The single best recommendation I ever received from another parent, I was lucky enough to receive early in the play date her daughter had with mine. We chatted over coffee about the kids and their progress etc. We were talking about her older daughter writing her own name and when she mentioned that though she did not really allow her kids to watch too much TV (bless her, she is a better parents than I) she believed that Leap Frog's Letter Factory www.leapfrog.com/Primary/PreschoolKindergarten/PRD_letterfact_dvd/Letter+Factory153+Video+DVD.jsp
and Word Factory www.leapfrog.com/Primary/PreschoolKindergarten/PRD_wordbuilder_dvd/Talking+Words+Factory153+Video++DVD.jsp DVD's were responsible for both of her children's advanced knowledge of all of the letters and their sounds as well as how to recognize and spell several short words. Thank g-d I got this advise early on as I mentioned, because by the end of the play date my three year old decided to change her daughter's poopy diaper and her mother was left to pick up small doody balls from my Berber carpet.
With that said, since my daughter was the offender of the doody ball on carpet incident, I decided to heed her advise and ask for these DVDs for my older daughter (3 at the time) for the holiday's . Let's just say that this was the best $9.99 each (they were on sale at Target) my in-laws EVER spent. These DVDs are set up like movies (potentially to trick the little un's past the "this is actually educational " part). They are engaging, interesting, repetitive (yes, you too will know EVERY letter and it's sound, which is good for those of us suffering from 2nd child sleep deprivation who need the refresher).
I am not kidding within weeks my daughter who previously recognized all of the letters but not been able to correlate the sounds - knew them all. Then, soon after she could put them together to make small words. I was thrilled and amazed and so grateful for the doody balls on the Berber. By the way thanks to Katherine for the reminder on this one.