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From the moment my firstborn was placed in my arms, I can remember the overwhelming feeling of responsibility that descended upon my shoulders. This little person, a blank slate with no life experiences, was completely dependent upon me! Not that I didn’t appreciate the challenge. In fact, as a former kindergarten teacher, I had relished the awe of watching learning inscribed on the minds of my students as they sat “crisscrossed applesauce” in their “magic” carpet squares … but this seven pounds of miniature human was a completely different challenge and for the first time, learning meant more to me than everbefore.

Fast forward three years, and I soon discovered there was no need to worry. Human beings arrive hardwired to learn! And soon, my little sponge was soaking up everything … whether I wanted him to or not. As time passed, we have developed some very fun and simple ways to absorb skills, such as the ABCs, that will help him as he approaches preschool and kindergarten.

As you introduce the following activities to your preschooler, remember to keep things light and don’t force your preschooler to do anything. Your ultimate goal is for them to love learning. Pay attention to their likes and dislikes. If a particular activity seems to produce only boos, try another idea until you find something you both truly enjoy!

Make this time playful with your child. By doing so, you will open your child up to a lifetime of loving learning and magical memories to share!

Sponge Paint Letters
Use a sponge paint dobber or a paint dobber to allow your child to paint each letter. This is perfect for even the tiniest of little hands! Do expect to help them, at least at first. By the end of the alphabet, your little one will most likely be able to take off on his own. This activity is best done one letter at a time. In our house, we do one letter a week. This idea is great for practicing name writing too.

Glitter Letters
Help your child use school glue to make the shape of the letter. Next, help her sprinkle some glitter on it and shake it over a trash can or a sink. Your child will be left with a glittery letter to admire!

Body Letters
Help your child discover ways to represent different letters by using his body. (Think YMCA.) Encourage your child to get creative and use his arms and legs to make the letters. This was the brain child of my son, who now will break out into letter shapes in various locations, including the grocery store!

Alphabet Soup
Combine various magnetic letters into a big plastic bowl or pot. We use one of the old metal pots my son inherited from me when I bought a new cooking set. Give your child a big stirring spoon and help her scoop out letters. Practice saying the name and/or sound of the letter with your child.

Letter Hunt
Using magnetic letters, hide them in various locations around the house. It’s usually best to concentrate the search in one specific area, depending on the age of your child. If he’s just starting out, you’ll definitely need to play a much more active role in the hunt, modeling and thinking aloud as to how to search for the letters. This is also a great way to introduce vocabulary, such as above, under, behind, etc. We love to play many variations of this game. For example, on Valentine’s Day, I hide hearts. Be as creative as you choose.

Deanna M. Westedt holds a Masters in Teaching and has taught grades kindergarten through third. She’s at home with her two toddler boys and teaches part-time.