8 Early Literacy Activities for Toddlers

When to start learning the ABCs?

Most children learn the alphabet from around age 2 but up to age 6 isn't uncommon and every child is different. In the same way that a six month old isn't able to walk from a developmental perspective, some children won't be ready to learn their letters until they're a little older.

In neurotypical children, it doesn’t really matter how early or late children learn the alphabet within the usual window - while some kids are keen to enter the literary world, others are more interested in animal names and sounds, cars or their favourite cartoon characters, nursery rhymes or puzzles. Respecting your child's individuality and supporting them with their interests is vital in the early years and will help to build a foundation for future learning.

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Child development and future success

One of the leaders in child development, Arnold Gessell, noted that by the time kids are 9-10 years-old, you can no longer identify kids who learned formal academic skills first. Therefore, learning the alphabet early is not an indication of future academic success. In fact, being forced into overly academic situations too early can have long-lasting negative effects on children.

It's also worth bearing in mind that to a preschooler, rote memorising of letters can be quite boring, so it’s important to make learning more fun ideally naturally in a playful setting.

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Fun ways of learning the alphabet

Helping your child to learn letters and their sounds during play is really beneficial, helping to prepare children for reading. Being in a "literacy rich environment" helps to make it a natural progression that can happen at the child's pace. Children who can quickly recognise and recall the letters of the alphabet have an easier time learning their letter sounds, which in turn helps as they move on to early reading.

You can teach them in context, name an object and the sound it makes, eg say “That’s an M, it says mmmmm.” One day, they will make the connections and they will memorise the letter and sound together.

8 Letter Activities for kids from Small Eco Steps

Kids will have fun while learning and practicing their letters in a natural and accessible way. These kits work in the home-school setting as well and are popular with nurseries and EYFS settings.

You can give your children plenty of opportunities to practice the letters of the alphabet with our sensory letter sets.

1. Uppercase Alphabet Pebbles Set Letter Activities For Kids

Perfectly sized for little hands to explore and play with, our Alphabet Pebbles are ideal for introducing letters to young children. Each one is engraved and  painted with a letter making them highly appealing and tactile. Cast from a unique stone mix, they are tough enough to use throughout an early years setting and will not fade over time. These resources really can follow the learning wherever it goes: sand, water or soil.

These letters will not fade over time, making them ideal for use for many years and to pass on when children outgrow. Pebbles measure between 30–45mm. Safe for age 2+.

2. Lowercase Alphabet Pebbles Set Letter Activities For Kids

Specially cast from a unique stone and resin mix, these popular alphabet pebbles appeal to children’s instinct to explore, investigate, sort and collect. They are durable enough to be used in sand, water and outdoors.

Each  pebble is engraved and  painted with a letter, and will not fade over time, making them ideal for use for many years and to pass on when children outgrow. Pebbles measure between 30–45mm. Safe for age 2+.

3. Jumbo Alphabet Pebbles Set Letter Activities for kids

Children will enjoy collecting, sorting and building words with these giant pebbles. Each pebble measures between  60–73mm, making them safe to use with two year olds.

The set includes 26 pebbles featuring a full lowercase alphabet. Age 2+.

4. Natural Sorting & Literacy Tray Letter Activities for kids

These wooden trays are designed to help children learn how to blend and segment letters to create four letter words in a very tactile way. The shallow dips in each tray accommodate our Alphabet Pebbles well, but are also a good fit for other letter tiles and resources. Made from sustainably-sourced, FSC approved beech wood, this natural product is available individually or as a set of six, making them ideal for small group use.

Once children have mastered simple words they can move on to the next level. The 4-section trays will enable children to explore CCVC, CVCC and CVVC words and progress further with their pre-reading skills. Safe for children aged 18mths+.

1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 frame Natural Sorting Tray Set and 10-Frame Natural Sorting Tray are also available.


5. Feels-Write Uppercase Letter Stones Letter Activities for kids

These large stones are designed to enable children to have sensory experiences by experimenting with the raised and indented shapes and patterns. Cast from a durable mix of resin and real stone, they can be used on their own or as part of a wider sensory experience incorporating messy play.

Each set contains 26 letter stones (102–125mm). Age 3+.

Use these stones alongside the Feels-Write Lowercase Letter Stones as they are perfect for matching activities. Other Feels-Write resources include Feels-Write Number Stones and Feels-Write Pre-Writing Stones.

6. Feels-Write Lowercase Letter Stones Letter Activities for kids

These tactile stones offer an engaging, multisensory way for kids to practise the correct letter formation. They can be used in/outdoor, messy and sensory play and will support all sorts of sequencing and alphabetical ordering activities.

Each stone in this set of eight measures and include four raised/bumpy designs (circles, dots, wavy lines, and a grid) and four indented/hollow designs (circles, lines, zigzags, and a spiral). Age 18mths+.

Sensory Stones are part of our popular range of learning pebbles, designed to offer children tactile early learning experiences.

7. Phonics Alphabet Pebbles Letter Activities for kids

Phonics Pebbles can be used in many ways to support early phonics teaching. Included in the set are helpful teacher’s notes with great game ideas for phoneme recognition, blending and segmenting. There are also suggestions for outdoor activities and for using the pebbles alongside reading to help introduce the focus phoneme.

Appealing to children’s natural instincts to sort and collect, these tactile pebbles can be used in sand, water and soil. They are durable and weather-proof, so are ideal for use outdoors, they will not fade over time.

Cast from a unique resin and stone mix, each pebble is engraved with a grapheme and measure 30–45mm. Each set contains 64 pebbles covering the 44 phonemes from Phases Two and Three of Letters and Sounds, plus the most common alternative spellings from Phase Five.

Safe for children aged 2+.

8. Tricky Word Alphabet Pebbles Letter Activities for kids

Including 63 pebbles (45–55mm), this set is a visual and tactile resource that enables children to touch, feel and remember the words they are learning. The pebbles are colour-coded into five groups so that they can also support Phases 2–5 of Letters and Sounds.

The robust pebbles can be used indoors and outdoors, both during structured play and independent learning. The accompanying leaflet includes engaging games that will support children as they learn to both read and spell tricky words.

2 different sets available. Age 3+.

How do you teach your child? Let us know in the comments below.

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