47 answers

Mom Seeking Tips on Teaching Daughter How to Identify Letters

My daughter will be 3 next month. She is very smart in comparison to children her age. But the one problem I have is she does not know how to identify her letters. She knows her ABC's song so thats no problem. I bought her the Letter Factory leap frog dvd and that works well, she knows the sound of every letter. HOWEVER, she can't ID the letters themselves. I did not think it was a problem, but then my nephew that is close in age to her can ID all his letters AND numbers backwards and forwards. I know I should not compare my child and that each child is different but can anyone offer any tips on how to teach her to ID her letters?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Wow. Thanks all for your tips. Looks like foam letters in the bathtub and the Leap frog fridge phonics will be my next step, I am not going to stress about it too much anymore becuase she is stll young and knows alot for her age.I had her daycare move her to a class with older kids (3 and 4 year olds) hoping that will help a little. Thanks again everyone.

Featured Answers

This is a hard one for me to comment on. First let me say that I agree with most the suggestions given already. Leap Frog fridge magnets are great. A-beka has a fabulous program. Hooked on Phonics has done wonders for my 4 year old. Flashcards almost always work. The foam bathtub letters are also great, and you can find letters everywhere, every day. Point them out. The most important thing I want to point out is that you are talking about a baby that is still 2 years old. As in NOT EVEN THREE yet. She sounds like she is very smart, and you should be very proud. But I want to remind you that right now, in this stage of development, she deserves to be completely free. She needs to play, to interact with stuffed animals and dolls, have a pretend tea party. The most important thing she is learning right now is how to be a person. Letters are an absolute necessity, but they can come later. She needs to learn good manners, how to interact with others, how to disagree without fighting, how to have fun without someone or something to entertain her, how to use her imagination. These are the things that she needs to practice right now. I am not trying to criticize, just give my opinion, but please, let her be a child. Childhood is over so quickly!

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers

HI N.,

My take on this subject (as a former school teacher in the public system) is that being 3 or 4 or 5 for that matter is NOT about being able to purge out memorized information. My daughter, who will be 4 next month is just now showing interest in identifying her letters. I know this may not be the "norm" in today's society but really take a look at where our public education system has taken our kids....not a very good place (especially here in Florida) Being a pre-schooler should be about play, discovery, imagination and learning the important things like playing well in groups, respect, manners....things that carry on for a lifetime. You and I both know that our "smart" kids WILL learn their letters, WILL learn to read (and LOVE it because they want to) and WILL be great students. My husband had the same issue when a friends child who is 6 months younger than our daughter could pick out all her letters. This really bothered him for some reason but our friends kid sits in a windowless preschool room from 7:30am until 5:30 pm MOnday through Friday with worksheets in front of her. Not a place I want my child. I'd much rather be building forts and painting rocks. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a fairy to entertain :)

good luck

2 moms found this helpful

This is a hard one for me to comment on. First let me say that I agree with most the suggestions given already. Leap Frog fridge magnets are great. A-beka has a fabulous program. Hooked on Phonics has done wonders for my 4 year old. Flashcards almost always work. The foam bathtub letters are also great, and you can find letters everywhere, every day. Point them out. The most important thing I want to point out is that you are talking about a baby that is still 2 years old. As in NOT EVEN THREE yet. She sounds like she is very smart, and you should be very proud. But I want to remind you that right now, in this stage of development, she deserves to be completely free. She needs to play, to interact with stuffed animals and dolls, have a pretend tea party. The most important thing she is learning right now is how to be a person. Letters are an absolute necessity, but they can come later. She needs to learn good manners, how to interact with others, how to disagree without fighting, how to have fun without someone or something to entertain her, how to use her imagination. These are the things that she needs to practice right now. I am not trying to criticize, just give my opinion, but please, let her be a child. Childhood is over so quickly!

2 moms found this helpful

you kid is a autory learner not a visual one. Make pictures from ech letter,make the letters inglue with sand on the make it a game. Do only one letter at a time to learn then once a week review the ones she knows., I am a retired teacher who hates to read because I was shoved int it before I was ready.
I did not even try to teach my daughter to read, she was #3 in her class and will be getting a BA in phisic in May. She reads 3 books at time.

1 mom found this helpful

first you shouldn't compare. every child is different. second work on one letter at a time. i have a 4 yr. in pre k 4 and they only expect them to know 15 letters in kindegarted the first semester. they want them to count to 25. but recongize 20 not in order. some kind don't even know how to spell their first name. so i would not worry and i would not push. being a mother and grandmother. let them learn at their speed. you buy educational toys let them play and not worry about learning. i hope i can help

1 mom found this helpful

I've used this


It's a very simple DVD that is supposed to help children identify letters (they have colors, shapes and numbers DVDs as well). I'm not sure if it will help your daughter, but mine seemed to like it.

I've also used a large photo album (holds 200 photos) and some die-cut (punch out) letters from an Office supply store. I put all the capital letters in first, then the lower case. In the afternoon we would sit with the photo album like flash cards. At first it didn't work, so sadly I resorted to mini-marshmallows or tiny jelly bellies. For every letter she got right she got a "reward". Everyday she wanted to say her letters and eventually she forgot the rewards. A year later the album still has the capital and lowercase letters, but we've added the sight words, and she still loves it.

1 mom found this helpful

I can't really offer any help. My son is 4 and he knows his abc's and can say them but doesn't know which ones are which either. He knows a few of them, but not even half. I work with him each night (as long as he's not too tired) with an abc puzzle we have. My nephew who is the same age knows what each letter looks like (can identify them). But my nephew is very uncoordinated, doesn't run and such all that well and can hardly write a letter due to hand coordination. My son is very active, runs, jumps, plays, can bat a ball when it's thrown to him, etc. So he's very coordinated..has great motor skills. I think each child is different and learns on their own.
Just wanted to let you know that your child is not alone....and mine is actually older and doesn't know them all yet.
btw...if you find any great methods or helpers I'd love the info too. I figure any help I can give is an added bonus. And he seems to really love to sit and work with me even if it's like school work. :0)
Good Luck. I'm sure your little one is just fine.


1 mom found this helpful

Hi, N.!

Sounds to me like yor're doing all the right stuff. Reading as a habit is the main thing! Bedtime stories and books as gifts for holidays help children to know their value.

I've got three kids and my fifteen year old showed no special aptitude for reading until she turned seven -- second grade, and the school tested her at found her reading skill to be at seventh grade level! When she was four she became very interested in writing the letters during the day at her child care center, but not before then. The five year old still doesn't identify all the letters. I'm not actually sure what her recognition level is but she's the methodical type -- I think she's still learning the letters after L, working each day from A. The point is, they enjoy being read to and the teenager reads constantly, enforcing the example that was set for her.

Kids all have their own pace, and their own interests! Relax, and keep enjoying the light of your life!

L. N.

1 mom found this helpful

I have bought my children foam letters that they can play with in the tub. We have fun spellling their names and mommy and daddy. I make a game of it and I think it is helping them identify. Try focusing on her name and then wherever you go point out the lettere of her name or the first letter. You can do this in the grocery store, target even on the back of cars . Goodluck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi N.,

My daughter will be 3 in April, but she is my 3rd child. If I can give you a little advice, be careful how much emphasis you put on academics at her age. Learning needs to be something that is fun at their age. I have a 6 yr old, 4 yr old and a 2 yr old. I have watched many of my friends take very different approaches to learning, while I do think it is our responsibility to expose our children to information and encourage their curiosity, I think some parents go to far on their quest to having genius children. As you will find over time, children constantly ebb and flow, my 1st grader did not learn to read until she was 5, but when she did, it just clicked. I think children have leap off points, where they suddenly comprehend something or retain information that they hadn't in the past. The trick is to let them leap, not to push. I think the best thing you can do is have tools at her disposal, that she can use at her discretion. I have a dry erase/chalk board in our kitchen, and when my daughter colors I will right out the letters, sometimes she is interested and sometimes, she jut erases them. Please don't misunderstand, I think there are ages where you teach the discipline behind learning and studying, jut not at 3 yrs old. I know it is hard not to compare, but keep in mind, that she probably has strengths that your nephew lacks.

Good Luck,

1 mom found this helpful

She doesn't learn the same way your nephew learns. Let her play with the letters, taste them,
lean on them, make houses out of them. She is NOT READY to identify letters yet. Sing with her, dance, laugh, teach her to wash dishes. Do not teach her to recognize letters. She'll surprise you some day & know them all, & will have done it all by herself.
My neighbor, on her 5th baby, started to give him walking lessons when he was 6 months old. Daily, her husband held him around his middle, while she moved his feet in a walking motion. Every day, winter & summer. Finally, when he was 14 months old, he stood up & walked. My son, same age, was still crawling at 15 months, & one day stood up & walked too. He didn't have walking lessons. Once he started walking, he started running, & hasn't stopped yet.

1 mom found this helpful

The Montessori approach is to teach the sounds of the letters first, so she's on the right track to being an early reader. Think about it- other than to entertain others by pointing out that your daughter can identify letters, why does she need to know the names of them? Take the letter "H" for example. If she is trying to read and sound out a word, the NAME of that letter won't help her- the sound will.
That being said, I highly recommend the foam bathtub letters. WalMart has them in the baby section.

The Leapfrog Fridge Phonics is awesome!

The way I taught my 3 year old daughter, is to do a letter a week. We'd find words and pictures of things beginning with that letter and put them in a box, with the letter on the outside. Each week we'd go to the next letter. Coloring pictures and tracing them on 8X14 (legal size) paper has done wonderful. And at the end of each week, we'd go over the letters we'd covered to that point. For numbers, we used wooden puzzles with pictures that correspond with the number.

I recommend introducing one letter at a time to really focus on. Point it out in books, menus, billboards, etc. Teach her the sound it says. Point out toys that start with that sound. Keep the letter on your fridge for her to look at. Ask her often what letter it is. When you introduce another letter (when you know she has the first one down) don't forget to go back and review the one she already learned. Keep them all on the fridge and ask them all to her often.

If you're looking for something more formal, you could check into A Beka. I homeschool and love A Beka. Both of my kids are older now and reading above grade level. I give the credit to A Beka.

A Beka also has some great visuals that she might like for introducing letters. So that might be worth checking into either way.


Have you tried the leap frog letter magnet magnets its like 20 dollars it goes on the fridge, you get the letters of the alphabet and there is motherboard of sort the the letters fit in and when you put that letter there it tells you what the letter is the sound it makes and I believe tells you a word the starts with that letter, it is for 3 years so may be perfect. But don't worry maybe she's focused more on numbers or some other developmental task she will get it in her own time. You're doing your job by working with her keep it up and she will get when she is ready, I'm sure there are things she does well that you nephew doesn't.

Hey N.,

I found a hand held toy by Hooked On Phonics called Hooked On Letters. My middle child just turned three last week and she loves this toy. It has three different modes to play and a fourth mode that sings the alphabet song. My four year old enjoys this toy too. They all learn at different speeds. This toy was about $15 at Target.

Good Luck!!


I see that you use the Leap Frog DVD. Have you tried the Leap Frog Fridge Phonics? The system plays a cute little song for each letter identifying it's name and sound. My son (also turning three in February) loves this toy. We let him use it at his own desire and he is a pro at letter identification and phonics. He is actually starting to sound out words now. If you don't have the system, I highly recommend it. Good luck; your daughter will catch on in her own time.

Consider the Leap Frog Magnet ABC set for the refrig. So far has worked for 3 of my grandchildren.

I bought my daughter those foam letters that go in the bath tub, and we would randomly go through the letters in no order. It helped that she was trapped in one spot, and that bath time is fun time. It didn't feel like work to her, but more like a game. Start with a few letters at a time, and when she masters those add a few more.

Hi N.,

I bought my son for his 4th birthday Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read for Pre-schoolers. It comes with books and cds for for around $38.00. My son learns really quickly so now I have bought the Hooked on Phonics for Kindergarten/1st Grade and he is almost done with the Kindergarten section of it. He absolutely loves it and asks me everyday if he can go on to the next new word to learn. He's also reading short stories all by himself (all this in about 1 month he learned). I've very proud of him he will be 5 in September. I have nothing against Leap Frog but in my experience I think the Hooked on Phonics is just a little bit more indepth when it comes to ID letters, sounds and reading words. I wish you the best of luck.

As a former teacher (this is my 1st year as a stay at home mommy) I have a few tips and opinions.
I agree with many who are telling you that your child is still young and that play is VERY important at this age. However, I say that as my 2 year old is watching a preschoolprepco DVD with sight words on it! I do not show these DVDs to her every day though. I just use them as exposure because they are fun for her to watch.

Exposing your child to the zoo, museums and aquariums at the ages of 2 and 3 are more important than trying to force letter recognition on them. They need to learn life skills, outside world surroundings, creativity, and how to look at things in a different way. For example using an empty paper towel roll as a "telescope".

If however you already expose your child to several surroundings, creative activities and play pretend with them, you may want to start with letters. So here are some suggestions.

Focus on 1 letter per day!
Find the letter in different things throughout the day.
Use whipped cream on a plate to make the letter and let them eat it.
Color the letter on paper (make it block and let them watch you and then let them color it in)
Make a "wand" with the letter on the end that they can point at things that start with that letter, or just play with for the day.
Make a paper crown with that letter.
Make cookies with a cookie cutter of the letter of the day.

These are just a few ideas. You can also start labeling things in your house with sticky notes or notecards. Such as "window", "door", "wall", etc. to expose them to every day words. I hope this helps! :)

I was a kindergarten teacher and found that some children
learn differently. If your daughter likes to touch and be touched you might try making letters with your bodies on the floor, or using a variety of media to make the letters.
One very good one, fingerpaints or use noodles (anything that is out of the norm) Creative children like the unusual. If she is like this, it is very important that someone does this with her to encourage her. Keep up
the good work.

Introduce 1 letter at a time, reinforcing that particular letter everywhere you see it, also picture association helps like flash card pictures to identify letters. Also appeal to other senses let her feel, smell and touch something that represents that letter.
Example A for Appple give her an apple, let her hold it, smell it, and taste it. Be creative find an object for each letter.

Almost 3? Honestly, I would not worry. She is still so young and you say that she is "smart in comparison". All children develop in different areas - usually ones that interest them. I'm sure she knows more about something than her cousin. If you read to her often she will begin to pick up letters. I really take a casual approach with my 3 kids b/c I think there is too much emphasis to teach at such an early age. I did not "force" letters to my now 5 year old and as he was curious he would ask me. Then I knew he was truly ready to learn. Now he knows them all and is learning to read by himself (with my assistance) At her age, she should be concentrating on nothing but free play. Relax with her, take it slow and read her ques - trust me, she will learn them. Good luck!

There is a leapfrog refrigerator magnet that sings the abc's and sounds out the letter when you place a letter in the middle of the toy. It has been great for our son. He would stand and sing the songs and listen to how each letter sounds. It's called the "LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Set." Also I use children's place mats with the abc's on them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They are cheap and you can find them at wal-mart. My son was 2 1/2 when he learned all his letters. The key is to be repetitive and spend time with them. Good luck.

For my son he was read several ABC books, have an ABC puzzle, and a few of the children shows helped too. Also I have those letters and numbers that stick to the wall of the bathtub. My son is 2.4 years old and he knew his alphabet very young. Numbers through 20 as well. I also had gotten a number puzzle through 20. I really think the key is reading to them and repetition.

Check out Starfall.com
It has helped both my children with phonics and letter/number recognition. Hope it helps!

Go to getreadytoread.org for wonderful advice about pre-k learning and strategies.

Try getting letters to stick on her wall in her room where she can see them or paint them on her wall in her room..My son is a visual learner and this was suggested by his occupational therapist and has helped a lot you can do the same thing with numbers..Also get books with letters in them and magnetic letters to put on your fridge work also anything that she can see the letters..Hope this helps some

When I homeschooled, i used cardboard and put letters on it in glue then i had my son put something of texture such as pennies or sticks or seeds on it . Then he traced the letter while saying it. whenever you teach something and have 2 or more senses involved they are more likely to remember it. This is kinda young, and you'll just have to repeatly teach it if she's not ready, which I've learned , in my 15 years of homeschooling,is a waste of time. According to Dr. Raymond Moore the later the better. He's a child expert and homeschool expert . he wrote the book Better Late Than Early. His therories are proven and he prevents nearsightedness in children thru what he teaches in this book. I waited only 1 year later than everyone else in public school, then taught my son to read. seeing he was more developed he learned inthe snap of a finger. and he is one of 2 family members in the extended family of myself and former husband of15 people who don't have glasses for nersighted. my daughter went to public school 1-4th grade and is extremely nearsighted becasuse of early reading. I like to let nature take its' course and let them run and play.
anyone would benefit from this book
good luck !

Foam bath letters!
Something like this:http://www.amazon.com/Munchkin-Dora-Explorer-Floating-Let...
But I got some non-character ones at Babies R US also by Munchkin
They stick to the wall and the tub and my son has been using them since before he was two and knows all of his letters, numbers and colors now at 2 1/2--and it's totally because of these things.
I started with a game called "feed the monster". The monster (AKA my hand made like Oobi or wash cloth hand puppet) would name the letter and he would have to find it in the tub and then "feed the monster." The monster then would eat the letter with lots of sounds and he would laugh. (I actually started the game to get him to pick them all up at the end of the bath--lol) I started with just a few of the letters at a time. He couldn't say the letters yet, so I said them and he had to find them. Once he started being able to say his letters, we played a similar game where he had to say the letter before he fed the monster. Since they are also colored, you can work on colors too! My son was a late talker (he' really just hit his "explosion.") so it was a good way for him to learn without having to say it, if that makes sense, but since your daughter can say them all this would be a good way to teach her the symbol that identifies with the name...

Hi N.,
I don't know if this will work for everyone since each child learns in his/her own time. I have an almost 3yr old and the way i taught her to id letters is to read them to her. I would then point to the letter and ask her what is this? if she says the wrong one, i would say no its this and then move to another letter and so on ...but then go back to the ones she gets wrong until she gets them right. I hope something works for you and your child. Good luck.

Hi N.,

I know when my kids were little I used good ol fashioned flash cards. I would sit down with them and just run through them a few times a day and make it a game.

Hope this helps.

I used flash cards with my daughter who is now 3 1/2. It worked very well for her. I hope that helps. :)

Try doing letter of the day or letter of the week.

All day (or week) look for that letter. So if its "S" point it out on stop signs, or ask her to point it out, find it in signs or license plates while you drive, or in packaging while you shop. And do this in random order, not in ABC sequence. And emphasize the sound each letter makes along with recognizing the actual letter. Have her lunch start with that letter, or snack, or a game. Make as much as you can about that day be about the letter of the day.

Hope it helps.


The DVDs are great but I recommend the basics - try a nice wooden puzzle with the letters and numbers that she can hold in her hands and see and feel.

Proud mother of a 15 year old honor student.


my children attend a montessori school. they both started when they were 3. during that year, they worked with them on sandpaper letters (they would trace with their fingers). i recommend looking for a book by maria montessori, she was an amazing woman and educator. our girls are 4 and 5. our 5 year old is reading so well and the 4 year old is on her way. they are both learning to write cursive and print. montessori is an amazingly beautifully respectfully taught education of not only books but life. also, you're right never compare children, but observe and make a conscious decision from a place of intuition rather than reaction. peace, C.

First, I would say relax. Every child learns at their own pace. She will learn them with time. If you are stressing over it, she will pick up on that and may fight you more.

Do you have any letters she can play with? Leap Frog has magnetic letters that go well with the videos. We have several sets of those in both capital and lowercase letters. My son loves to play with them on the fridge and often takes them out to the coffee table while watching the Leap Frog videos (we have them all). He will line them up in order and create words to match what he is seeing on TV. My son also likes using letter cookie cutters with playdoh. He likes to draw and practice writing letters, so I keep a lot of paper, pencils, crayons, markers, and crayons around for him to use.

You could also try doing a letter of the week each week. Choose one letter and do activities that relate. For example, with the letter A, you could practice writing it, you could identify things around the house that start with A, you could eat A things like applesauce, etc.

Use flashcards, she won't get it overnight, but soon enough, she will start to know them. I was frustrated and upset because my 3 year old didn't know his, even though we do letter stuff all the time, then we started on flashcards and he's gotten a lot better!

He knows at least 10 letters over a two week period of time.

Best wishes,

Hi, My son is 3.5 and what worked best for me was a deck of cards that was for Go-Fish and Memory. On each card was a letter and an animal. He has to match them with the lower case letters. Playing Go fish was the most effective. Do you have the Letter A for Alligator? Also, instead of having him hold them in his hands, he is allowed to lay them out on the table. It's less frustrating for him, not having to concentrate on holding the cards.

We do the foam letters, wooden puzzles and books. My 3 year old will pick out random letters from any book or magazine. We also have the plastic placemats with the different learning things printed on them. I have never used baby talk with any of my 4 children. And when they ask a question I tell them the correct words and try to explain things as I would want them explained to me.
We used to have the fridge magnets, but the little magnets would fall out of the plastic casings and can be swallowed and if two are swallowed can become fatal. So we put those away.
Two of his favorite TV shows are Sesame Street and Super Why. The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is good too, but they don't really do letters and numbers. They do shapes and colors and reasoning.

It may sound silly, but we used those foam bathtub letters and when my son was taking a bath, as a letter would float by I would tell hime what it was, then he started telling me. Don't put too much pressure on yourself or your daughter, she'll learn at her pace, but make it fun for her.

I let my kids play on the computer using a website called starfall. My two year old learned all his letters from sitting and watching his four year old brother play.

N., we didn't have th eleap frog when our kids were growing up. LoL We showed them things that they could touch like, D-Dog, W-water and so on. I read a lot to my kids and I was kind of like a teacher and I would show them all the pictures and they would touch the letters and try to sound them out.
D. D.

Mom, As a grandmother of 6 grandkids, my best advise is to RELAX! A three year old who is doing all the things you say she's doing is OK! Unless she's applying for a JOB, she doesn't have any real need to be able to ID letters. Even if every kid in the neighborhood, including the genius nephew, can ID letters, it isn't a problem unless you make it one. She probably knows the letters and knows that you them, she just doesn't feel like performing in that arena after all the tricks she can do. Don't worry, she'll do that trick, too, and you'll wonder why you worried!

As a greatgrandmother I can tell you that you need not worry too much. Consistantsy is the secret to all the learning. your job is to present the information for visual and not try to force. My greatgrandaughter whom I am taking care of is going on four and her attention span for learning is about 15 minutes and she's doing great, going to Daycare two days a week helps a lot. Just remember all kids learn at their own individual rate.

Hi N.!
My son struggled with his letters also. I think mostly he was just bored with it. I ended up teaching him the alphabet in sign language and that became much more fun for him and I think he responded well to the challenge of it all! He is now 5 and when he focuses (motivators work well for him) he can read and write many 3 - 5 letter words. As you know each child is unique in their learning abilities! Just be patient and make it fun. If you stress she'll stress. She will get it! Have fun and enjoy watching her learn!


Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.