No doubt you’ve seen a variety of alphabet tracing boards for sale online. Even Target has hopped on the wooden letter tracing board bandwagon!
Alphabet tracing boards usually feature grooves for tracing letters with a finger or using a wooden stick or tracing tool. There’s even a version with metal beads and a magnetic pen. Or, you can opt for a chalkboard with letters painted on it for your child to trace with chalk.
You can pick an uppercase or lowercase letter tracing board. Some versions feature cursive letters instead of print letters. Some of the handmade alphabet tracing boards are even double sided, with lowercase letters on one side and uppercase letters on the reverse.
But what happens when you’ve got so many options? Analysis paralysis!
Spend any time on Instagram and Pinterest and you'll start believing that you need all the things if you want to help your preschooler learn letters at home.
I polled the parents who follow me on Instagram and 94% of them said they struggle to know which alphabet toys are worth buying for their toddler or preschooler.
Has this been on your mind lately too? You're not alone!
Thanks to the toy industry, you can feel like you’re depriving your toddler or preschooler if you don't provide a variety of alphabet puzzles, blocks, flash cards, stamps, magnetic letters etc for learning the ABCs.
And what if your toddler isn’t interested in those alphabet toys or seems “bored”? Of course you start thinking you need something new.
Honestly, most of the alphabet activities and toys I see online seem to have the goal of keeping children busy, but without much strategy behind them. Alphabet tracing boards are NO exception!
Are you hoping that an alphabet tracing board will help your preschooler learn the ABCs and get ready for writing letters?
But does "learning letters" mean uppercase letters or lowercase letters? What about print versus cursive letters? There's also the question of teaching letter names or instead focusing just on letter sounds to get your preschooler ready for learning phonics.
Here’s another question you might not have thought of yet: Is an alphabet tracing board really the best tool for learning letters?
Regardless of what "learning letters" means to you, any alphabet tracing board with the entire alphabet on it is WAY TOO SMALL for a preschooler to trace!
It doesn’t matter if it’s magnetic or wooden alphabet tracing board or one of those beautiful, handcrafted ones that’s locally made from reclaimed wood.
I know that having the entire alphabet on a single board seems like a good idea and it’s easy for an adult to trace. But it's not so easy for a toddler or preschooler!
Children who are 2 or 3 years old are better served by pre-writing activities that strengthen the hand and build the concentration needed to trace letters.
It isn’t until around 4 years that children typically have the hand strength and coordination to properly hold the tracing tool that comes with some alphabet tracing boards.
If you’re not there to supervise your child using the alphabet tracing board, how likely is it that your toddler or preschooler is going to trace all of the letters with the right pathway? Learning the wrong pathway is not going to be helpful at all!
Now, you might be planning to use the alphabet tracing board as a sensory activity until your preschooler is ready for learning letters.
No doubt you’ve seen photos of the grooved letters of a wooden alphabet tracing board filled with rainbow rice. But whenever I see those rainbow rice photos, I’m pretty sure that the parent did the work to make everything look perfect for Instagram. Am I right?!
I also wonder what a toddler or preschooler is actually learning about letters from dumping rainbow rice all over an alphabet tracing board as a sensory activity. You too?
For all of these reasons, I think you shouldn't waste your money on an alphabet tracing board!
Each lowercase letter is on its own individual board. The letters are LARGE. Some letters like this “k” are 3x5 inches. That's about 1/4 the size of an entire alphabet tracing board!
Montessori sandpaper letters are ideal because your child needs to use movements that involve the whole arm to really develop muscle memory of the pathway for each letter.
Tracing each lowercase tactile letter and saying its sound will help your child develop muscular, visual and auditory memory of the alphabet letters. Ideally your child will trace each letter with the pointer and index fingers to help develop the proper grip for holding a pencil.
That's why I created the Teaching Letter Sounds Toolkit. It's the proven strategy and resource bundle that walks you through 8 activities you can do before you start using Montessori sandpaper letters so that your child understands that letters represent speech sounds. Then you'll learn 8 sound-letter matching activities using Montessori sandpaper letters. All of the printables that you'll need to teach the 26 alphabet letters sounds are included!
It’s a bit of a mindset shift to invest in your own education rather than buying learning toys and materials for your child. But when you educate yourself about child development and how to best help your preschooler learn letters, then you’ll SAVE money by buying just the learning materials that you actually need.
Rather than wasting money on an alphabet tracing board with letters that are too small for a preschooler to trace correctly, you can invest in the Teaching Letter Sounds Toolkit to get all the printables and activity scripts you'll need to help your child learn letter sounds.
Plus you'll learn exactly how to use Montessori sandpaper letters to help your child develop muscular, visual and auditory memory of the alphabet letters. This is going to make it so much easier for your child to learn phonics and start reading.
I know you want to help your preschooler learn letters for writing and reading. But you’ll want your preschooler to understand what the letters actually mean, not just memorize them!