Okay, maybe it's the "teacher" in me but I am excited to share some great resources for learning play. I thought it would be cute one day to teach Ben how to recognize and say the letter "B." Okay, fair enough right? Well, I was astonished when all of a sudden he knew EVERY letter of the alphabet, and I only "taught" him 1 of the 26 letters! I am convinced it is a combination of television shows (oh no, am I an awful parent because my child watches television??) and some educational toys & books. Here are some things I would recommend:
Television: SO controversial, but I truly don't see the harm in letting your child watch TV. Not only does it keep the parent sane, but your child WILL learn from it! I do believe that limiting viewing time is crucial - it cuts back on defiance at bedtime (or possibly any other time) and also decreases the chance of your child developing sleep issues (horrible nightmares). Some great shows are Word World (pictured below), Super Why, and Sesame Street.
Also, pbskids.org is a wonderful website with learning games, episodes, printable coloring pages, and more.
Toys: These toys are pretty annoying, but I have no doubt they played a HUGE roll in Ben learning his letters, numbers, and even animals. They provide audio reinforcement (saying the letters/sounds/words) so the child learns through that repetitiveness. TAG readers are also a great buy (you can find them at WalMart).
Books: Reading to your child is so important. Ben has learned a lot through books as well. Some of his favorites are Curious George's ABCs, Elmo's Search & Find, and Alphabet by Matthew Van Fleet.
Finally, I would recommend reinforcers like flashcards (Eric Carle has some really cute ones), puzzles, and wall decals like the ones I put up in Ben's closet:
I bought these on sale at Lakeshore Learning Store for around $10.00. It came with a lot more stickers, but I just chose to put these ones up.
It is absolutely amazing what these little sponges (our kids' brains) can soak in. That being said, it's important to be mindful of what your little one is exposed to. By choosing products designed with learning in mind, you are giving your child a great gift!