Whether you’re on the playground or at the table with a paper and pen, tons of sneaky games exist to help our little ones learn to recognize, spell, and appreciate one of the most important gifts they will ever receive — their names!
From the letter sounds to writing, here are ten games to play with names:
- Name Tic-Tac-Toe: There’s no reason that this old standby needs to be stuck hanging with Xs and Os. Use the letters of your child’s name to really make Tic-Tac-Toe interesting!
- Sound Clap: Emphasizing each syllable of your child’s name as he’s swinging, jumping rope, or tossing a ball out back will help him develop an awareness of sounds that will help build a solid foundation for early literacy. Clap once for each syllable, or give him a push on the swing for each syllable. Talk about how Madeline’s name has three syllables, Ella’s name has two, and Max’s name has one. Think of as many one-syllable, two-syllable, and three-syllable names you can!
- First-Letter Love: Get your child to love, adore, be proud of — his letter, the first letter of his name. Hunt around your house for every single place you can find “his letter,” and place a tiny chart sticker next to it. Then count the stickers and celebrate!
- Letter Mix-Up: Take out the letters of your child’s name, place them in front of your child, then mix up the order. Switch the first two letters, and have your child help you build her name again. Then mix up the last two letters, and do the same thing. Try turning one letter around, upside-down, or sideways, and then ask your little one to help you get her name back in order. For a challenge, mix up all of the letters or introduce your last name.
- Food Names: Using a handful of alphabet crackers or alphabet cereal letters, have children search for as many “first letters” as they can. Find all of their letters, build their name, and then eat it.
- Water Name: On a sunny day, let your child paint her letter — or her whole name — on rocks, on your steps, on your back porch, or on the sidewalk using water and a paintbrush. Have her work toward painting her whole name before it evaporates.
- Crazy Name: Find something your child normally doesn’t write with — a huge poster marker, a toothbrush, a feather pen, a branch from a tree, or a super-skinny paint brush — and invite him to write his name using those items.
- Letter Search: Using magnetic letters, letter stickers, or any other letter manipulatives, grab the letters of your child’s name and 3 to 5 extra letters. Lay them out in front of him, and search for his letters. Hold up the correct letter along with another letter, and ask him to help you hunt for each letter, one by one. To “up” the fun factor, have your child use tongs or chopsticks to pick up each letter.
- Cookie Tray Name: Spread dry Jell-O mix, shaving cream, rice, or sand on a cookie tray, and write names using fingers. Shake the tray and begin again!
- ABC Name Book: Brainstorm all of your friends’ and family members’ names. Write the “A” names on one page, the “B” names on another, and so on. Clip the pages together, and you have an ABC Name Book, perfect for reinforcing beginning letter sounds!
Names are the very first gifts parents give to their children, so names should be celebrated in every way possible. As a teaching tool, there’s no stopping when it comes to name games, especially these super-easy games that can be played on the fly, with little to no prep or cleanup.