Learning our name is the springboard for literacy learning in the early years. Children’s names are the most important words to them and learning them leads to all other types of learning. When we talk about teaching children their names, it is important to consider these three stages.
The first stage of learning names occurs when children start to recognise them. Young children begin to recognise the shape of their initial letter and often identify that first letter as “My name!” They might find that initial letter in other places (separate from their names), point to it and say, “Look! There’s my name!” even if it is just the one letter. In Pre-Kindy, we can do lots of things to foster children’s recognition of their names. We label everything with their names and pictures, so that they begin to claim ownership of that very important word.
The next step, after children can recognise their names is to begin to spell them orally. We practice this in many ways. A child might be able to recite, “P-A-I-G-E” without seeing it written down. Then they will notice each letter. We provide a name activity each morning for practice.
When the children are comfortable with recognising and spelling their names, the next step is to work on writing them. Often these steps overlap and work in conjunction with each other. We give our children lots of opportunities to write their names with sidewalk chalk, paint, markers, in salt trays, etc. They are also working on strengthening their hand muscles and refining their fine motor skills. Our older Pre-Kindy students (less than 1 year to kindergarten) can also sign in their names each morning. It’s such a rewarding way to keep track of their progress.
When children begin to write, they often use what they already know about names (from learning to recognise their own name and their friends’ names and from learning to spell them). For an example, the first time Paige write her name (with sidewalk chalk on the driveway), she verbalised her thinking.
“P is for Paige.
P-A… A is for apple.
P-A-I… I is for ice cream.
P-A-I-G…G is for grandma.
P-A-I-G-E...E is for egg.
Look!! I wrote my whole name.”
Learning about names is an essential part of learning about letters and literacy in kindy. Practice recognising, spelling and writing those names in a variety of fun and playful ways.
Some simple name recognition and spelling activities for you to start at home. For most of these activities they will need their name written on paper to assist them in arranging the letter items into the correct order. At first, they will need you to model and assist however with practice and repetition they should be able to complete it independently.
Some easy examples of name learning activities:
1. Bottle caps: write each letter of your child’s name on a bottle cap and get them to order the letters correctly and say the letter names or sounds as they go.
2. letter rocks: same as above but with rocks.
3. Pop Stick name: same as above but with pop sticks.
4.Peg name: same as above but with pegs but this activity is also great for developing fine motor strength
5. Letter magnets: purchase some alphabet magnets and ask them to find the letters in their name and arrange them in order.
6. Matching names to photos: we do this activity on the fridge to match each family members photo to their name in letter magnets. Extension they can spell each family members name using the magnets (only after the can recognise them and we suggest one at a time).
7. Name tracing: on paper or whiteboard can trace lines/dots or inside bubble letters. You can see our example pictured below which we use inside a 'write n wipe' from Elizabeth Richard so we can reuse the activity over and over again.
8. Letter name stickers: match to the letters of their name in the correct order.
9. Circle your name: write your families names at least 3 times each on a piece of paper and ask your child to cross out/circle their name.
10. Name rocks: we use these in so many ways, but a favourite of the kids is to decide where people sit at the dining table.
11. Chalk name: your or your child can write their name in chalk on the driveway, they can them wash/paint with water each letter individually to spell their name.
Of course don't go and make your child do these all activities at once everyday. We use one activity, everyday for a week and rotate through them.
At first we would spend one on one time with our child teaching and modelling how to complete the activity, slowly pulling back our involvement as they developed confidence and independence completing the activity. Children learn best through repetition, the same learning objective "learning your name" but presented in a range of fun and engaging ways. Your child won't even know they are learning if you make it fun, show enthusiasm and are always positive even if they are not getting it.
Remember, they don't have to master it straight away! We are simply exposing them to it so one day it's second nature and they won't even remember a time they couldn't recognise, spell or write their own name.