphabet, however, is to focus on just one letter at a time. Work on one letter until your kids have mastered it and only then add the next letter, but keep the first on in review! Continue this way, adding just one new letter as your children have really learned the previous one but keeping the previous ones in review.

Let me know if you need more ideas or help with this.

Grace

says:

Thanks for these. I’ve bookmarked your page. I am currently struggling to keep my son engage when it comes to letters. He’s more interested with numbers and hopefully one of the activities here can help.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Grace,
You may consider trying ABC snacks as well. We have lots of them! For some children, food helps make things more interesting. 😊

Ms. Coleen

says:

Thanks for all the great information! I have found (after 26 years of working with preschoolers) there is no one way to teach every child. With my own, I taught my oldest all caps. My brother is dyslexic and I was worried. My next child picked up the lower case without being introduced (maybe having an older sibling helps). They both caught on quickly to the lower case a and g (as seen here), as well as to different fonts. I have had students call letters different names and at age 3 that is part of the process… “up down up down or down up down up”. I had to THINK that one through… “You mean an M or a W?” Sing songs, read books and make it fun. YOU will learn new things in the process!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Ms. Coleen!

I kind of love the “up down up down or down up down up” way of describing letters. I find it wonderful how little ones’ minds work. 😊

Duger Thomas

says:

Upper case of letters

Daniela

says:

I put an emphasis on uppercase with my preschooler but exposed her to lowercase letters too. Lowercase letter reversals were an issue.

Jane Newman

says:

I have a daycare in my home, I have always started with A, B, C, should I be mixing it up like D, L, Z?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jane,
Either way is fine! Our Pre-reading program introduces letters alphabetical order.

What matters more is how you review, especially after students lean more than a few letters. It is important to review both in alphabetical order and out of order so that students are actually learning the letters and not just learning ABC order.

Does this make sense? Let me know if you have additional questions.

Summer Snow

says:

So excited for this program thanks so much

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are very welcome, Summer! 😊

Vikki

says:

Well done

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Vikki!

Bassey . E. Bassey

says:

Down to earth and very educative. Wonderful work. Thanks.

Ashley

says:

Thank you. I always knew you were supposed to teacher upper case then lower case, however I didn’t know why. That makes a lot of sense and will help me with my son.

Fale Tomane

says:

thank you.
Ive downloaded the tactile cards and building blocks. My almost 5 year old twins are still struggling with letter recognition.
Their teacher just told me today that they’re behind with their letters, word recognition etc..Im beyond concerned. Last year, their pre-shool opened for only 2 weeks of the last term, closed for 8 weeks due to the measles outbreak in our country. Now covid-19, kids have been at home for such a long time. They were only at school at the beginning of this term, 3 weeks then it closed again. Has just reopened for 2 weeks now, but only for 3 days of the week until the State of Emergency is lifted, so of course they would be behind!!! They provide some work for the children but just not the same. Am now going through information online for some strategies that i can do at home. Full time Mum of twins who love coloring, drawing, role playing etc..
Will try and let you know how its going.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Fale,
I think you will find the many activities in this blog post and on this blog helpful. Playful learning will help your children learn the alphabet and more! But if you need more ideas or have specific concerns, please let me know.

Bernice Essel

says:

We do start the alphabet with the lower case but will try the upper case this time and also download fun activities as well.
i say i big thank you and hoping to learn more so that i can also help my kids especially when we get to the reading part.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Let me know if you have questions or need anything, Bernice. 😊

Christina

says:

These are wonderful ideas that I am looking forward to teaching my second child. I wish I had known of this product when teaching my oldest, i think it would have been easier for her to learn.

Evangeline

says:

These are great resources thank you. I look forward to using them!

Michelle

says:

I love the variety of tactile learning. These activities look like lots of fun. Thank you for sharing them.

Dee

says:

Great ideas as we start learning the alphabet with our preschooler!

Tracy Pepmeier

says:

Thanks for the ideas! These will be fun for my preschooler!

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