10 Simple Ideas for Encouraging Toddler Letter Recognition

May 9, 2013

Letter Recognition

While my two-year-olds will happily sing the ABC’s (or some version of this classic) on demand, there seems to be only a few letters they consistently recognize. Thanks to a quick Facebook Poll and a little research, I’ve discovered that this seems to be pretty normal. Actually, there appears to be a rather wide range for what is typical in terms of toddler letter identification – anything from knowing quite a few letters by the second birthday to being able to identify a handful at age three. Below is a collection of ideas which are working for my own children as well as a few great activities from around the web. Take a look, pin a few, and in no time your little one(s) will be ready for more!

1. Books – First and foremost (and perhaps most obvious), read, read, read. I’m not an expert on the subject, but I know this one to be true. Check out Children’s Book Guide’s Top 100 Children’s Books of All-Time for some new ideas to add to your collection or borrow from the library.

2. Bath Letters – Throw in some foam letters at bath time. (The kind that stick to the tub wall, [affiliate link] like these from Munchkin, are great.) Little ones will have fun fishing out their favorite letters and “spelling” things on the wall.

3. Driveway Chalk – Use [affiliate link] sidewalk chalk to draw a few letters on the driveway. Start with some classic “firsts” for toddlers, such as X, O, A, or M or even the letters in your child’s name. Draw them large enough so that little feet can “walk” the path of the letters. Ask questions like, “Where is the A?” and then let the little one(s)* run around and jump right on top – great for kinesthetic little movers and shakers. Leave the same letters until it rains and then add in some new letters the next time. This also works well for introducing or learning shapes.


*For ideas on incorporating music and letter sounds for older kids, see Meaningful Mama’s great post.

4. Letter Pounding (aka, “Whack a Letter”) – Harness that toddler desire to hit and whack in a positive way. Check out this awesome DIY for a quick game of Letter Pounding from I Can Teach My Child.

5. Alphabet Soup (or Cereal) – There are a number of culinary options to encourage letter recognition. Two to try are Alpha-Bits cereal or Healthy Kids Alphabet Soup.


6. Bean Bag Toss – Again, corral that two-year-old need to throw (everything) and give them something safe and soft for tossing – [affiliate link] Alphabet Bean Bags! Play catch while you say the letter on an individual bag or call out the letters as you toss ’em in a bucket. For a great DIY on these bean bags, see The Crafty Cupboard’s Alphabet Bean Bags.


7. Magnetic Letter Matching – Grab a baking sheet, a marker, and some magnetic letters and you are all set. See “Trays on the Go” from We Can Do All Things for a quick “how to” and create your own magnetic letter board.

8. Letter Drop – Use an old plastic tub and those magnetic letters in a new way. Cut a hole in the top and allow little hands to drop in a letter as you say the name together. Find a quick DIY here at Dirt and Boogers’ “Letter Clank Can” along with some other great letter learning activities.

9. Letter Fishing – Drop those magnetic letters in the tub or water table (or sans water in a “pretend” ocean of blue felt) and fashion up a quick pole. Let the kids (with supervision!) cast their line and see their excitement as they reel in those letters.

10. Letter Puzzles – There are many great options of alphabet puzzles – foam mat puzzles, [affiliate link] Melissa and Doug puzzles, and more. The act of holding the letters, turning them around until they fit in place, and experiencing their shape with a sense (touch) other than just sight may help make a connection for some.


Ready for upper and lower case matching? Try these great ideas as well:

Egg Matching

Paper Plate Sorting

Dice Matching

How have you observed your little ones learning their letters? What ideas have we left off this list?

You Might Also Like