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How to Teach My 2 1/2 Yr Old Son

Hi everyone, my son will be 3 in may and i'm not sure how far along he should be developmentally. He can't write his name or even sing the whole alphabet by himself. His math skills are slightly better but my main concern is that he doesn't seem to want to learn. He gets angry when i start singing the abc's, counting, pointing out colors or trying to show him how to write his name. I've tried all sorts of ways to try to make learning fun. We have those bath letters that stick to the tub, we have cut out shapes and colors from construction paper, made tons of letter and number games, tried counting coins, m&M's and even his little army guys. He is very bright and has no problem asking tons of questions and learning about what interests him. Everyone i talk to who has a child close in age says their child has no problem learning these things. I am a sahm and i watch a 1 yr old boy during the day. Some ppl have said he is behind because he isn't in daycare or preschool yet. Should i enroll him in daycare or preschool part time? I am starting to get very concerned as I don't want him to be behind when he goes to school! Any help/suggestions would be appreciated!

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I can't thank everyone enough for all of your responses. I can see now that I have been focusing on what he hasn't learned yet instead of working with him more on what does interest him. The truth is, as far back as I can remember, I have done poorly in school and struggled my whole academic life. I guess I just don't want my son to know that pain. I can see now he is his own person and I can't push or mold him a certain way. I will just support him and let him blossom into his own person at his own pace. Thanks again everyone!!!

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I think all the "people" that are saying their kids did those things at that age are lying to you. Most children can not write their age at 2.5 or 3.5 or even some at 4.5. I volunteer at my children's school and tutor kindergarten - there are plenty who do NOT know all the letters of the alphabet or even the #s from 1-10. Most know how to write their names now, but did not at the beginning of the year. You should search to see what is developmentally appropriate for his age and feel confident that he is where he should be and maybe even advanced.

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Honestly, since he is bright and you can tell nothing is "wrong", I really wouldn't worry about it. My step sister has 12 kids, and they all developed these skills at entirely different times. Several of her sons barely spoke before three. She home schools, so they cater to learning on a much more flexible individual schedule. As they grew older, they were all very bright and normal. The ones who learned later learned faster when they were ready. Do what you feel with daycare, but I think he'll do fine when he gets to school regardless. And good job working with him so much! He's absorbing more than he's letting on!

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Relax! My son went to nursery school at 3 and they were not writing their names. They were learning numbers and colors and letters. For a whole school year! Yes--my son knew the alphabet (He turned 3 in March before the fall of nursery school), numbers and colors but it was not boring for him. So he reviewed and other kids were just learning it. They were not "writing" the were painting, drawing, scribbling, etc!
My son is in Kindergarten now and they are writing their names and reading well. He is almost 6.
My advice--back off on the "teaching" of stuff to him. Kids that age are sponges and believe me, he is taking ALL of his surroundings, experiences, playing, etc into his little brain right now. He's learning every day, whether you see it or not. He'll be fine.
IMO, there is too much competition among parents and too much pushing for super-early achievement. It's ridiculous and not necessary--as another poster says--the kids tend to level out during the early school years. Your son is normal.
If you want to do anything, I would concentrate on fine motor activities to lay the groundwork for writing, proper pencil holding, etc. Find small things for him to pick up and put into a can. Pinching clothespins onto the rim of a bowl, etc.
This is the time in his life where he should be dumping your pots onto the foor and banging away on his drums! Don't pressure him. You don't want to add negative feelings toward learning for the future.

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I think you're listening to people who are pushing the limits. ENJOY your son. 2 1/2 to 3 is way too young to be worrying about forcing him into education. It will come soon enough, and when he's ready, he'll learn it so fast, it'll leave you in the dust. Instead of paying attention to what he can't do, or doesn't want to do, try noticing what he DOES do, what HE finds fascinating, and interesting. Does he like to build things? Create stuff? How does he interact with other people, and how has that changed as he's been growing.

My 13 yr old is very bright, but I didn't think she'd pass the Kindergarten readiness test. She did, so I let her go to school. I am kicking myself now, because she's one of the youngest in the class, and while she's age appropriate socially, she HATES school, and has ever since kindergarten. She comes home from school and sits at the pc writing little novels and stories, but she's getting C's and D's in language arts and literature. Go figure. She SHOULD be a good B student, but she hates school.

So I wouldn't push him. And if at age 5, you have doubts about his readiness to sit in a classroom, then enroll him in a preschool and wait a year for Kindergarten. There's no point in pushing them - they will get there when they are ready. And, in the meantime, if you are able to maximinze your enjoyment of and praise for the accomplishments he does, especially the ones that are important to him, you will be helping to grow his self esteem, rather than having him frustrated and feeling badly about being pushed to learn things he isn't ready for and doesn't want to learn. Your son isn't even 3 yet. Most kids at that age don't have the fine motor coordination to write letters, so I don't know who is telling you their kids could write their names at that age. Are these people nuts?

If you do want to interest hiim in books, then model that. When he's playing, simply grab an interesting picture book, sit nearby and read it aloud. He may pay no attention, but at some point, he may come right over and start asking about the pictures, and listen to the story. I just wouldn't force it, because what you really want is to spark HIS interest, not force him into a mold.

Good luck ! Parenting can be challenging, it can be fun. But it's the most fun when we relax as parents and watch our child's natural curiosity unfold and take over the whole process. Don't let other people make you feel badly about what your child can and can't do at what age. Every child is different and every child has a slightly different time table. Take your cues from your son, and help him to expand in the areas that most fascinate him. What he learns by doing that, will then expand into other areas of life. You'll both win. :-)

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I think all the "people" that are saying their kids did those things at that age are lying to you. Most children can not write their age at 2.5 or 3.5 or even some at 4.5. I volunteer at my children's school and tutor kindergarten - there are plenty who do NOT know all the letters of the alphabet or even the #s from 1-10. Most know how to write their names now, but did not at the beginning of the year. You should search to see what is developmentally appropriate for his age and feel confident that he is where he should be and maybe even advanced.

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Calm down. It is early yet! AT 2.5 yrs, they dont even know the correct way to hold a writing utensil. 3 is when they really start to learn about letters and numbers. Start by teaching him his "letter" for his name. Dont worry! They make developmental leaps and bounds between 2 and 3! He should be fine. Preschool for a 3 yr old is not a bad idea, though. Good for socializing and skills that you get frustrated with. Good luck

Oh, he's too young to write his name and he'll let you know when he's ready to learn letters and numbers. They are all around him, so you don't even need to point them out to him. Enjoy him being 2 and 1/2!

Do not force him into school at 2 1/2. I feel that is way too young. They pick up all the bad habits from other kids more than learning education at that age. My son was (is) the same way. He will be five in June but I just put him in his 1st yr of preschool this yr at 4yrs. He still acts like it's a chore to learn. I too try making it fun, but he sulks about it. You'd be surprised how much your son knows but doesn't want to admit. I catch my son doing and saying stuff all the time when he thinks i'm not wathcing. If I ask him he says "I don't know". I think he sees my frustration and feeds off it. My son didn't learn to write his name until he was almost 4, so your son is not behind. Keep him at home for now and just continue to do what you are doing. Sing the alphabet to yourself while cooking or cleaning. He will hear it. That's how I got my kids to learn our phone #. Now they sing it to themselves. Good luck and don't let anyone pressure you into anything your not comfortable with. You sound like a very good mother.

He doesn't sound behind at all! My son is 4 1/2 and in his second year of preschool, only half of the class can write their names well. At 2 1/2 he should recognize some letters, shapes, and colors. He may be getting frustrated because he knows he can't do some of the things that you are asking him to do and instead of trying he gets angry (which is a pretty intelligent reaction). My other son just turned 3 in October, he can count to 5 and has no idea what his name looks like nor can he sing the ABC song. He's in preschool one day a week and the teachers are always telling me how bright he is. Teaching him these things is what preschool is for. Your son sounds like he is doing great and he has a wonderful mom!


Hi S.. When my daughter was a toddler I sectioned off a large shoebox with pieces of cardboard (like a christmas bulb box)and glued various squares of color to the bottoms of each square. I then balled up small pieces of paper in those same colors for her to sort. Before ever telling her what colors they were I just allowed her to play with this & learn sorting skills and recognition. Worked like a charm. She didn't know I was tryig to teach her anything.;0) If you are not the crafty sort, you can purchase those small colored sorters (bears, etc.) at any teacher supply store or probably on the internet & be able to have the same result. Good luck & have fun!

I don't really have any advice for you, but you haven't done anything wrong. My daughter is 3 1/2 and I am also a sahm. She has never been in preschool classes either, she is supposed to go for the very first time in the fall. My sister is a first grade teacher and was a kindergarten teacher in the past. From what I have heard from her, I would speak to someone at the school, and ask them what is usual for kids' development and if they could suggest someone to talk with him. I wouldn't worry, I would speak to someone who actually knows the developmental stages and ignore the negative talk from other people. I hope this is of some encouragement. I wish I could give you some ideas, but it sounds like you are trying all I would know to do. God bless and I hope things go well for you.

Hi S., It sounds like you are pushing too hard. He isn't "behind"...he's not even three yet!! Some kids don't even talk until they are three much less know math, colors, letters and writing! Give yourself a break and enjoy your son, letters, colors, numbers are something he will be using all his life as long as he knows how to write his name etc by the time he enters formal school he's good! You don't need to enroll your son in pre-school unless you want to! Does he watch Sesame Street? How about any of the Noggin shows? While I don't think a child should sit in front of the TV all day, good programing like these will help him learn without him even realizing it! Also just reading to him at bed or nap time will also help. Remember our children are little for such a short time you need to take the time to enjoy and protect his chance to be a child as long as you can...we are kids for only 18 years...and adults forever after! Don't waste this precious time! Best wishes.

He's 2 1/2 years old. Not too many at that age want things that are structured. He may be feeling over stimulated. Let him learn through play and don't push. He's 2 1/2 and has more than enough time to learn things. I don't know too many 2 1/2 year olds who can write their own name, lol. Try using Leap Frog DVDs or other learning through fun DVDs, but don't push.

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets

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I think that you are stressing way too much about this and your son is probably picking up on it. He is really too young at this point to worry about this if he is not interested. They all become interested in "learning" at different times and to push them is extremely counter-productive. My first son enjoyed learning and was reading well be 5. My second son had NO interest whatsoever in learning until a couple weeks ago(he will be 5 in March)He has made AMAZING strides in the past couple weeks because he is now interested and developmentally ready to do so. He went from no interest to sounding out small words like cat in just a short amount of time. He is also doing small math problems. I have to admit I was worried about him after the example that his brother set but I was totally proven wrong. So try to relax and do stuff with him that is actually MORE important now than learning -stuff like pretend play is so key at this age. And try not to compare him with other kids...I know it is hard because I do it too. But they really are all different and unique-and that's a good thing! Good luck.

First, your son does want to learn; you say so yourself. He's just not interested in letters/numbers right now. I don't blame him. Try to think of things from his perspective. He's got this whole world to learn about & explore & you want him to memorize some boring letters. Its honestly surprising that any kids learn their letters & numbers at that age.
The most important thing in the first few years is to make sure kids enjoy learning. You don't want him to develop negative feelings toward school topics already. I would back off & let him tell you when he is ready to learn these things.
Finally, I read a study a few months ago that compared children who learned their alphabet early & those who learned it late. There was no difference in the children's reading abilities later in life. So there is NO advantage to learning the alphabet early.


The key to your problem is the sentence that said, "He is very bright and has no problem asking tons of questions about what interests him."

Letters and numbers, shapes and colors don't interest him right now, and the more you push it upon him, the more resistant he is going to be.

Instead, read to him about what he's interested in. Is he interested in trucks or bugs or whatever, get books out of the library that talk about those things. Point to the pictures and ask him what it is. Say, "Show me the blue truck" or "How many bugs are in the picture?"

And help him explore anything that interests him to the extent of his attention span and interest. If he likes bugs, collect them and learn all about them. My son had a little plastic bug cage he could carry and he would catch a bug. Then he would bring it in to show me, and then would get in our bug books and look up what it ate, how to tell whether it was a boy or a girl (applies to crickets, grasshoppers, etc), where it lived (grass, bushes, dirt, etc) so we could make a nice home for the bug in the little cage. Sometimes we would draw a picture of the bug for grandma and he would need to label it, etc. He was allowed to name the bug and then keep it for one week, and then he had to set it free, and then he could catch another. We learned about worms, ants, crickets, spiders of various varieties, a praying mantis, etc.

My son also liked trucks alot, and we visited the fire station and a rental place that had the backhoes and stuff. We talked about their colors and I took a picture of him sitting in the wheel of one of the huge dump trucks. I helped him to count the dump trucks, the backhoes, and all the trucks, etc.

We also collected rocks for a while. We went to a rock quarry and learned about minerals. We made a seashell collection and a leaf collection. We learned the names of all of the plants in our yard and planted some seeds. All of these things we had to read about and counted, etc.

We also cooked alot. In cooking we measured and counted, and I would read the recipe out loud so they could internalize that reading was helping me understand what to do. Eventually, I would ask them to help me sound out a word on the recipe card, such as "cup" or ask them to tell me, "How many ... do I need, again? What does it say right here?"

Learning isn't limited to learning the alphabet and numbers, its about the world around us and how it works. In the course of learning about the world around us, we can read and write about what we see, learn the history and science behind what we are discovering, and learn how to count or compute what when we need to.

Put your creative energy into exploring his interests and helping him learn all he can about it, and move on to the next thing when he's ready to move on. You won't believe how much he is learning, and even more important, the memories of time spent together. My son is 21 now, and I can still remember so many happy moments spent with him and my girls when they were all little that I am so grateful I took the time and effort to do. It doesn't come back again. Your time is now, enjoy it.


I wouldn't worry at this point in time. Your son is still really young. While each child is different, I'll tell you about my daughter who turned 3 in August. You'll see she is not far ahead of your son. She only began singing the alphbet all the way through around 38 months. In the last few months she has learned how to hold a pencil and pretends to write her name which is a series of circles and squiggles. She does know what letters spell her name, mostly because her brother recites them to her all the time. She can count to 10. She knows shapes and colors and can sort items in various ways. She also doesn't like me to "teach" her things unless it is something she has initiated. My son who is 4.5 is the same way. They are much more ready to "learn" new things from their aunt or grandma or my son's teacher. With me they aren't as willing or as patient. I think that they are just setting some boundaries. I enrolled my son in a preschool this year for the first time, not so much for the academics but more for socializing with others his age, as an introduction to the school environment to prepare him for kindergarten, and to get him used to listening to other adults. By the way, he can write his name but letters aren't uniform, some are backwards and none are in a straight line. I know he'll get there. Anyway, my suggestion would be to simply play and talk alot while you are playing. Mention colors, numbers, etc. Some toys/games/activities that I think helped my kids learn were doing simple puzzles with colors, numbers, shapes. Candyland Castle helped with colors and shapes and taking turns. Cranium Cariboo helped with colors, shapes, sizes and numbers. Cranium Hulaballoo helped with colors, shapes and actions. My kids like to imitate me when I am writing grocery lists, typing emails, dialing the phone, etc. Give your son opportunities to imitate you but don't push him if he isn't interested at that time. And be sure to read to him. Kids pick up so much from reading. I know there is a big push to have kids master skills early, but sometimes people forget that kids really do learn through play. They listen, observe, imitate and absorb. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how much your son learns in the next 12 months. Good luck!

Honestly, since he is bright and you can tell nothing is "wrong", I really wouldn't worry about it. My step sister has 12 kids, and they all developed these skills at entirely different times. Several of her sons barely spoke before three. She home schools, so they cater to learning on a much more flexible individual schedule. As they grew older, they were all very bright and normal. The ones who learned later learned faster when they were ready. Do what you feel with daycare, but I think he'll do fine when he gets to school regardless. And good job working with him so much! He's absorbing more than he's letting on!

relax...as I was once told by a kindergarten teacher..kids come into kingergarten at all different levels. Some know their letters, numbers and shapes. Some also know how to read. While other don't know any of these things yet. But, by the time they finish kindergarten, most if not all the kids are at the same level and ready to enter first grade.

Kids at this age are not able to stay focus on instructional teaching. If you are trying to get him to sit down and answer questions about what shape he sees or how many apples are on the table, this may be why he is getting so upset. Your son is learning all the time, whether you realize it or not. Children learn by playing and watching what others do. Play with him, whatever he wants to play. While you are playing with him, point out different shapes or count the things he is playing with. When you read to him, point out shapes and numbers in the story. After awhile, he will start doing the same thing. Be patient though. It will not happen overnight. Just keep showing him how these things excite you and he will get excited too.

With my kids, I just talk to them about what I see. "Look, the wheels on that firetruck are circles." or "Look at the this square piece of cheese" For counting, I might just start counting my groceries as I put them away. Or, start counting my son's cars or the number of wheels on the car or truck. By doing this, I am showing my kids how much fun it is for me to know shapes or to be able to count. I don't force them to sit down and listen to me lecture them on shapes and numbers.

Don't judge your son based on what other kids are doing or what the parents are saying that their kids do. Those parents are either pushing their kids too hard or they are lying. My son turns four in May and he can't write is name. I'm not forcing him to try either. Your son will develop in his own time and if you don't force it on him, he might just surprise you.


People differ in their opinions of this, but my belief is that an appropriate preschool is one that deals with developmental issues, learning through play, and does not push academics, anyway. (I've never understood how people put preschoolers in academic preschools.) My daughter learned the "academic" skills at home. My children were able to write their names, knew their colors, etc., etc., before they were 3, but not all kids are like that. (I am shocked that one of the posters thinks that people who say their kids have those skills early are liars! I know many kids who had these skills early...although I never thought of this as "early," until reading the posts here!)

Have you read up on what you should be expecting, or asked your pediatrician? If you truly are concerned, you could take your son to a developmental specialist at CHOP or St Chris.

You have a long time until your son starts kindergarten. You know how things can change in a day. A month from now, he could be singing the alphabet and playing Boggle Jr. all the time!

Good luck!

Hi S.,

I am not sure who has been telling you your son should be writing his name or should know the letters and his colors at 2 1/2 years of age, but developmentally that is not a realistic goal. I am sure there are many parents out there who have focused on these developmental skills, but at his age he should still be working on gross and fine motor skills, on language development, and social skills. Those are the building blocks that he will then use to learn other more refined skills as he ages. He has 2 1/2 years before he will enter school and will work on these specific skills. There is no need to push activities of this kind at his age. Reinforce his interests and guide him in his learning and motivate his curiosity and imagination. Forcing him to learn something he is not ready will frustrate you and likely make him less willing to engage in activities with you. He is still very little. Good luck.

My kids all started preschool at age 3, two of my kids actually turned 4 shortly after starting due to their birthdays.. they all learned that stuff in pre-school and kindergarden. I don't see anything wrong with teaching your kids early, specially if they are willing to listen and learn, but let's face it, kids are kids, they will learn in due time, when they are ready. The pre-school teacher will let you know if there are any major concerns. My daughter is 6, in kindergarden, and this is the year she actaully was able to write her own name on her own, with practice, no concerns from me or the teachers. My 4 yr old neice does not write her name yet, she will be learing that in pre-school thru kindergarden.

I didn't go to kindergarden as a child and had only one year of pre-school, and I turned out just fine with a high I.Q.

Relax and enjoy, they don't stay young forever !!

Hi S.,
I've taught in preschools and Kindergarten (public school). I would *not* recommend sending him to daycare/preschool for an academic edge. In my opinion, he will do much better at home with you! :) You have a 1:1 ratio at home and you know his needs and learning style. As long as you are patient and dedicated at home (and it sounds like you definitely are), he will do just fine. Take a no pressure approach. He's still young and I would not expect a 2 yr old to write his name. My daughter will be 3 in March and I haven't even begun writing yet. If you wait a little longer, you'll spend less time teaching because he'll pick up on it faster. Use every moment as a teachable moment and point out letters/numbers wherever you are... store, car, park. You're doing a great job. Don't stress and most importantly, don't compare. :)


I do not normally respond to these questions, but I am a mother of a 5 year old who has always love to play and get frustrated when I would push learning. He was "slow" to learn to write his name, and do many things, he is now in Kindergarten and let me tell you he is caught up (if that is what you want to call it). Please just let your child be a baby and toddler, one day everything just clicks and it is like they have always known the stuff. Imaginary play is so much better for them at this age then pushing school work on them. If you talk to your peditrician they would tell you the same thing. I am also a stay at home mother and I never put my child in daycare and only limited preschool 2 and then 3 afternoons a week. Please I am not sure what others will say, but from my experience, just let you little one play that is the best for them at this age.

I really don't think you have anything to worry about. I can say that now b/c I was worried like you when my son was that age. It sounds like he just isn't ready and that is totally fine. My kids are not in daycare and my first child (will be 5 in March and just started preschool this past Fall) is learning a lot in school. Don't fret about making sure they know their ABC's and 123's by the time preschool starts. If you pressure him, he may just not do it to make you mad! He will pick it up when he is ready. I picked up the Leapster ABC's for the refridgerator and my 22 mo old actually likes it better. It is fun for him b/c he can do it himself and I am not hovering wondering if he is picking it up. Good luck!

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