Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Flash Cards with Toddlers ~ What’s All the Hype?

There seems to be a lot of hype about teaching toddlers how to read with flash cards. I personally don’t think that toddlers have the brain development to be able to read at their age. In my child care program, I use flash cards not to teach them how to read, but to teach them that each object has a name with pictured flash cards. This helps the little ones with their language development as they learn to use words when they have a need to express what they want.

In addition, I use them for:
  •         The letter of the week ~ associating the letter with the letter’s sound along with a story that encourages the use of the letter’s sound. 
  •   The color of the week ~ flash cards with a splash of color for each color along with a game I like to call “color grouping” during the week. 
  •   The number of the week ~ two cards: one card with the number and a separate counting card corresponding to the number.
Why are flash cards important?
Toddlers absorb vocabulary like a sponge. This is important as they will take this knowledge with them when they advance to preschool, kindergarten and beyond. You may or may not agree with me, but if you present flash cards in a playful manner and not push each child to learn, they will want to engage with the daily exposure for letters, numbers, and colors. You can do this without setting any expectations. Some move on to preschool level with remembering some letters, numbers and colors. Some move on to preschool level gathering their experiences from a routine with lots of knowledge. That’s ok, because every child learns at his own pace. The point is, your little one will move on to school with a good memory of the fun of learning. That memory will stay with him as he merges onto a higher level of preschool, kindergarten and beyond.

Here are some suggestions of what to look for in flash cards:
  • To name objects ~ I try to find cards that associate with objects toddlers could relate with in their everyday lives. Even better if the cards include the letters or words relating to the pictures.
  • For letter recognition ~ find flash cards that show a picture with the associated letter next to the picture. 
  • Color recognition ~ some flash card packets already include colors. You can also find packets that have splashes of color on each card. 
  • For number recognition and counting ~ I use flash cards that include objects to count adding up to the number card. Some packets come with cards with the numbers and separate counting cards corresponding to the numbers. I usually go up to the number 10 when selecting the number of the week for this age group.

Where to find these flash cards?
  • There’s an app for that? Yes, apparently you can download flash card games for toddlers on your electronic device. A huge list came up when I googled “baby flash card games”. 
  • I personally like to have actual cards when sharing with a small group, so you can also find the flash cards online through Amazon under “flash cards for baby”.  
  • Here are some educational websites that are my personal favorites:  
  • Kaplan Early Learning Company @ 
  • Lakeshore @ 
  • Play with a Purpose @ 
  • School Specialty 
  • One Step Ahead @ 

Here is how I use flash cards in a “fun of learning” environment:
Every week I choose a color of the week, letter of the week, and number of the week. These cards are posted on the child care room wall for the little ones to see every day. I pull out cards from the object flash cards that start with the letter of the week and post them on the child care wall as well.

When it’s flash card time, I gather all the cards along with the box of object flash cards. We all sit together on the floor.

For example, I have the kids pull one toy from the toy box that is “purple” (the color that week) then they come sit in front of me. If they need help, then either I or one of the older kids help find another purple toy.  (If you feel you don’t have a big enough group, that’s ok because this can even work for a couple of little ones too.)

After we all settle down sitting in front of me, I pull the color card and ask them what color it is. Then we all shout out “purple”. We all show off and point to the purple toys we pulled out. Then we see if anyone is wearing purple and point that out as well. I have found songs from the Internet for us to sing together relating to the color of the week. (See the bottom of this article for suggested songs.)I sing the song while they usually clap with me and I always get giggles and smiles when I’m singing the color song and sometimes they sing along with me.

Next, I pull the letter card. If the letter of the week is “K”, I point to the letter and I ask what makes the ka ka ka sound? Usually one or two shout out the letter while I’m pointing to the letter. Then we all shout out “K”. On the letter cards I found, they have a picture of something related to the letter like a kite for “K”. I also point to pictured cards I posted on the wall that relate to the letter. I say those words as they naturally repeat what I say.

Overtime, I have copied pictures I found on the Internet adding the word on the bottom. I took these pictures to a local office supplies store to laminate these cards. I post these cards on the child care wall relating to the letter of the week.

In addition, to encourage the fun of learning the sound of each letter, I found short poems relating to each letter online through Madison Public Schools
For example:

Katie clicks her camera.
/k/k/k/k/k/, it goes.
The pictures come out crisp and clear.
So give a smile…/k/k/k/k/k/.
Katie is here!

I read the poem to them and encourage them to make the letter sound along with me. I point to the letter on top of the poem and say, “That’s the sound of ‘K’.”

Next, I pull out the number card. If the number of the week is “5”, I ask if anyone knows what number this is. Then I show a separate counting card with objects to count. On the “5” card, they have five little jars. I start with one child at a time. I say “Get your pointing finger out and lets count.” or “Are you ready to count?” Usually, they automatically have their counting finger ready. I guide them as we count together out loud up to “5”. Some have been doing this routine with me for a while and count without my assistance. I would help when they aren’t sure what the next number is. Then I show the number 5 card again. It’s amazing how quickly they pick up counting when working with them every day.

Next, I get the box of the remaining flash cards of a variety of pictured objects. I only pull out about 15 to 20 cards a day (about 4 for each child in front of me or around 8 cards for just a couple of little ones). If I pull a large amount of cards, it would seem too overwhelming for them and they would lose interest. I start with one child at a time. I fan out four cards at a time and ask the child to pick a card. Toddlers love to pick their own cards out. Let’s say she pointed to a ball. I pull the card out to show the group. I ask the child who pointed to the card if she knows what this is. If she doesn’t know, then I ask if anyone knows what this is. Usually one would shout “ball”, then we all shout “ball” together. Then if the ball is purple (color of the week) I would point that out as well. Then if I have an older child that is recognizing letters, I ask that child what letter makes the “baa” sound as I’m pointing to the first letter of the word “ball”. Sometimes the child will shout out the letter “B” or if she needs help, I or someone else will shout out the letter.

Next, I put that card to the back of the card pile and fan out the next four cards for the next child to pick a card. I do the same as the first child and continue until all 15 or 20 cards are used up. There’s lots of high fives and praises when a child says the correct word, color, number, or letter. Praises are given, even if they make the effort to try. I make it fun. The whole flash card time only takes about 20 minutes.

Recently, I stenciled the alphabet letters and numbers at the little one’s eye level on my child care wall. So, when we are doing the flash cards, we sit by the stenciled wall and point to the letters and numbers on the wall. Even during free play time, I notice the little ones pointing to the stenciled letters and numbers.

Here are the list of songs for the color of the week:
We usually clap along with the beat of the songs.

Purple Song
Sing to the tune: “Three Blind Mice”

We love purple, we love purple.
Yes, we do. Yes, we do.
Purple grapes and eggplant,
Purple plums and grape juice,
Just for me, just for you.
We love purple.

Yellow Song
Sing to the tune: “If You’re Happy and You Know It” (point to the children’s clothes or toys while singing the song)

If you see something yellow, wiggle, jiggle.
If you see something yellow, wiggle, jiggle.
Wiggle, jiggle just like Jell-O.
If you see something yellow, wiggle, jiggle.

Pink Song
Sing to the tune: “I’m a Little Teapot” (hold a pig puppet or stuffed pig while singing the song)

I’m a little piggy
with a round pig nose.

I’m all pink
from my head to my toes.

Here’s my piggy tail,
as you can see.
It’s pink and curly
as it can be.

You can find other color songs and different theme songs online through Preschool Express

For more fun activities for this age group view Iva’s book Precious Years Leaps & Bounds for only $9.99


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