Ancient cultures can seem like alien planets to preschoolers, who are still building an understanding of the world immediately around them. After all, your ego-centric 5 year old believes the world began with him, and he may have a difficult time connecting to a civilization that existed thousands of years ago! As your kiddo is learning the letters and sounds of the English alphabet, you can help bring ancient Egypt into perspective by comparing English letters to Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Children learn the most, and are able to retain more knowledge, during play time. Play your own version of Spy Kids by hiding clues around the house consisting of short words, written in hieroglyphs. Have your child go on the hunt, equipped with a magnifying glass, a hieroglyphic alphabet and maybe a cool detective hat, finding clues and cracking codes until she has translated each one. Help her put together the words to create a sentence, such as "Egypt is in Africa" or "Hieroglyphs are fun" and celebrate her successful spying with milk and cookies.
Creating personal nameplates is an entertaining activity that allows your child to practice writing his name. Take this activity one step further and help your child write each letter of his name using hieroglyphs, creating a cartouche, a sort of name tag ancient Egyptians created for important folks in their villages. Begin with plain yellow or gold cardstock, scissors and a hieroglyphic alphabet. Cut the cardstock into a long oval shape. Ask your child to use the hieroglyphic alphabet to draw the corresponding hieroglyph for each of the letters in his name. Now find a prominent place to display his work!
Ancient Egyptians used pictures to represent sounds, based on their own associations. Help your child express her own associations among letters and sounds by helping her to create her own set of hieroglyphs. Ask her to draw a picture of something she thinks of when she hears each letter. You can begin with A and move through the alphabet, or start with the letters in her name. Help her keep track of the letters she's already covered by by having her draw the hieroglyphs beside each letter on a page that lists the English alphabet. Encourage her to complete the task -- "You've finished A, B, C and D. Which letter should we talk about next?"
The Rosetta Stone, discovered in the late 16th century, contained writing in two different languages, Egyptian and Greek, and helped scientists and historians decipher other hieroglyphic writing that was previously a mystery. Your child can create his own version of the Rosetta Stone with sand dough, salt dough or air-drying clay and a craft stick. Help your child shape the dough or clay into a stone tablet shape, then use the craft stick to carve hieroglyphs, spelling out a message of your child's choice. Once the tablet dries, it will serve as a reminder of the concepts of the activity for years to come.