36 answers

How Much Does Your 4 Year Old Know (Letters & Numbers)?

My daughter is 4 and I'm wondering if she doesn't know as much as she should in regards to her numbers and letters. She can only identify a couple of letters and she can't write any of them. Well, she does make an A, but she writes it upside down. She can count into her teens and identify about six or seven numbers. She did go to preschool during the school year for two days a week for two hours each day. They did introduce the numbers and letters but didn't get into depth about any of them. Starting in the fall she will go to preschool three days a week for 2 1/2 hours a day and they will get more into depth with the numbers and letters. I have been working with her but I'm going to focus a L. more on it. She isn't behind developmentally and she is very intelligent. I definitely think she is capable of much more. I'd like to get more of an idea of where other four year old children are and I'd appreciate your input. Thanks!

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My son is 6. When he started a Montessori preschool at 4 (he had been in a different preschool before) he could count to 1000, write all his letters and numbers (some reversals - this is normal at that age, don't worry about it), recognize all the letter sounds, sound out simple written words, add numbers below 10 and come up with rhymes. We did not do any flash cards, television, DVDs or any kind of 'work' but we did read to him every day and counted all things we saw.

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if she is going to preschool this year for a year before kindergarten you will be amazed at how much she will learn and be able to do. If she was entering K this fall I would be concerned but since she will have a year of preschool I think she will be fine. you should browse pinterest to find some school ideas you could do with her. There are soooooo many ideas there and lots that are more than stuff to do one paper. Enjoy learning together!

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it really just depends on what you do with them. When I went to kindergarten, all I knew was the alphabet song and what I saw on Sesame Street. My kid was doing basic addition and subtraction by 5 and when she was bad, the worst punishment I could do was take away her math workbooks. There's really no right or wrong at this age. But they are L. sponges at this age, so if you want to teach her more, now is the time to do it.

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My daughter knows the alphabet, can count to 100, can write her own name and recognizes some words and various letters in some words. All that said, research has shown that no matter where they start out that kids catch up to a common level by either 3rd grade or 5th grade (I think it's 3rd but can't totally remember). Does my daughter NEED to know how to count to 100 at 4 yrs old? No. If she read everything under the sun, would she be able to comprehend it as intended? No.

What your daughter needs to be developing more than anything is the mindset of wanting to learn, enjoying learning, the behavior to be able to learn in a classroom environment (sitting still, listening skills, not talking when others are talking, problem solving/decision making, etc), and appropriate social skills for interacting with other children. Developing the skills to learn is far more important at this age than memorizing numbers and letters. It sounds like your daughter is doing just fine; don't stress.

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At the beginning of four, my son had nearly no letter or number recognition at all.

I decided to do us both a favor-- I decided NOT to worry about it.
Kids get interested in learning this stuff when they do. Until there's interest, you can do a perfectly great job of frustrating yourself and your child with trying to teach them.

As a preschool teacher, I know my best ally is keeping it playful. What I did with my son was to play counting games (any game which involved counting spaces/dice dots), 'write' lots of thank yous and notes to friends and neighbors (for gifts or just because) and helping him sign his name, having him sit with me and dictate those notes. It helped to take a walk and count how many steps we took or to ask "what do you think that sign says?" (usually a simple, common sign like 'stop') or to count how many of a certain color car or other item we saw (bikes, dogs, cats, etc.) Sometimes, it was fun to pick one number and one letter, write them both down on an index card and go on a 'hunt' for them. Read off addresses of houses as you pass (just as clear numbers: "2012" would be read as "two-zero-one-two"). We used a measuring tape and sidewalk chalk and then measured out the lengths of dinosaurs along the sidewalk, adding a neighborhood invitation ("How long was an apatosaurus?" written next to it-- it will get some interest.)

With letters, I chose to focus on just helping my son learn the letters of his name first. We had sung the ABC song a jillion times, for everything. (It was even a way of timing things-- "I'm going to sing ABCs three times, and then we are leaving the park", etc.) You can make them out of playdough. You can make letters with your bodies. Read a lot together, esp. some good alphabet books. Point to the letters as you say them.

Let her lead. Let her see you reading, counting, too. Here's the thing-- I didn't worry about my son, and he's now five and has grown a lot over the last year. He's come to notice the letters which begin his friend's names at school (they had namecards). He can write his name on the letters and Valentines we sent out. He sometimes likes to make signs-- one day I was making lunch and he seemed bored, so I asked him to make a sign for our 'menu' and spelled out letters to him ('tuna for lunch').

Best of all, playing is still the best way to learn. Keep it fun. If kiddo becomes disinterested after a couple of minutes, follow her cue and find something else to do. I think too many parents forget how a child's brain develops and try to force it at this age. (No thanks to Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind, age-inappropriate educational standards are being imposed on our youngest learners... their brains do not work the way bureaucrats propose...sigh.) To me, the worst thing we can do is to frustrate our children on letters and numbers and learning early on. So keep it simple, keep it light and you will find that she learns plenty in the coming year. 4 to 5 is a huge opportunity for growth, so keep the tv and media (including computer games) at a minimum-- there's so much we know about children's learning which tells us that three-dimensional hands-on experiential learning is still the best for this age.

Have fun with it and she will too.

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I love this question. She is doing very well. Some will be doing more and some will be doing less, but be assured, her development is fine.

One way to look at this to have her do a lot of work to memorize letters and numerals. Nah!!!! Not efficient and not necessary.

Another way (and I think a great one) is for you to keep talking and talking. Label letters casually, constantly. "Oh look, another 'b'! Wow, ball and bat both start with the letter 'b'!" No response from your daughter is necessary. Put a fun word in magnetic letters on the fridge every day. Mention it and the letters in it. "Look. I made the word "cat" for you, because I know we are going to see a cat at your friend's house today. It starts with this letter "C".

Count the stairs as you go, one day each stair, another day by 2's, whatever math game you can think of. Count the toys you pick up together. "Wow, we picked up 4. Let's pick up 1 more, and then we'll have picked up 5! Now 6!" When you go back to the fridge, put the magnetic number 6 on it. Talk, talk, talk. As you put out the cups at the table, count them, then the plates, then the napkins.

Skip the printing letters for now. Let her draw, color, finger paint, make chalk pictures on the sidewalk. Let her do her artwork on an easel, to use her muscles correctly (prevents any hooking). Have fun with her making "modern art" by copying your huge horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, circles and crosses.

Build her knowledge base. Soon she will copy you, talking, talking and talking. She'll count everything, she'll make verbal math games, she'll point out letters. Magic! You might end up posting me back and asking me how to stop her. :)

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It really varies... And is NO show/sign on or of intelligence.

Just as a heads up:

My son's K class: 20 letters, 7 colors, and 5 shapes by END of year
My nephews K class : 100 sight words, and single digit add/subtract to START K.

Both public schools in different districts.

My son was reading fluently at age 4 and doing simple arithmetic.
My nephew didn't even know colors or the alphabet at age 4

Both are "Gifted".
Both went to preschool.

My son: Montessori school (and I'm a natural teacher)
My nephew: Play based preschool, and wasn't taught at home

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There is such a huge learning curve at this age. Think about parents who say their 2 year is riding a bike (no training wheels) and the 5 year old up the street with training wheel. They could both become very skilled on bikes when they are 12.

Continue doing activities with her and read aloud to her. I do know of a brilliant L. boy who did not know all his letters the first day of Kindergarten. The teacher made a comment to the mom that he is the only child who does not know all the letter and he starting out behind. Keep in mind both parents are medical doctors and expose him to many things. The mom was hurt and asked a group of moms if our kids knew the letter. Yes, all the rest did, but her son had mastered skills that ours did not.

p.s. I hope you do not get a lot of people posting that their child wrote the whole alphabet at 8 months old.

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Don't worry about the writing of numbers and letters. It's early for that. I am a bit concerned that she doesn't recognize them. If you show her a letter, she can't tell you what it is?

Does she know the alphabet song?

Spend this summer trying to teach her the alphabet in fun ways. My younger son had trouble with this - I took him to a homeschool tutor who tried several different mediums to help him. Cutting out pictures in a magazine to find all the "d" words, drawing letters with his finger in whipped cream (he liked that!), and finally when nothing really worked, a computer program by DK called Bear and Penguin "I Want to Read". That turned the light bulb on. They also had a beginning math CD and he learned numbers and very basic adding.

I urge you to work on that with her this summer. Sometimes the light bulb just has to come on and all will be fine. A child can be very smart but have trouble with these concepts.


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We sang the ABC's and a bounce back version of counting when we washed our hands (up to 10). When she could do them by herself I bought flash cards and asked if she wanted to know what the letters and numbers looked like. I also bought her a wipe-away board that had both to help her learn to write. She can now write her name, the numbers up to 20 and the uppercase of all the letters. I think we've done a good bit of the ground work before she starts K, at least I hope so.

The key for us was not to push, make it fun and silly. Count jelly beans/steps to places you visit often. Point out letters in signs. She'll catch on.

Good luck.

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You say she is 4. Did she just turn 4? Closer to 5?

I know you want to compare to see where she is, but that isn't the best idea. You know every kiddo is different.

My oldest who is 4 1/2, is almost reading. She has an INCREDIBLE memory. You tell her something ONCE and she has it. She knew all her letters (out of order), colors, shapes, and could count to 7 by the time she turned 2. I know this isn't the norm (so don't compare!).

My current 2 year old maybe knows 2-3 shapes, 2-3 colors, NO letters, and can count to 14.

I've taught elementary and have been used to working with kids with learning disabilties. So I have a habit of teaching my kids with lots of song and repetition.....which is ideal for littles.

A better question might serve you. "What can I do to help teach my 4 year old?"

Letter recognition:
*Sing the alphabet while going through an ABC book, pointing to the letters as you sing.
*Sing the alphabet religiously....we must sing it/listen to it 5-10 times a day (mostly as a night-night song).
*Pick 1-2 letters to focus on at a time. Write them on post-its and put them all over the house. Ask her what they are as often as possible. MAKE IT A GAME.
*The library did a game where the kids took a card from a basket that had the upper case letter on it. The kids then had to find the lower case letter that was "hidden" (scattered around the library).
*Use technology (if your kid likes it). There are tons of online games, etc. that make it interactive.
*Read to her as often as possible. Point to the words as you do so.
*TV shows like Word World and Super Why are great.

PM me if you want any specific ideas. :)

And remember, there are kids that just need a L. time for it to click. Keep her environment rich with education, and don't push her too hard. If she shuts down, be ok with that and move on to something else.

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