In my opinion, the good old tried and true ABC song is the best way to introduce your child to the ABC's. You can sing it during diaper changes, while riding in the car, and even get the grandparents to join in the fun. But, after the introduction song, children need to be exposed to letters. Reading books together is an obvious first choice to start your child on the path of learning. However, there are also some great interactive products you can use to shake up the learning a bit. Here are a few resources we have tried. They would all make good Christmas presents.
LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Alphabet Set - (Ages 24 Months to 5 Years)
We bought our fridge set when my daughter was around 1-1/2. I credit our set for helping her learn to recognize and identify the letters at an early age. Fridge phonics comes with a reader that magnetically sticks to the fridge and a set of 26 magnetic uppercase letters. We also purchased the Lowercase Letters Expansion Pack so that she could learn those as well.
ABC Wooden Alphabet Blocks - (Ages 18 Months and up)
Build, stack and learn at the same time! Alphabet blocks are just one of those essential items every child should own. There seems to be an endless variety of types available. The UNCLE GOOSE line is available in English and foreign languages and best of all, are American Made in Grand Rapids, MI.
Find It Games Kids Version - (Ages 5+)
Plastic pellets in a tube hide 48 different objects including all 26 letters of the alphabet. My daughter loves to shake it and see what she can find. Apparently there is a penny hidden somewhere inside, too, but we can't seem to find it! The game is especially great for car rides as all parts are contained inside the tube.
Wipe Clean Flash Cards ABC - (Ages 3+)
Priddy Books offers one of the best wipeable "learn to write the letters" tools I've seen. The set includes 26 durable double-sided cards and three dry-erase pens all in a handy plastic storage container. Children can concentrate on learning to write one letter at a time using each card separately. You can also use them as regular flash cards, too, to develop letter recognition. Includes both lower and uppercase letters.
A B SEAS Alphabet Fishing Game by Discovery Toys. - (Ages 4 - 8)
This alphabet fishing game is one of my favorite Discovery Toys products. Each player uses a fishing pole to "catch" the letter fish displayed on their card. Both uppercase and lowercase letters are represented. You can also learn foreign language alphabets by adding the French or Spanish letters. (The product is item #2028 and is available through the Discovery Toys website or from individual consultants.)
Some new, innovative options we'd love to try:
ABC3D by Marion Bataille
Just released on October 14, 2008, this 3D hardcover pop-up book is a current bestseller. Apparently amazing to look at together with your kids, it's a book they will remember forever. Probably want to keep it stored out-of-reach, though!
Fisher-Price Smart Cycle (Ages 36 months - 6 years) Exercise, play games and learn, too...isn't technology great? It hooks right up to your television for hours of exercise filled, arcade-like play. Kids learn letters, numbers, shapes and colors the fun way. The product has gotten some mixed reviews, but it is worth mentioning nonetheless, if only for it's novelty. Wish they built an adult version. Maybe I'd loose the baby weight a little faster!
LeapFrog® Tag Reading System (Ages 4 - 8)
This interactive reading taken to a new level. While nothing can replace reading with your children, this little device looks like the next best thing. The tag reader is a little camera inside a pen that reads words from special Tag books. Looks as if this will be a hot seller this Christmas!