Lesson: Name Puzzles

Concept: Name recognition/letter recognition/name spelling

Works Best for: 2-5 year olds, learning to recognize/write/spell their name

Creating a name puzzle for your child is one of the fastest, and most effective ways to help your child learn to not only recognize, but spell their name. As a bonus, you don’t even need to be “crafty” to be able to make this for your child. Here is what you will need:

Materials: Construction paper, copy/printer paper, sharpie, scissors, glue (How easy does this sound already?!)

Construction: The first thing you will need to do is write your child’s name on the white copy paper using the sharpie. Make sure you write clearly and leave spaces between the letters as you will be cutting them out. As a former kindergarten teacher ,I IMPLORE you to write your child’s name using correct capitalization. Please do not teach your child to write their name using all caps. If you teach them correctly from the beginning, they will not only catch on to other lowercase letters more quickly, but will be better prepared for proper writing. (Coming off my soapbox now..)

After you write your child’s name, (and if you have bad handwriting, PLEASE use a computer and a large font!) glue the name onto a piece of colored construction paper. Then, you will need to cut apart the name, letter by letter, using interesting cuts. You can be as elaborate/simple with your cutting as you wish. You can cut the puzzle to look like actual jigsaw pieces, or just use curves, zig-zags, etc. Just make sure to have just one letter per piece.

You will then want to make a sample of your child’s name for them to look at as an example (especially if they are just learning.) You can simply write their name correctly (without the extra spacing) on the white paper and glue it to the construction paper.

Procedure: Mix up the pieces, and give them to your child. Show them the example of what their name should look like. Ask them first if they recognize the word. If they do, praise them! If not, say, “That is your name! Do you want to learn how to make/spell your name?”

Allow your child to try to figure out how to do their puzzle correctly. As they find the first piece, it is a good time to reinforce that you always begin names with a capital letter. Your child will have lots of fun, and feel successful as they complete their name puzzle. Kids are fairly egocentric at this age, so they will love any activity that centers around them.

Extend the lesson: Once your child has finished their puzzle, encourage them to try to write their name, or simply the first letter. Praise any effort if writing is a new task, and stop the writing lesson if they become discouraged. DO NOT BECOME ANAL ABOUT PROPER LETTER FORMATION! (Yes, this is another of my kindergarten teacher soapboxes, but when children are taught that they must make every letter exactly a certain way, they can EASILY become so frustrated with writing, that they don’t want to do it anymore! Allow them to try their best, and be happy with the results.)

Modify the lesson: Make a puzzle for your child’s middle name and last name as well. My daughter loved having a way to practice all three of her names. If you teach your child their last name at an early age, they will not only be one step ahead of most children (even in kindergarten), but is a good thing to know for their safety. (Should a child get lost, it is better for them to know their whole name.)

Have fun! You can also make the names of other people in the family for your child to learn to spell, or even do this with some of the basic sight words. So many possibilities, and ways to keep your child busy and learning!