A baby hears it early and she hears it often, perhaps more often than any other word: her name. Endearments surround her and baby talk too, but her name is a constant, a loving refrain in her auditory environment.
We wonder what it must be like, that moment when a baby realizes that those sounds, those syllables mean ... me! What a discovery! Now he knows who he is!
For toddlers and preschoolers, the obsession continues. Once they have learned what their names are, they begin to learn from their names. Amazing! It works like this: the first letter a little one usually learns is, you guessed it, the first letter of his name. And the first word a preschooler learns to read? Her name, but of course. And what word do you suppose most kids first learn to write? Do we need to spell it out? M-Y N-A-M-E!!
To help your own proud bearer of his or her very own given name get the most out of the lovely sounds, syllables and letters that compose it, allow us to suggest a few highly popular (at least with the preschool crowd) name-based activities. Spell it, say it, write it, read it, decorate it, shout it! A name, as we all know, can take you far.
Write your child's name on a piece of paper in large block letters. Have her use safety scissors to cut several colors of construction paper into small pieces (you can do this part for younger children). Next have her decorate her name by gluing the scraps of paper onto the block letters. Let your child help you choose a special place to display her name mosaic. This project is great for building hand strength, working on hand-eye coordination, and developing this all-important fine motor skills
Cut out a tree trunk with several branches. Then cut out leaves in various colors—for a spring tree, you can use lighter shades of green; for an autumn tree, use reds and oranges. Have your child write each letter in his or her name on a separate leaf and then glue the leaves on the branches to spell out their name. Lots of fun and a nice keepsake.
The Name Game
With a group of children have them sit in a circle and have them take turns clapping out the rhythm for a name, especially their own, while saying the name. The other children should repeat the name while clapping the rhythm. For example Mi-chael would be clap-clap or Me-lin-da would be clap-clap-clap. An excellent introduction to the concept of syllables.
Clothes Pin Names
Write each letter of your child's name on a separate clothes pin. On a piece of paper, write your child's name. Mix up the clothes pins and have your child find each letter in their name, match it to the letter on the paper, and clip it on the paper. For an added challenge, add extra letters on clothes pins that your child will have to eliminate from the pile. This activity is a great way for kids to learn to identify the letters in their names.
Spot Your Name
This is a fun way to encourage letter recognition and spelling of your child's name: Have your child write down her name on a piece of paper or if they are still learning to write their name, write it yourself in bold, capital letters. Then, using alphabet flashcards, which you can either purchase or make yourself, show each letter, one-by-one. When a letter matches one that is in your child's name, she crosses it out with a marker. When all the letters are crossed out, she shouts "bingo." This game is best played with more than one child, but is also a good learning tool for just one younger child who is learning to spell her name. If you like, you can give a sticker to the "winner" for a job well done.
Whose Name Is It?
On a piece of paper, write the name of your child, a family member, friend, pet, favorite character from a book or TV show, etc. and ask your child to guess whose name it is. If she needs help you can give her clues (example: it is someone in your family, it's a girl, etc.). Be sure to talk about the sounds that the letters make. This activity has kept my daughter entertained while waiting for her food in a restaurant many, many times.
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