Working on the abc’s

We’ve had since very early on quite a lot of alphabet and letter representations at home. It wasn’t part of a conscious pursuit of building early literacy skills, rather more like “look, how cool are these playmats!” or “hey! more bath-time toys!” However, learning to identify numbers and letters has come quite naturally in these circumstances. 

First ones were our foam bath-time letter and numbers. We’ve been playing with them in the bathtub since little gosling could sit on his bum unassisted. To this day, it’s one of his favourite things to do. We started by just putting them up on the bathroom tiles one by one. At one point, I started identifying the numbers and letters, reciting words that started with the different letters. Then we used them for colour recognition and for many months now, we’ve been working on letter recognition. I would ask him to give me a red one; or “F for flower; and fox, and finger; and foot; and food”; or “S for snake, for snail, for star or for sunflower”. Truth be told, it’s probably much more fun when he plays with his dad. There’s still some letter recognition involved (in Romanian), but they get to compete at throwing and sticking them onto the wall opposite the bathtub, with the sweetest, funniest squeaks and squeals :). 

Next came a wooden alphabet puzzle, when he was around 18 months. Little gosling loves puzzles, he gets very focused on the job. At the time, this was one of the more complex puzzles he had. It took him some days of work, but he managed quickly to finalise it without help. I was so much in awe with his visual memory, no way he could remember all the information he was getting from me about the letters. I remember us playing with the puzzle over his second Christmas. He was able to recognise a couple of letters: A (for his mummy’s name); R for rhino; T (for his name). I thought that was so amazing :))). 

We started, then, playing with his foam letter playmat. This must have been some weeks after his second birthday. He helped me dismantle it and put it back together every time we cleaned the floor or/and washed it. I’d ask him to give me the letters one by one. R for rhino, X, L for lullaby, K for kiss, M for mom, W for whale, waterfall, watercan and waterlily, and Z for zebra were the easiest ones. He would get those without any thinking. He struggled with N (even though N is for No :)))), which he mixed up with Z a lot (they really do look alike, don’t they?!). Similarly, he got confused with J and U; he associated both with “umbrella” (again, quite understandable, right?!). From there on, it was a matter of a few weeks before he could identify most letters on his own. We used associations with characters from the books we read or even with the book titles. B for boat (and badger/bursucul from Peter Bentley’s and Charles Fudge series with Bramble the badger); C for cat; D for dingo (from the dingos in Rachel Bright and JIm Field’s “The Koala who could”); G for giraffe (for “Giraffes can’t dance) or gruffalo; H for hug (one of my favourites :)); S for snake and “The Secret Sky Garden”. At this point, I, Q, U were still difficult (“I don’t know these one, mummy”) and some confusion between several letters still persisted: M vs. N, K vs.X, occasionally C vs. G and O vs zero. 

With two years and two months approximately, little gosling started identifying and pointing to numbers and letters on the street, on posters or on labels. I remember how surprised and amazed we were when, one day, at the lunch table, he started reading (right to left!!! :)))): A for mummy’s name; P for penguin; S for snake. We had a bottle of SPA mineral water on the table. He went on: penguin, U, rhino, “efelu” (excavator in his language :P). Pure. Still on the water bottle. That was pretty awesome and both his daddy and I were very excited about it. 

Around two months later, I got him this beautifully colored wooden alphabet crocodile puzzle during our only week of holidays this year, in a little shop in the Moselle valley in Germany. I thought he would love it; partly because he loves puzzles, but also because there is this French nursery rhyme about a crocodile that he loves so much. He wasn’t so much into doing the puzzle the first time we took it out; he just wanted to gather all the pieces together into a bowl and carry them around. He didn’t look at it for weeks. 

One day I took it out: “let’s try and do it with an abc book” and… it worked. We opened the book on the playmat and he starts looking for the puzzle pieces containing each letter, in the order in which they appear in the book. Mummy’s role is one of support. I turn the pages and make sure he looks first at the page on the left side. He’s always going ahead and looking at the first letter that appears, on the right-hand side. Every two-three letters he excitedly calls on his dad: “daddy, look what I did!”. He’s so very satisfied when he finishes his puzzle, jumping around the crocodile, laughingly :).  

We started with Rosalind Beardshaw’s “ABC – A Walk in the Countryside. Such a sweet and engaging book! I love the idea of an ABC book telling a story and little gosling loves Rosalind Beardshaw’s Lola, so…I had to have it! :)) It runs through the alphabet whilst two kids wander about happily playing, observing and marveling at nature’s small creations. Even in what looks like chilly, rainy weather :P. The colours are warm and the images are playful, full of joy and of wonderful child-like joie de vivre. Little gosling’s favourites are M for mole, because of the mounds of dirt they make in the grass (of which we saw many during one of our outings on a nature reserve) and Y for yacht, that the kids are pulling along with a string from the river bank. I for ivy and J for jacket are close seconds and the most difficult one seems to be Q for queue. 

At one point, he wanted another book and went for Tim Hopgood’s ABC book. This one also has the small letters and it includes words that we don’t encounter that much otherwise, such as “newt”, “island”, “quail” or “xerus”!!! The illustrations are brightly colored and vary in size from half a page to a two-pager. For “Y” there’s a small mirror included that little gosling invariably and excitedly calls a “sun” :)))). I love “U”; he looks at the “universe” every time and asks “where is the universe, mummy?”. The universe is all around us, everywhere, I tell him. And then he recalls mummy telling him during some of our bedtime routines that the “universe is always growing”.. 

More recently – yes, we’ve been doing the crocodile each day for a while now -, he switched to Virginie Morgand’s “ABC off to sea!” He loves the dolphins, the mermaids, the wooden-legged pirates and the unusual names: Ivor, the parrot and Ulysses, the cat. 

Every once in a while, when we read together, he starts identifying the letters in random words here and there! He’s getting quite quick at it! 

Leave a Comment