Mtoto invented a game this week. We call it “J Jar of Jam” from the Sesame Street Alphabet Song:

At some point this week Mtoto started adapting “J Jar of Jam” into “J Jar of Something else”. It doesn’t have to be a word beginning with J.

We were going up our street, me pushing the buggy and Mtoto in it. I heard him saying “J Jar of Motorbike”, then “J Jar of Bike” and “J Jar of Window”. At first I repeated each one, giving him some affirmation, but soon I was doing my own ones and we took it in turns, all the way home and carried on once we were inside. Since then we’ve played several times. I realised pretty soon that I could help Mtoto to widen the things he was looking at and what he was naming, as well as affirming his choices. So he might say “J Jar of T-Shirt” and then I would use my next turns to say “J Jar of Sleeve” and “J Jar of Label” to show him the different details in my T-Shirt. He often repeats the ones that I’ve introduced him to, too.

I don’t know that this is going to have much appeal to anyone else, since it has come from our own viewing of the Sesame Street Alphabet song several months ago (and which we haven’t watched for at least a couple of months), but you might have your own version or think how to adapt it.

It reminds me though, that the world of teaching your child the letters of the alphabet isn’t as straight forward as you think it could be. Here are my 5 favourite ways that I’ve discovered so far that the alphabet is tricky to learn.

1. J Jar of…

As you’ve just learned, we don’t just put jam in jars in our household. Anything goes. Though one of my favourites was Mtoto’s “J Jar of Jar of Figs” when there was a jar of figs on the table in front of him.

2. Y is for Boat

In one of Mtoto’s A-Z books or puzzles, there’s a picture of a boat for the letter Y. Of course, we adults know that “Y is for Yacht” but Mtoto didn’t know that so “Y is for Boat”. We have since told him about yachts and he knows the word now, but it is confusing for all concerned.

3. A is for Alligator, no Apple

L was reading an alphabet to Mtoto recently. “A is for Alligator” she read. “No, Mama,” came the reply, “A is for Apple”. L explained that A is the beginning letter for lots of words, but Mtoto wasn’t having it. “A is for Apple,” he said again and again. If you’re only two, maybe you need some certainty in your life?

4. G is for Ruitar

Mtoto is getting good at naming the sounds of each letter. But he doesn’t always follow through with the following word. A great example is G. He gets the “ger” sound perfectly, but guitar? No, It’s more like “Ruitar” at the moment!

5. Letters are numbers

This might be local to Geneva… One of the first places that Mtoto regularly started recognising numbers was on the front of buses and trams. “Pappa, what number is it?” he would ask. “It’s the 12” I might say, if we were on the tram to Carouge. But if we were going out to Meinier again, it would be the Bus A. And the bus to Hermance is the E and the other bus (other than the E that goes through there) to Vessanaz is the G.

"What number is it Pappa?" "Errr, it's the S"

“What number is it Pappa?” “Errr, it’s the S”

Of course, all of this is fairly light-hearted and we’re not worried about any of these developments. He’s got plenty of time to learn letters and numbers and we’re only ploughing ahead with it now because he has shown such great interest in both.

One of my favourite moments this week was when I was showing him his new Thomas the Tank Engine Brio toy. On the bottom it says “THOMAS” and I read the letters to him several times. Then, suddenly, he exclaimed “look Pappa, it’s got A is for Apple in it!”

So what challenges have you faced teaching the alphabet to your kids? I would love to hear about your experiences!

"This bus, my son, is the A to Gy"

“This bus, my son, is the A to Gy”

(While we’re here, for the 2015 daily blog continued themes paragraph: Janathon exercise was a 2 mile walk to get Mtoto to sleep and I saw a Common Buzzard and lots of Blue Tits while visiting friends in Bellvue, then did a quick bird count at Baby Plage, but that was all.)