Toys That Teach the ABCs

Toys That Teach the ABCs

By Aubrey Everett

Most of us probably don’t remember learning our ABCs. This fundamental skill is a building block for communication, reading, writing, and many other cognitive abilities. Teaching a toddler to learn and understand the ABCs can be a fun and interactive activity, and the best part is, you may have been doing it already without even noticing.

As my toddler was learning words and phrases and working hard on his communication skills, he would often pick things up and name them, or point to an object and try to work out the pronunciation. One day he ran over to me with one of his father’s shoes in his hand. He was excitedly saying “Z! Z!” At first I could not figure out why. The New Balance sneaker had a large N on the side. It was then that he turned the shoe and I noticed a sideways N looks just like a Z. I wasn’t even aware he knew the 26th letter, but there he was, pointing it out to me, in a very unique way.

One day he ran over to me with one of his father’s shoes in his hand. He was excitedly saying “Z! Z!” At first I could not figure out why. The New Balance sneaker had a large N on the side.

I quickly noticed my son was picking out letters all over the place, without much prompting. We reinforced his excitement when he got a letter correct, and incorporated a few toys and books into our routine to keep his momentum going. Here are a few of our favorites.

Alphabet pictures

An alphabet tray with corresponding pictures is a great way to connect letters with words and objects. It presents as a fun toy, but toddlers are steadily learning their ABCs along the way.

Consider: Alphabet Pictures (via Bicycle Pie)

In the tub

Bath time can also serve as learning time. These lightweight foam letters stick to the side of the tub and float. With oversized letters in numbers in an array of colors, the set also presents an opportunity to learn colors.

Consider: Munchkin 36 Bath Letters & Numbers (via Amazon)


A huge portion of our toddler’s learning comes from interaction with books. Once you have a few books that specifically address learning the ABCs, you can start to help them recognize letters in any book they pick off the shelf.


ABC for Me: What Can I Be? (via Bicycle Pie)
ABCs on Wheels (via Bicycle Pie)
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (via Amazon)
Jane Foster’s ABCs (via Bicycle Pie)

Matching game/flash cards

Toddlers love matching games, and most sets can also serve as a great way to learn letters. The objects are often simple and easy to identify, and it doesn’t have to feel like a structured memorization tactic.


I am not ashamed to say that my son has picked up plenty of knowledge from watching TV. Educational cartoons such as Cocomelon and Dino The Dinosaur teach the basics of letters, colors and numbers, while toddler programs such as Daniel Tiger and Bluey reinforce those learned skills.


If you have a toddler at fridge height, or dishwasher height, or just generally pint-sized, providing a set of magnets to play with can be a useful distraction. It gives them the opportunity to start puzzling out simple words, patterns, and even their own name.


About the author: Aubrey works in higher education and is the mother to an active and inquisitive son. She lives in the Boston area where she enjoys taking family walks along the beach, reading books, and introducing new foods to her son. Writing about motherhood allows her to connect to other parents and give voice to a challenging yet exciting time.  

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