The next time you find yourself threatening to throw every last magnetic letter in the garbage if they aren’t picked up off the kitchen floor in the next five seconds, try to keep in mind that those messy ABC magnets are shaping your child’s early literacy skills. Preschoolers not only find the array of shapes and colors fascinating, but this versatile toy can jumpstart letter recognition, enhance memory processing and strengthen recall abilities.
An obvious choice, yes, but the toy was designed for letter play. Before starting any lapboard activity, spell out your child’s name at the top. He may not know each letter yet, but by age 3, he should be able to recognize the combination of letters that make up his name.
When you first introduce letters, start with the most common ones that appear in the English language: a, i, n, p, s, t. These six letters can form dozens of simple words. Each time you put a magnetic letter on the board, identify an object, animal or person your child is familiar with, such as, “C is for cat,” or “Daddy’s name begins with J.” As your preschooler’s skills increase, combine letters to make words that are two, three and then four letters in length.
Focus initially on the lowercase letters since they comprise nearly 95 percent of written words. To increase the stakes, add an uppercase letter to the board then have your preschooler hunt for the matching lowercase letter.
Shapes, Shades and Sorting
Magnetic letters are the perfect tool for teaching your preschooler about basic shapes and primary colors as well as stimulating her sorting skills. You can have your child group all the green letters together, divide them by uppercase and lowercase, or search for vowels. Spell a word with alternating colors to create an easy pattern game. Remove one letter and ask your child to identify the missing color.
Turn this versatile toy into a practical science lesson by challenging your preschooler to find as many places as possible around the house where the letters might stick. Don’t be afraid to get goofy--it is just as important for your kiddo to know that a magnet is attracted to the refrigerator but not the dog.
Letter of the Month
Randomly choose a letter at the beginning of each month and hang it on the fridge. You can design an array of activities that start with the letter, ranging from songs, books and crafts to cooking dinner, learning about an animal or looking for pictures in a magazine.
Magnets can be dangerous for tiny intestines, so if you have a toddler who still gnaws on everything in sight, hold off on introducing magnetic letters. When your preschooler is ready, buy large letters that are securely attached to a full-sized magnet.
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