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Exploring Letters & Name Recognition Activities

Alphabet stamps at How we Montessori on play dough pre reading

While at this age I don't feel it's important for the child to be able to write their name, it becomes more and more important that they can recognise their name. 

"Our names are a crucial part of who we are. They give us a sense of identity, attachment and belonging. Right from the earliest moments of our lives we hear our names over and over most often being spoken by the people that we love. Using marks to write their own names is one of the first pieces of writing that many children try to do - saying in effect, 'this is me'! Just think of the graffiti that has existed from ancient times. The urge to mark our name on public surfaces is a very strong one indeed. There are plenty of ways you can motivate your children to learn the shape and letters of their name and make marks to write it." - The Ultimate Guide to Mark Making In The Early Years.

The intention of these activities is for the child to recognise the written form of their name. They also provide the opportunity for the child to explore the positioning, order, patterning of the letters that form their name. I've found that learning their name is often the starting point for children to explore letters. All three of my children have started learning letters beginning with the letters in their name, then the letters from the names of their siblings.

Otto (2 years 10 months) hasn't shown much interest in letters but once I introduced some letters to form his name, for example with playdough stamps and magnetic letters to place them in order, he has developed a strong interest in other words that start with 'o' or 't' and has started to identify these in the written form in the environment (in books, shops, brochures, labels). For Otto 'o' and 't' were the first letters we have explored and it's an entryway into greater phonemic awareness. 

Otto can write his name, however, this is because his name has simple symbols, and it's a palindrome! Writing is not the aim of these activities.  

My rules for these name recognition activities include:

  • focus on the child's first name
  • no correcting - it's about exploration
  • no capital letters - lower case only, our puzzle does have a capital 'O' but fortunately, it is formed the same as the lower case 'o'
  • no worksheets or tracing involved.

Alphabet stamps at How we Montessori on play dough pre reading

Lowercase alphabet playdough stamps above top with playdough and directly above with sensory sand. The benefits of these is that the child can play with placement and it's easily erasable. The can turn the letters sideways or upside down, finding out which way the letters go. 

Alphabet stamps at How we Montessori on play dough pre reading

Magnetic letters on our children's fridge. 

Alphabet stamps at How we Montessori on play dough pre reading

Wooden name puzzle.

Alphabet stamps at How we Montessori on play dough pre reading

Felt letters and Grimm's alphabet cards - to explore texture and different fonts. This is all about the child understanding the patterns and order in their name, what it looks like visually.

Alphabet stamps at How we Montessori on play dough pre reading

Name labels and personalised items. We also have two personalised placemats (here and here), personalised hangers and paint brushes. You can also put the child's name on their bags (backpack), clothing and perhaps on their bedroom door. The idea is for the child to see their name often and to be able to identify their belongings. 

Other name recognition ideas that I really like include:

  • alphabet cookie cutters for play dough or to make cookies or cut our snacks, cake or bread.
  • alphabet stamps with a stamp pad or paint.
  • cut out letters from a magazine or print to paste onto paper.
  • use alphabet stickers to form the child's name on paper or card. 

 I would re-evaluate these activities depending on the child's interest, age, ability and also on their name (and it's length).

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