Did you know that the Spanish alphabet comes from Latin? Appearing later than the term alphabet, which comes from the Greek ἀλφάβετον (alfábeton), the term alphabet derives from abecedarium, composed of the name of the first letters of the alphabet a, b, c, d. Basically, it refers to the ordered set of letters of a language or the set of spellings that are used to represent a language.

In the case of the Spanish language, the alphabet is made up of 27 letters which, in turn, are divided into 5 vowels and 22 consonants. Each of them has its own sound while there are 5 special sounds known as digraphs, which are nothing more than sounds formed by the union of two letters. Explaining this to children is not difficult, but it is important to do it step by step, starting with the vowels, since they require less phonetic effort.

Vowels: What is a vowel and how are they classified?

Vowels are letters with their own sound that emanate from the vocal cords and are pronounced with the vocal tract open. According to the Royal Spanish Academy, they are the signs that represent a vowel sound or articulation. Its main function is to complement the sound of consonants to form words with meaning. Basically, there are 5 vowels in the alphabet: A, E, I, O and U. 

In turn, the vowels can be classified into strong and weak, a very important distinction to learn, later, the rules of accentuation and that can also be used to help children distinguish the syllables of a word. How to learn to distinguish a strong vowel from a weak one? Very easy:

strong vowels

Also known as open vowels, they receive this name because to pronounce them it is necessary to open the oral cavity much more compared to other sounds. These are the only vowels that can function as a syllabic nucleus since the greatest force of the voice falls on them. Hence, they can give rise to the formation of a diphthong or hiatus, depending on whether they act as a syllabic nucleus or not. These vowels are A, E and O. 

weak vowels

Also known as closed vowels, they do not require a large mouth opening to pronounce them correctly. Unlike strong vowels, weak vowels hardly require effort to pronounce and do not function as a syllabic nucleus, so that when they are next to a strong vowel they are pronounced in the same stroke of voice. I and U are considered weak vowels. 

Consonants, what are they and how to recognize them?

According to the Royal Spanish Academy, consonants are understood as those signs that represent a sound or a consonant spelling. Basically, it refers to those sounds of the tongue that originate from the closure or narrowing of the vocal tract. In fact, the term consonant comes from Latin and originally referred to “sound along with” or “sound with” since consonants in Latin did not have a sound on their own since they always appeared next to a vowel.

With the appearance of other languages, although there are languages ​​in which it is possible to form a word only with consonants, in Spanish the consonants still do not have their own sound and need to be accompanied by a vowel to form a word. It is very easy to recognize them, in the alphabet there are 22 consonants: B, C, D, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, Ñ, P, Q, R, S, T, V, W, X, Y and Z.

3 practical exercises for children to practice vowels and consonants

Once children have mastered the theory of vowels and consonants, it is important that they begin to practice both their spelling and their sound. However, for many children it can become a monotonous and boring exercise. An excellent way to motivate their interest in learning the alphabet is to propose fun activities with which they exercise their knowledge in a different and entertaining way. Here are some original exercise ideas that can help the little ones at home to practice vowels and consonants.

1. Make the game your ally

Children love to play, so they will surely be delighted to exercise their knowledge of vowels and consonants in a playful way. The good news is that there are tons of games about the alphabet. A very fun alternative that they will love is vowel and consonant fishing. To do this you must fill a box with water and put some balls or any floating object inside with the different letters written on it, you can also add some toy sharks or fish to make the game more fun. Then give the children a butterfly net and ask them to “catch” all the vowels first, and then the consonants.

2. Turn to crafts

Crafts are another very practical and entertaining resource for children to master vowels and consonants well. If the children like to color, you can ask them to draw the vowels and then the consonants using different colors. When they finish, encourage them to decorate them by adding flowers, stars or any other reason to add a personalized touch to the drawing. On the other hand, if they prefer to do more complex crafts, you can ask them to try to shape the vowels of the alphabet with plasticine or to decorate consonants previously cut out of cardboard with glitter, felt, beads or gems. There are no limits to creativity, the goal is for the little ones to have a good time while putting into practice what they know about vowels and consonants.

3. Bet on music

Music is an educational resource that never fails with children, so this time it can also come in handy to help children learn vowels and consonants. On YouTube you will find many videos about vowels and consonants that are very inspiring and fun that the little ones at home will surely love, such as this “Round of the vowels” by MundoCanticuentos , “The laugh of the vowels” by Toy Cantando or the “Canción de consonants” by Doremi .