The letters in your child's name are some of the most important ones he will ever learn. They will probably be the easiest for them to learn, as they have intrinsic meaning and motivation to him. Already Vinnie thinks of 'V' as 'his' letter and any word beginning with a V says 'Vinnie' in his world (I don't correct this, I would be too scared to knock his confidence. Instead I just say, 'yes, that is a V, Vinnie begins with V' and let him discover the other letters in the word when he's ready).
Learning their names are one of the first times a preschooler might attribute meaning to the words they see all around them, they learn the power of words - that their name on a drawing or coathook implies that that thing belongs to them. You don't need to push name recognition, just have it available in the child's environment (a nursery or preschool will probably already have names on bookbags, workboxes, artwork etc - you just need to include it in a few key places at home). Here are some fun ways you can play with names along with your child.
1. Play with letters - Quite often when the kids are drawing Vinnie will ask me to write out names for him - one day we put together this name/letter collage with post-it notes (as you can see we have 'Red T-Rex' and 'Captain America' along with nanny and daddy!) You could also use letter magnets on the fridge or alphabet blocks to do this. This is a really simple visual way for them to compare letters and words by seeing them up close and next to each other - 'mommy' has lots of m's for example, while 'nanny' and 'daddy' have some similar letters and some different.
3. Bang away at a keyboard - this is not a new discovery I'm sure, but kids looove banging away on your computer. It is something they see us adults do all the time and therefore a very important and serious job for them. When Vin is up for it I open a Word Doc, set the fontsize to a nice big one and sit him on my lap to 'work'. Mostly his masterpiece goes something like this 'vvvvvvvvvvvVVVVVVVVvvvvvvvvvMMvvvvv'. You might want to save these documents for your kiddos to read as they get older, or for older kids let them send an e-mail to their grandparents.
4. Sandpaper letters - these are a Montessori tool to teach letter recognition. The idea is a child traces the letter to learn about formation to help with writing practise. Vin has never been satisfied with just feeling the letters, so I set out some glitter crayons and let him colour in his name. Any kind of tactile/sensory experience grounds the information in a child's memory as it is being experienced and processed in different ways (such as through the sense of touch and sight at the same time) this also includes mark-making practise and beginning to ascribe meaning to those marks and scribbles.
5. Write names on everything - I always label the kid's artwork before they begin to colour/paint etc. If you only have one kiddo this might not seem necessary (no worry about another kiddo taking home your creation!) but it is a very simple way to expose your child to their name in a natural way. They also begin to learn the implication, this drawing has my name on it, therefore it is mine. You could also get your kiddo to make a sign for their bedroom door, label their juicebottle or toybox - the key is that it is natural (rather than labelling the entire house 'doorframe', 'shoerack' etc!)
6. As above annotating drawings and artworks is a fun way to play - when Vinnie tells me what he is drawing (I never ask or prompt at this stage) I label the picture with his words. Nine times out of ten it is a picture of himself with a dinosaur or superhero. This way he begins to create 'stories' and he sees his name linked with his pictures.
7. Sand tray - again with the sensory aspect, here we used coloured salt, but you could also try shaving foam, goop, coffee, mud or water. At first kids will want to explore the sensory materials in the same way they are used to (pouring, scooping, running through their fingers etc) let them do this until they are satisfied, then just before their interest wanders you begin to 'write' letters. Do this naturally, as if you are doing it for yourself and most times they will be curious and want to try (as I mentioned before, anything an adult does seems interesting and important to a little kid). As they get a bit older you can introduce printed letters for them to try to copy, or bury them under the filler and let them brush away/ dig up/ trace the letters of their name.
8. Have fun when you're out and about (a good car-trip game) with this Letter I-Spy from Nurturestore
9. Find books with characters with the same name as your child - I appreciate that this may be easier said than done, but we have a Vincent book (Vincent the Vain by Sam Lloyd), so it's worth a look! As you know favoured books get top billing and are often learnt by heart (memorisation being a precursor to actual reading!) I can't stress enough regular exposure in a natural way (a print-rich home rather than a labelled home) is the best way for children to learn!
10. Eat your name - a set of alphabet cookie cutters is a great addition to your 'toolbox'. Use your favourite recipe to make name cookies like these ones from Red Ted Art, cut out tortilla wraps or sandwiches. I've also seen frozen yoghurt letters, or you could try using silicone molds to make chocolate letters or ice cubes.
So friends, I hope I have inspired you to add some fun to your learning time. If you liked this post be sure to sign up for updates, RSS or e-mail or check out the fun on Facebook, Twitter and G+