A literacy rich environment is one that exposes children to print from an early age. Access to books, educational toys, and other writing at home all contribute to a literacy rich environment. Care givers who spend time talking to, playing with, and reading to children will maximize the benefits of early exposure to print. Alphabet toys can also help create a literacy rich environment in your home. Exposure to letter names and sounds will give your child the foundation they need to learn to read at school age.
Top 6 Alphabet Toys
1) Wood alphabet blocks
This classic toy has a lot of potential. As you make towers with your child, you can show them the letters and tell them what they are.
I own the Granimal alphabet blocks. The Uncle Goose blocks seem to be a high quality option. Although I normally like Mellissa & Doug products, their alphabet blocks received poor reviews for chipping paint and a small size.
2) Alphabet Puzzles
This Melissa & Doug alphabet puzzle says the letter names when the each puzzle piece is put in place (e.g., “A is for apple). The sensors will say the letter that is covered, whether or not the right letter is placed in the spot. Parent guidance during play may help with this issue. Also, when not using the puzzle, keep the pieces in place or lights and other movement may trigger the sensors. Recommended for ages 3 and up due to small parts, but may be appropriate for younger children while supervised.
If you prefer a standard puzzle (no electronics), this Timy Wooden Alphabet puzzle has nice chunky pieces. Letter names and sounds could be practiced with adult help. For example, if the child is putting the A in place, the adult could say, “That is an A.”
3) Letter Factory
I have this Leap Frog Letter Factory. When each letter is placed in the top, a brief song with the letter name and sound is played. This toy is a great way to introduce children to letter names and sounds. The numbers 1 – 10 are also included in this set. I select a few letters for each play time and keep the rest put away. I have also used this set to create a structured teaching activity.
If you prefer magnetic letters, these sets can be kept on the refrigerator. The buses play songs, teach letter names and sounds, and will also use the letter in words and sentences. The magnetic version is more affordable then the previous version, but I personally do not like magnetic toys as they end up stuck under my refrigerator. A large magnetic board could be attached to a wall to prevent this issue.
4) Magnetic Letters
Magnetic letters come in a variety of style and material options. Be cautious of cheap plastic letters with small magnets in the back. Small magnets may become dislodged and post a choking hazard for young children. This Pixel Premium set is a safer option with a flat magnet fully covering the back of each letter. The Set comes with a dry erase magnet board and also includes free access to an e-book collection. The chunky foam letters are easy to manipulate and come with both capital and lower case letters.
If you prefer a sturdy wooden toy, this Classic Alphabet Set is another premium choice. Both upper and lower case letters and included. Like the Pixel set, each letter is fully backed with a magnet for safety.
5) Alphabet Computers
This Alphabet Apple also teaches letter names and sounds. Since all of the letters are attached to the divice as buttons, there will be no small parts to get lost or dumped on the floor to clean up later.
The LeapFrog Laptop also teachers letter names and sounds without small pieces. This toy is appropriate for children as young as 2 years of age. In addition to teaching letters, this toy includes songs, games, and messages.
6) Alphabet Beads
The String my ABC’s toy will introduce your child to colorful letters while also working on fine motor skills.
The included letters are made of wood and easy for small hands to hold. The lace has a wooden end for frustration free stringing.
These 1-inch square beads are also a good choice. Each bead has a capitol and lower case letter. They can also be used for sorting by color.
Benefits of Alphabet Toys
Alphabet toys provide early exposure to letter names and sounds. Knowing either letter names or sounds is one of the biggest predictors of reading success. A literacy rich environment will help children become familiar with letter names and sounds. Alphabet toys can be used as a fun way to explore letters. Many of these sets will last beyond the preschool years and can also be used for fun spelling and matching activities.