-posted by Meghan
A New Game
I was making dinner the other night, when I saw that the kids had taken all their letter magnets off the fridge and put them all over the kitchen floor behind me. About to bellow to “pick this all up before someone slips and gets hurt” I paused. They weren’t making a mess. They were playing a game. “I spy with my little eye… a D,” Jacob yelled. “Now jump on it,” Molly told him. He jumped on the letter and clapped for himself. “My turn,” Mol crowed. “I spy…”
They played happily, yelling, finding and jumping until dinner was ready. And while we ate, I thought about how important it is to make learning fun and playful, and also to make sure literacy is something available for them to incorporate into anything they do. That letters are everywhere in our house, and that the kids see letters, words & literacy as something we use as frequently and enjoyably as we do forks, spoons & knives.
The best reading environment is one where books, words, and letters are sprinkled throughout the house, side-by-side with other toys and are a part of every fun (and ordinary) activity of the day.
It’s easy to be playful with the letters of the alphabet. In fact, magnet letters for refrigerators have been a staple “toy” for generations. Even before children know that these brightly colored movable objects that stick to the door are called “letters,” they delight in moving them around, chewing on them, and simply accepting them as part of their environment. Of course, as they grow, they start to have special attachments to the letters they see more often, like those that start their own name or “M” for “Mom.” But long before this, they can learn playfully by simply arranging them in patterns and delighting in their shapes and colors.
Letters don’t have to stay dry. Another favorite place to incorporate the alphabet is the tub. There are great letters and numbers available that stick to the walls of the tub when they’re wet. Like the fridge magnets, these are just fun toys that make good hats, pretend food, and pretty designs stuck to the walls of the tub and shower. As babies, the twins talked (babbled) about them interchangeably as letters, toys, and parts of the alphabet (which are three separate, yet related things as far as they were concerned). “Oh, I have so many alphabets in my tub!” Jacob said one day, about a year ago (when he was 2 1/2). But when two groups of letters were pointed out to him, he easily identified them. “The letters on top say Molly, and the down low letters say Jacob,” he explained, pointing at the words “Molly” and “Jacob” we’d spelled out, before dumping a pail of water on Molly’s head.
So that’s my pitch for the day to remind us all to not set letters (or any kind of learning) aside as a “lesson”, but to play with them and delight in them as a part of everything we do.