There are many camps around the usage of screens with kids. Some parents use technology often with their kids because it does provide an opportunity for engaging children in academics. Other parents feel strongly about avoiding screen-time as much as possible because of the lack of social interaction. Whichever camp you may be in, the truth remains that there are powerful benefits to human interaction around early literacy and development. That’s why this round up of screen-free alphabet activities will have your child shouting the letters they see around them every chance they get. After reading this post you will:

  • Learn more about the hype around screen time
  • Know why it is important to strategize your child’s screen-time
  • Get some powerhouse screen-free alphabet activity ideas from some of my favorite bloggers
Variety of screen-free alphabet activities

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The Hype around Screen Time

Many parents feel that technology should be limited around growing minds. To counter that argument, there are an increasing number of educational apps, websites, and videos that could offer many benefits to screen-time.

A lot of these sites and programs provide valuable educational opportunities for kids. Many of the apps are interactive, allowing children to drag and draw to correctly answer questions. They provide engaging platforms to motivate children to play and learn.

Screen-time doesn’t always have to be a bad thing…but you have to be thoughtful of how you are using it to best support your child’s development.

young girl playing with iPad; screen free alphabet activities

Why You SHould be Strategic about Screen-Time

The AAP’s new guidelines around screen-time have specifically stated the importance of parental involvement when children are engaging with technology. There are very good reasons why you shouldn’t just let your child have the iPad to play with alone.

Language Development

Heavy usage of screens can have a significant impact on language development. You may wonder why since many apps, videos, and websites use a lot of language to engage your child.

However, not all language exposure is equal.

Language exposure on screens is considered passive language. It lacks the interaction and context that an actual conversation has. Children 2 and older may be able to bridge this gap, but kids younger than 2 need significant language exposure that is interactive, contextual, and helps them to communicate their basic wants and needs.

Screens can’t provide the support language development in a way that helps children make sense of the world around them.

Social Development

Social development also takes a backseat when screens are prevalent. Think about it. Your child can’t learn how to read body language, interact with others, share, and make friends from a computer.

They may learn about these things on screens, but the real learning comes from doing. Real-life context and situations help them to understand others’ feelings and behaviors. It also helps them to understand how to react in certain situations so that they can handle adversity better the next time it crosses their path.

Child learning the alphabet on tablet; screen-free alphabet activities

So…How do You Strategically Manage Screen-Time?

There are a couple of things you can do to help your child make the most of the technology that’s out there without having negative effects on development.

Make It Meaningful

You can bring life into the 2-dimensional screen. Make whatever your child is doing 3-dimensional.

If there is a music video playing, dance to it or act out the words.

If your child wants to play with an alphabet app, talk them through it by saying something like, “It wants you to find the letter A and drag it into the cup. Can you see the letter A anywhere? Where could that letter A be?”

By repeating the target language over and over, you are bringing vocabulary and language structures into technology. This helps to negate one of tech’s biggest gaps.

Bring It Off the Screen

What your child seems to be interested in on the screen can be brought off the screen as well.

If they are listening to those music videos, you can sing the song yourself and make illustrations for it.

If you are focusing on learning letters, there are so many different activities to do…which finally brings me around to the whole point of this post!

Screen-Free Alphabet Activities

The following screen-free alphabet activities are some tried and true favorites that will bring some life to your child’s letter learning routine. All of these activities can be done with uppercase, lowercase, or both depending on your child’s progress in these areas.

Sticker Match Hunt

Letter cards of letter a; screen-free alphabet activities

You all know how much I love “hunts” for kids. They are engaging, interactive, and get your child moving around and problem solving. Doing a sticker match hunt is pretty simple. Take some time to hide a couple of focus letters for your child using letter cards, post-it notes, index cards, or something similar. You will want to include 2-3 of each letter to hide for no more than 15 hidden cards total.

Take a sticky dots sheet and write a matching letter for every card you have hidden. So if you have hidden 3 letter Gs, you need to write 3 separate sticky dot Gs.

Your child will then take the sticky dots and try to find the cards you have hidden. When they find the cards, they will stick the matching dot on the card.

Flashlight Letters

This activity has been a teacher favorite for a couple of decades now and one I always used in my classroom.

card with letter d on a blue shag carpet; screen-free alphabet activities

Take those letter cards, post-its, or index cards and hide them in a dark room. Sit with your child and a flashlight. Make sure you remember how many cards you hid!

Have your child use the flashlight to try to find all of the cards that you hid. I always like to throw in a challenge with this game too. If your child can name the letter they spot with the flashlight, they get to keep that card. If not, you get to keep it. Whoever has the most cards by the end, wins.

Alphabet Line-Up by Busy Toddler

post-it notes with letters placed on top of a sentence strip with letters to support screen-free alphabet activities

I love this super simple activity by Busy Toddler. Simply tape up some pieces of paper to the wall to make a long strip and write the alphabet on it in order. These make this totally easier.

Then, write each letter once on post-it notes and give them to your child in random order. Have your child match the letter from the post-it by putting it up on the corresponding letter on the wall.

Magnetic Letter Match

boy grabbing a banana near the letter b; screen-free alphabet activities

Use your magnetic letters as a springboard to letter sound recognition. Pick some letters that your child knows the sounds to.

Then, have your child take each letter you have set aside and find something in their environment that starts with that letter sound.

Alphabet Sort by Days with Grey

Sorting is a popular activity to do in early literacy, but I loved Days with Grey’s innovation in making this a lot more hands-on for our littlest learners.

Take a big piece of butcher paper and divide it into columns. Write models of the lines and curves found in the shape of letters on each section (please see image below!).

child sorting magnetic letters; screen-free alphabet activities

Have your child sort their magnetic letters into the appropriate column based on the letter’s appearance.

This is a great activity to practice classification skills and in preparation for writing letters by examining their parts.

Build a Letter

These letter pieces are probably one of the most creative ways to let your child explore letters. Each piece can be combined with others to make letters of the alphabet.

You can have your child create letters using models from letter cards or you can tell them the letter you want them to try to make.

I love that these pieces add a bit of STEM into early literacy and allow children to become critical thinkers as they try to piece together parts to make a whole.

Get Creative with your Screen-Free Alphabet Activities

There are so many ways that you can get creative with the alphabet with tools that you already have on hand like in the alphabet activities above.

Pile of magnetic letters to support screen-free alphabet activities

These activities are a great way to take a break from screen-time while providing the much needed early literacy supports that your child needs to grow into a strong reader. These activities can extend what they are learning in school or online all while packing in some language and social development because of the amazing bonding time they get to share with you.

What are some of your favorite screen-free alphabet activities? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Keep on reading on,