Teaching Name Recognition to Toddlers: Try These Name Activities for Young Children

These visual techniques for teaching name recognition can be integrated into the regular classroom routine. Teachers will need to offer a good deal of assistance at the start of the school year, but with practice, your young toddlers will soon become familiar with finding their own name.

Name Tag Placement in the Classroom

One way to help toddlers begin to recognize their names is to label classroom items such as cubbyholes, coat hooks, and chairs. Write the toddlers’ names in bold and colorful letters, and frequently point out the name tags when asking the children to take their seats or put papers in their cubbyholes. When first teaching toddlers their name, tape photographs of each child directly above or below their name tags. This practice helps toddlers to determine whose name belongs to who.

Make a laminated name card for each toddler, and keep them handy for use during circle time and game time.

Name Activities for Circle Time

During circle time, use flash cards to teach the group the name of each letter in the alphabet–this is a building block for teaching toddlers their name. Every morning, set the laminated cards in the middle of the circle and ask each child to pick up his or her own name, assisting when needed.

Take turns greeting each toddler by pointing to the name card and saying (for example), “Good morning Jenny, J-E-N-N-Y. Good morning Tommy, T-O-M-M-Y”.

“Find Your Name” Game

To begin this game, take all of the toddlers’ laminated name cards and place them in different locations around the classroom (be sure that they are visible and not hidden). Have the children sit down in a group and say this chant:

Where’s my name?

Where’s my name?

Can I find it?

Time to play a game.

One by one, call on a child to search around the room for his or her name. When the correct card is found, have the child rejoin the group and place the card on his or her lap. Continue reciting the chant and calling on children until the game is complete.

Spelling Names with Letter Manipulatives

Many toddlers like having the opportunity to play with manipulatives such as large puzzle pieces and blocks. Games that involve the use of letter manipulatives can be an excellent way to teach name recognition. Teachers can do these activities with toddlers in a one-on-one or small group setting. Be sure that the puzzle pieces are large enough to prevent a choking hazard, and always supervise the children.

1) Set out some letter puzzle boards or letter blocks, and work with the toddlers in finding the letters that form their names. Ask the children to say each letter name out loud while pointing to the corresponding letter in their name.

2) Make “name trains” by handing each child a piece of paper with blank train cars drawn on (a child named Jane would have four cars on her paper, a child named Justin would have six cars on his paper, etc). Supply some sheets of colorful letter stickers and assist the toddlers with picking out the letters in their names and sticking them on the train cars.

Always be patient and encouraging when teaching toddlers, as some children will develop this skill more quickly than others. With consistent routine and visual reminders, toddlers will have a positive experience while reaching this new milestone.

If you need something for older students, try these name games for Pre-K or Kindergarten classrooms.