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Simple Toys that Teach Children the Alphabet

Updated on November 11, 2013

Research indicates that it is important for children to have strong letter identification and phonics skills to become successful readers and writers. Learning about letters and sounds are also essential for the developjment of phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness and letter-sound knowledge account for more of the variation in early reading and spelling success than general intelligence, overall maturity level, or listening comprehension (National Reading Panel, 2000). Research also states that children must be taught to understand, interpret and manipulate the printed symbols of written language (Expert Panel on Early Reading, 2003). What this boils down to is that all young children need lots of opportunities to explore and learn about letters. Fortunately, there are simple and fun ways to engage children in activities that help develop their knowledge of essential pre-reading skills. Development of pre-reading skills gives children a good head start in school. This can be achieved with games that help children recognize print in their environment and teach them about phonics. There are also many quality products that provide a fun exploration of letters and sounds. No, they are not electronic! They are just your simple but valuable educational games and toys that have enchanted children for decades. The following are a collection of alphabet toys that are chosen for their ability to capture the interest of early learners while teaching essential early literacy skills. These toys have stood the test of time with the valuable learning opportunities they deliver. Many of them are built with quality wood materials to ensure they last for generations of learning and fun.

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Alphabet Wooden Blocks

Alphabet blocks are made of durable wood and have bold colorful letters displayed on each one. Children love to build tall towers and structures or sort the blocks into groups. The activities that can be done with these wooden blocks expose children to a colorful collection of pictures, letters and numbers for recognition. Here are just some of the activities that can be played with this timeless toy:

  • Sort the blocks by color.
  • Arrange the blocks in order of the alphabet.
  • Find items in the house to match the letter sound of one or more blocks.
  • Build towers and structures and talk about the letter names as you use them.
  • Arrange block letters to make words.


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Animal and Object Stacking Blocks

Young children like to move around and they like to build big towers. This toy is a great way to facilitate discussion of letters and sounds while keeping children engaged in lots of gross motor activity. When children are able to associate a familiar object to a letter it helps to make them easier to remember. The following are activities that can be played to extend the learning with this toy:

  • Arrange the blocks from biggest to smallest.
  • Ask children to sort the blocks according to pictures, letters, colors, or size and discuss reasons for their sorting.
  • Talk about the pictures on the blocks and the letters they represent. Find other objects that could go with the letter.
  • Count the number of blocks used to make a tower. Count the number of sides on the block.
  • Build a tower or structure and name the letter blocks used to make it.


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Wooden Alphabet Peg Puzzle

Along with letter names children also need to learn the sounds that letters make. This toy helps children learn to recognize letters visually while also teaching them about letter sounds. Children must place the letter over the correct picture to represent each letter of the alphabet. By searching the correct picture to go with the letter children are making connections that aid in the development of phonics skills. This puzzle also includes a Spanish version. Here are some of the educational games that can be played with this toy:

  • Place the letter pieces on the puzzle board in alphabetic order.
  • Say a sound and have the child match the letter to the picture.
  • Ask children to cover all pictures that are small animals, big animals, non-living, etc.
  • Take one or two letters off the puzzle and have children guess what is missing.
  • Say the name of a picture on the puzzle board and ask children to find the letter piece that represents it.


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Wooden Alphabet Stamp Set

Kids of all ages love playing with stamps. Children enjoy creating words and messages which provides opens the door to valuable opportunities for learning about letter sounds and print. Younger children can use them for making simple words while older children can use them for those special touches to school projects. Here are some further activities that will facilitate learning while playing with an alphabet stamp set:

  • Help children stamp out the words of different objects then draw a picture for them.
  • Have them stamp out their name them trace it with a crayon to practice printing it.
  • Section a piece of paper into four and ask children to stamp letters in boxes they think go together and explain why.
  • Help children stamp out the letters of the alphabet in order.
  • Give children a magazine and have them stamp letters onto pictures to represent the correct sound of the object in the picture.


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Alphabet Express Floor Puzzle

The train theme is a favorite with young children and this puzzle choo-choos ten feet across the floor, to encourage movement when building it. Ordering the large and durable puzzle pieces gives children an opportunity to learn about the alphabet. Each letter in the puzzle is represented by an interesting animal that motivates learning and helps children make connections to letter sounds easier to remember.

  • Ask children to identify all the animal pictures and talk about them.
  • Teach children to sing the alphabet song while pointing to the letters on the train.
  • Remove a puzzle piece and have children determine what letter is missing.
  • Cover up the letters in a puzzle piece and ask children to guess the letter for the picture.
  • Practice completing the train puzzle in faster time.


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Magnetic Wooden Alphabet

This toy is perfect for placing on your kitchen fridge to play alphabet games with your child as you are cooking. You can ask children to search and find the letters that you call out or you can help them create words and special messages to other family members. Use the following suggestions to entice tots with this toy:

  • Match upper and lowercase letters.
  • Practice making words.
  • Use your finger to trace over the letters.
  • Sort letters by color, shape, size or alphabetical order.
  • Close your eyes and guess the letter by holding it.


How Can I Help My Child Without These Toys?

To help children develop critical phonics skills it is important to give them opportunities to explore letters and sounds in fun and engaging ways. Allowing children to manipulate and play with letters is important for teaching young children. Play games that help children to identify print in their environment and explore songs and rhymes. Start by singing the alphabet and make your own letters to practice some of the activities mentioned in this article. The options are endless but the goal always remains the same...to keep learning fun!

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    • Sturgeonl profile image
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      Sturgeonl 2 years ago

      Thank you for your insightful comment Blackspaniel. Letter ID and phonemic sequencing of sounds in words are both very important skills indeed! Games and toys are an engaging way for children to learn and explore both.

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 2 years ago

      Two things come to mind, some have the alphabet in order, which is important to learn, while others have letters that can be arranged to spell things, also important.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i used phonics to teach my boy. Just papers and markers.

    • Sturgeonl profile image
      Author

      Sturgeonl 5 years ago

      It is great to get your feedback TeachableMoments! I hope the suggestions can make play more valuable for children and help them to build strong early literacy skills. Thanks for visiting.

    • TeachableMoments profile image

      TeachableMoments 5 years ago from California

      Thanks for this great hub. I love how you gave parents, caregivers and educators ideas on how to take simple toys to the next level. The games you suggest will make learning fun for young children and foster a joy for learning. Voted up!

    • Sturgeonl profile image
      Author

      Sturgeonl 5 years ago

      I hope the suggestions for learning with toys are useful to parents. Sometimes we give toys to children but need ideas to maximize the learning opportunities available from them. Thank you for your comments teaches12345. Your feedback is always welcome and valued!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Sturgeonl, your suggestions are ones that I highly recommend to parents. Blocks and stamps are great tools in helping children to have fun while learning the alphabet. The fine motor skills are also built up, as well as problem solving through the block stacking. Great hub and voted up.