Once each child in your group has a letter-linked image that starts with the same letter and sound as the child's name, you can begin to use the nametags and letter-linked images as teaching and learning tools!

You will want to start by using the letter link signs or labels you have created on this site to identify the spaces for children’s belongings, such as each child’s cubby and coat hook. In addition, as children make drawings and other projects, help them add letter links you have duplicated for them to their projects or encourage them, if they are ready, to write their name or copy their letter-linked image onto the artwork themselves. In addition to these uses, you can also plan learning activities around letter links.

The following eight starting activities (four for preschoolers and four for infants and toddlers) will help you support and extend children's emerging understanding of the alphabetic principle, phonological awareness, sense of word, and vocabulary. For additional activities, see Letter Links: Alphabet Learning With Children’s Names, by Dr. Andrea DeBruin-Parecki and Mary Hohmann, or the Spanish version, Enlaces de letras: Aprendizaje del alfabeto con los nombres de los niños, or Infant-Toddler Letter Links: Children’s Names as Meaningful Environmental Print by Christine Snyder. For more information on these books, use the menu bar above to go to RESOURCES.


Name Recognition

  1. Identify names and letter links. Make a set of letter links (nametags with pictures) in two or three sizes for each child and adult in your class. At a transition time, spread all the letter links face up on a table or the floor where the children can easily see and reach them. Ask the children to choose their own letter link and take it to their small-group meeting place (or whatever event comes next in the daily routine).

    At a transition time, provide a set of letter links (nametags with pictures) in a box, bag, or spread out on a tray. Hold up a child's letter link, and say "It's [name] turn to hop to the table for snack [or whatever is next]." Wait for one of the children to recognize and say the name of the child whose letter link you are holding.

    At large-group times, use letter links from time to time to designate turns — to choose the next song to sing, to decide which game to play next, to add on to the story you are telling, and so forth. For example, hold up a child's nametag and picture and say "It's [name] turn to decide the place in the room we should march to next."

  2. Match letter links. Make a set of letter link cards (nametags with letter-linked pictures) that will allow children to play a letter link memory game at transition times. Duplicate all of the cards in the same size, with two for each child. Cover the cards with clear contact paper for durability. At the end of a segment of your routine such as small group, planning, or greeting time, spread all the nametag cards face down on the floor. Have each child take turns turning over a card, identifying the name, and leaving the card face up. When two cards turn up with the same name, have the named child hop (jump, skip, or crawl) to the next activity. Let the children know where the nametag cards will be stored (for example, in the toy area) in case they want to play with them during work or choice time.

  3. Identify names. At a transition time, place a set of nametags only (without the letter-linked pictures) in a basket or bag. Draw and hold up a child's nametag, and say "It's [name] turn to jump to the planning table [or whatever event is next in your daily routine]." Wait for one of the children to recognize and say the name of the child whose nametag you are displaying. If no one can identify the name, hold up the letter-linked image that goes with it.

    At large-group times, use nametags (without letter-linked pictures) from time to time to designate which child will choose the next song to sing, decide which game to play next, add on to the story you are telling, and so forth. For example, hold up a child's nametag and say "It's [name] turn to decide which music we should put on for dancing." If no one can identify the name, hold up the letter-linked image that goes with the name.

    At a transition time, once most children can identify their names without referring to their letter-linked pictures, put two sets of nametags in a basket or bag. To begin the activity, say something like this: "I have two nametags for each person in my basket. When I hold up your name, come and get it. When you have your two nametags, one for each hand, you can go wash your hands."
Name Writing
  1. Sign in. In some preschool centers, children’s parents or guardians are required to sign their child in when they arrive and sign them out when they leave together at the end of the session. For these children, signing in themselves is particularly meaningful, in part because children love to imitate what they see adults doing. Whether or not parents are required to sign in, you can make signing in a daily part of the children’s class routine that allows them to write their names and examine the way others write.

    Use the sign-up sheet print option to create a sheet for your class and have one available daily. Even though the list provides each child with a sample of his or her name to look at, remember that children learn to see and write their name in stages. You will see these stages in all their varieties as children sign in each day. Some children will just make a scribble next to their names, others may write one or more letters, and others may write their entire name. Date and save each piece for a daily record of how each child is seeing and writing his or her name. If all children do not have a chance to sign in as they arrive or during morning gathering, assure them that they can sign in during work or choice time, before lunch, or at some other time that day.

    Comment from time to time on what you see children writing as they sign in: "You made a J just like the J in James." "Mira and Madison, both your names start with the letter M!"


Learning Environment and Materials

  1. Make a name and letter link book. Create a book or a ring of cards with a page or card for each child and adult in the class. Include the person’s photo, name, and letter link on each page or card. One book or ring can be made for each primary care group or for the whole classroom. Store the book or ring of cards in the classroom at the children’s level so they are able to hold it and look through it frequently.

  2. Label children’s art or other work using their letter links. Use small tags or mailing labels with children’s names and letter-linked images or draw the child’s letter-linked image to label two- and three-dimensional artwork and writing samples. This will increase children’s familiarity with their letter link and also help them to identify and distinguish their own work. Point out to children why you are labeling their work: to indicate that the work belongs to them! Point to their name and remind them of their letter link.

Schedules and Routines

  1. Identify alliterations. Send older toddlers to the next activity at a transition time by identifying the alliterative sounds in their names and letter links. For example, you might say something like this: “Today, I’m going to say a word that starts with the same sound as your name and then say your name. When you hear two words that start with the same sound as your name, you can go to snack. Here we go!” Say the letter link and the name slowly, with an emphasis on the initial sounds: “Flower, Flora.” [Pause for Flora to respond.] “Apple, Anna.” [Pause.] “Kite, Kayla,” and so forth.

    At another transition, add a third alliterative word to each child’s name and letter-linked phrase. For example, you might say, “Today, listen for three words — your name and two other words that start with the same sound and letter. Ready? Volcano, vise, Vinnie.” [Pause for child to respond.] “Yes, Vinnie — volcano, vise, and Vinnie all start with the same /v/ sound! Vinnie, you can get your book for nap.” [Pause.] “Listen to these words: Star, steps, Steve...,” and so forth.

  2. Explore letter-shaped cookie cutters and play dough during group time with materials. For group time, offer each child a basket with paper, their letter link, play dough, and the cookie cutter letters required to spell the child’s name or the first letter of their name. Include the first letter of other familiar names, such as M for Mom, or D for Dad, or the first letter of a sibling’s name. Children may be more focused on exploring the dough but as they explore, name the letters and point out that those letters make up the child’s name (or a familiar name).