My Super Smart Son! 3Years Old

Updated on April 21, 2010
N.S. asks from Bristol, VT
37 answers

Aside from all the questions about my son being naughty and having additude issues, he is really smart. I would love to get him to start learning his letters, he can say the alphabet since he was able to talk but i want him to learn his actual letters, like how to write them. he doesnt really know how to write at all or draw with any control. if he draws a circle he knows he did but to do letters or something i dont know how to start him doing it. any ideas of some helpful tips to get my son to read and write? thanks ahhh sorry ppl my son is three he will be four in september

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So What Happened?

I got a lot of great advice but i guess i need to be more specific, cause i wasnt trying to push him to do anything. he wants to learn and does great at whatever he does, i was more just looking for fun ways to help him learn before he is in school. more for something to do to take his mind off his dad being gone and some other things. thanks for the advice given and sorry that some of you had taken me wrong. i wasnt trying to push him at all. thanks though

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answers from Norfolk on

Small motor control takes time to develop and at 3 yrs old, you will have to be patient. Coloring with chalk and crayons, cutting shapes with safety scissors from construction paper, finger paints, play doh, tracing shapes, lacing cards, stringing dry pasta or cheerios on shoe laces, etc - all these activities help develop the small muscles of the arms wrists and hands. You won't know if he's right handed or left handed for a few years. It's ok to use both hands at first. They'll settle into a favorite hand somewhere in the kindergarten or 1st grade. As for the reading, you need to read to him every day. Start with little card board books and Dr Seuss books (Hop on Pop, Red Fish Blue Fish, etc). He will have favorites and have you read them over and over till he has them memorized and he'll correct you if you try to read it a different way. This all helps with letter recognition and sounds. Some start reading sooner than others, but most kids will really take off with reading on their own by 2nd half of 2nd grade (about 7 yrs old).

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answers from Muncie on

My son learned his letters by watching Wheel of Fortune and Lingo! Crazy I know but he was reading at age 4 and that happened almost completely on his own. He hated to be read to but would ask what signs said and things like that. Wheel also taught him what his vowels were:) Don't discount what everyday activities can do to teach!

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answers from Norfolk on

Small motor control takes time to develop and at 3 yrs old, you will have to be patient. Coloring with chalk and crayons, cutting shapes with safety scissors from construction paper, finger paints, play doh, tracing shapes, lacing cards, stringing dry pasta or cheerios on shoe laces, etc - all these activities help develop the small muscles of the arms wrists and hands. You won't know if he's right handed or left handed for a few years. It's ok to use both hands at first. They'll settle into a favorite hand somewhere in the kindergarten or 1st grade. As for the reading, you need to read to him every day. Start with little card board books and Dr Seuss books (Hop on Pop, Red Fish Blue Fish, etc). He will have favorites and have you read them over and over till he has them memorized and he'll correct you if you try to read it a different way. This all helps with letter recognition and sounds. Some start reading sooner than others, but most kids will really take off with reading on their own by 2nd half of 2nd grade (about 7 yrs old).

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answers from Boston on

Two things worked really well for us, flash cards that had a big letter on one side and then a picture and the words for the picture on the other side (there's a set of Dr. Seuss flashcards that are really cute) and a whiteboard with the dotted letters. We found a McQueen whiteboard at Target and because it was McQueen, my son wanted to use it every day. Then eventually after scribbling for awhile he was ready to try to trace the letters. Just look for washable dry erase markers.....have fun!

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answers from Boston on

Some other posters have mentioned this, but it's likely that your son won't have enough control to write well for a while, although some kids do. My son is 4 and is just starting to show an interest in and ability to write letters. His pediatrician said even 4 is early for fine motor skills.

So I would concentrate on reading. I taught my son to read at age 3 with "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons," which is the same book my mother used with me. I really like the technique, which involves a special phonetic alphabet so kids don't get confused by the fact that some letters have multiple sounds. Gradually, the special alphabet is replaced with the traditional one. For learning letters, read lots of ABC books. I found that most books focus on capital letters, but "Have You Ever Seen" (now out of print, but a library might have it) has both capital and lowercase, and so does Dr. Seuss's ABC Book. Usborne has a nice ABC book that just uses lowercase letters, and the letters are somewhat raised, so kids can trace their fingers over them, which helps with letter recognition and prepares them for writing later.

Someone else mentioned this, but is a great site. Also, Hooked on Phonics has a Letter Sounds DVD my boys love. Check your library.

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answers from Wausau on

THE one thing that will benefit your son the most is to READ TO HIM. Kids pick up more by being read to than by anything else. You can run your finger underneath the words you're saying (he'll make the connection soon enough), then have him turn the page. Talk about the story when you're done---what was it about? Who was the main character? What was the point of the story? What would your son do differently?

It sounds, from your post, like he is most likely a toddler? Yes--they are completely naughty (LOL), but it's not 'attitude'. At that age, he literally thinks the world revolves around HIM---that everyone and everything exists to meet his needs and make him happy. But don't worry---he will outgrow that soon enough. THEN you'll move on to him having 'attitude issues.' :-D

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answers from Cleveland on

I have been a preschool teacher for a long time, and I have to admit i didn't read all your responses, but any art medium, crayons, markers, painting, playdough, sand and water play they all help to develop the fine motor control he needs to write well.
my first thought is to have him start signing his name to letters/cards you send to out of - or in town actually- relatives. He could trace over what you have written in pencil or he could copy from something you have written on a post it.
Another really cute thing i learned from a Montessori Teacher is to used the JUMBO sized push pins and a scrap of carpet or foam meat tray kind of thing and lay a piece of construction paper on it that you have traced a simple design say a sun, and have him use the pin to punch out holes sort of like tin lanterns. great fine muscle practice. good luck

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answers from Hartford on

I agree about It's awesome.

There is a handwriting program that my daughter took an enrichment class at age 4. It's called Handwriting Without Tears and its works on letter formation in stages...with wooden blocks/foam pieces for parts of a letter, then "wet, dry, try" where they make the letter with a tiny piece of wet sponge, then dry it with a tiny piece of paper towel then try it on their own. Pencil and paper come last. Also, they have all letters start at the top and do the uppercase first then lowercase. I also know that writing letters is a huge part of kindergarten. If you can help him understand letters and sounds really well, the mechanics of writing them will come in due time.



answers from New London on

You got so many answers, but I didn't read them all. My daughter just turned 2 in Dec and learned all her letters and sounds from watching the Leap Frog letter Factory DVD. it's like $8 at Walmart. My daughter too was interested in learning them. She would also point out letters and say "letter" . We then started telling her some letters and she picked them up. When I came across this video, she loved it and asked to watch it like 3 times a day. She now points out letters and says them everywhere she goes. I think that video would be helpful to your son. If he is really interested he will probably learn them quickly.


answers from Jacksonville on


How old is he?? and maybe you can introdude the learing material that teach him how to write such as a write along that he can copy and tracing them over and keep practice.



answers from Boston on


First of all, how wonderful for you that you've got a healthy bright boy on your hands. Big hugs.

I'm going to mention another possibility. Something to think about.

Instead of helping him advance even more in one area of his development, focus on balance. In other words, if he's super smart in reasoning or cognitive skills, focus on athletic skills or social skills. Remember that kids need to develop a whole slew of skills as they grow up, and all too often I see kids who are super smart with poor social skills or math skills or artistic skills. Focus on giving him a balanced diet of learning opportunities. Don't stop on moving forward a tiny bit with the letters part, but do consider that if he focuses too heavily in one area he may fall behind in another. It's just how the human brain works, we can only learn so much at once before it takes a toll elsewhere.

I can tell you that a balanced learning diet has worked for my kids. My twins are 9 and they are smart, athletic, socially adept, and artistic. yes, they each have an area they excel in, but they're also well-rounded.

Just a thought.


answers from Tulsa on

He may not have the fine motor skills to write well enough. Let him learn to color and finger paint. I know you want to help him, but don't pressure him to do something he isn't ready for or has NO interest in. It will cause problems and have the opposite effect you are hoping for.


answers from Charlotte on

Start with the vowels singing "A E I O U" to the tune of the song BINGO. "A E I O U, A E I O U, A E I O U, I know my vowels and so do you"! Then have them sing the song with the vowel sounds "Ah, Eh, Ih, Oh, Uh" This will help them learn what sounds these letters make. Since all words have a vowel sound in it, this will help them when they begin to form words.

After they have the vowels down, introduce the remaining letters to them as an animal. B - Bubba Bear, C - Cathy Cat, D - Donald Dinosaur, and so on.

My oldest son learned this way and was reading at age four. My twin boys just turned for and are well on their way.


answers from Dallas on

Hey there,

I have a 5 year old, 3 year old and 1 year old. If you want to start building his school skills, I would suggest teaching him to identify the letters (upper case and lower case), and the phonetic sounds associated with each letter. This is a pre-reading skill and very important for kindergarten.

As for ideas to how - the Hooked on Phonics makers have a complete set that introduces numbers, reading, writing and letters. I have the Kindergarten edition, but they make a pre-k edition. I bought mine at Tuesday Morning. (They are a closeout store, so I got it for a nice discount! May be worth checking) I also let my kids watch the LeapFrog series of videos, one in particular was recommended by my husbands Aunt who teaches. It's LeapFrog's Letter Factory. My kids aren't allowed much tv, it's not something we do everyday.. so when I do let them watch it I go for educational programs. It really made a difference.

The only reason I wouldn't stress writing yet - boys have a hard time with writing, I wouldn't want you and he to become frustrated. If you see that he's doing great using the Hooked on Phonics set - then maybe he's blessed with better muscle control then most.


answers from Joplin on

I know where you are coming from with a child who "wants" to learn and is eager...that is just the best! A really cool "toy" I found and it wasn't too expensive either, I have seen it at Walmart in the little book section in the toy dept and also at Toys R Us same aisle...books, it is a board book with one of those screens that you slide the bar to erase ( ?) anyway the board book section is how to write the letters and numbers. You can trace them on the book and practice writing on the erasable screen.

Lots of luck!



answers from Las Vegas on

I would keep learning fun and how you can do that is to get him an easel.. my son has had one since he was about 3 years old and every since then has drawn almost every day, but we have also used the easel (which he equates to FUN) as a learning tool in that when we were teaching him how to write letters, we wrote them on his board and he copied.. all the while, he thought it was fun and ART... I think as long as a kid thinks they are having fun, learning will come naturally and more easily.. hence, I do believe this would be a good start for your child..
best of luck



answers from San Francisco on

I found a whiteboard book that has dotted letters and numbers on it (shapes too). My son is already learning how to write his name at daycare by drawing/connecting the dots. The white board is great because he can draw on it and reuse it. We would go through a lot of paper otherwise. =) My son is 3 1/2 and loves to use the white board.



answers from Boston on

Every study ever done says kids are ready to learn to read at 6 or 7. The No Child Left Behind Act has hurt education in soooo many ways. This is one. They are now trying to teach them at 4 and 5. Why? Kids catch up by grade 4. Do your son a favor and let him be 3 years old. Play with him. Help him with motor skills. Teach him basic science concepts. e.g. after he knows his colors, show him that combing read and yellow makes orange. Even if he is the talk of the preschool for his ability to know his letters etc. by the time he's in second grade all the other kids will know them too and know one will care that he knew them at 3. Let him be 3.



answers from Oklahoma City on

i used to hold my daughters hand while she held the crayon and we did her name together, then i would do the dashes to make the letters of her name and she would trace over that until she learned her name which is so long but she got it. good luck mama


answers from Indianapolis on

See if he likes Word World on PBS. My daughter could recognize all of her letters by 13 mon & read/spell simple words before she was 2 thanks to that show. I'm not big on having my daughter taught by a TV show but this is completely different from most shows on the air. 100% educational, fun & cute, using scientific techniques to help kids learn.

To teach early writing skills, start with tracing. There are great coloring book style print outs you can get for free online that have pictures & traceable areas. Make it fun & he will learn faster & better!



answers from Boston on

A few suggestions to try are putting shaving cream over laminated letters an letting him trace them, cutting letters out of super fine sand paper and letting him trace with his fingers, or a cinnamon stick, bath tub crayons for practice in the tub, at this age just keep it fun. My daughter is also three and these are things she enjoys and knows most all of her letters now. Melissa and doug also make a toy called the see and spell, like spelling puzzle tiles of easy three and four letter words thats fun to use, leap frog makes a trace and write pad also that is small, shows how to trace letters with a stylus for them to use also, great for in the car.



answers from Detroit on

go to - great for learing letters..

He is giong to have a hard time writing letters.. my daughter is 4 (last december) she has been in preschool (daycare) for an entire year and they practice writing their names every day... and now afte 12 months she can write her name.

she isstarting to have interest in writing other letters... but that is very recent..



answers from Columbus on

I completely see where you're coming from. My daughter is 3-will be 4 in Nov. She has started writing her letters and even trying to read. Her bonus is that she has a big brother that she loves to copy. Whenever he sits down to do homework, she has to do hers. She loves those activity books. We have several that are geared toward kindergarten & she does most of them quite well. He has also started trying to teach her how to count backwards. It's just lots of encouragement & finding the thing that keeps his attention.
Good luck.



answers from Kansas City on

My son is three and has known his letters and numbers for about a year now. We just started by showing him his name and had him write his name, then moved on to other names. Names are a good place to start.

We also like to watch wheel of fortune, and that has really helped him too!


answers from Muncie on

My son learned his letters by watching Wheel of Fortune and Lingo! Crazy I know but he was reading at age 4 and that happened almost completely on his own. He hated to be read to but would ask what signs said and things like that. Wheel also taught him what his vowels were:) Don't discount what everyday activities can do to teach!


answers from Boston on

1ST THING!! YOU DONT NEED TO EXPLAIN YOURSELF, OR BE SORRY. EDUCATION CAN BE FUN, AND REWARDING TO BOTH YOU AND YOUR SON. With the exception of having an 8 month old reading books.( those reading commercials ) THE OTHERS ARE SITTING AT THE COMPUTER WITH NEGATIVE ADVICE, WHILE THE TV IS DOING THE BABYSITTING. You can find fun ways to teach your child at any age. When my daughter was around 3, I bought an animal wall clock, made especially for children!!! The Monkey was @ 12:00, and each hour had another animal, the minutes had insects, so we learned 3 different things with one clock. If you moms out there think that the school is going do all the work, you are in for a rude awakening. More that 1/2 of my daughters friends (4th grade) can't tell time yet, unless they look at my stove for the digital numbers. They have no concept of what 1 hour means. One more thing my daughter understands is that if you can't say something nice, don't say ANYTHING!!! She also comes home with about 2 hours of homework, & because of all the math changes they are now offering classes for parents, so WE can help them with math. I also have some other little fun things my daughter, and I used to do together. I found a placemat at Family Dollar that had the alphabet on it. So whenever my daughter finished her dinner I had her outline one letter at a time ( her name ). I got her erasable markers, & I got her a Princess magnet board, so she could practice, and see the results everyday. I worked ( and still do ) on the points program. So, If he practices ( only 5 minutes a night ), start small. But, if he is having fun, don't stop him just give him an extra point. 20 points a week, with the understanding that if he doesn't listen to you, or do his little chores, points can also be taken away. ( Very Important ) be consistant and praise him for his extra effort. (Only weekly rewards, not daily ) tell him you will take him to a special park, an ice cream, rent or go to the movies!! Just the two of you . Don't use toys, or money, because believe me : ) I learned the hard way as they get older they expect to be paid for each individual chore. You need to start now with weekly rewards. You can also go online. Alphabet games for children ( his age ). Don't worry he is only 3, so make learning as fun as possible. Good Luck, I hope I helped you. K..



answers from Pittsburgh on

IMO the best thing in the world for learning letters are the ones that you can take in the tub and they will stick to the wall. My son LOVED playing with these and learned how to read from them at a very early age.

I wouldn't worry too much about writing the letters as I would about idenitification and sound. Writing will come later. If you teach him the wrong way it is almost impossible to break as I have learned with my older son who is in second grade and has horrible printing because he starts his letters at the wrong place (when I taught him I didn't realize that it mattered).


answers from Milwaukee on

My daughter is 3 (4 in August) and knows her alphabet, numbers 1-100 and knows how to write most of them as well as starting to read BUT she was the one interested in really learning the above. Every child will learn at a different pace, so start slowly and see how your son does. It really depends on his fine motor skills but the only way to improve those is let him explore coloring, playing with playdoh and practice cutting (which at first it will be all over but after awhile a child gets better and better).

Somethings I have done with my daughter is we coloring and draw A LOT together (at least once a day). At first it started out scribbling around 2 years old but between 2 1/2 and 3 she saw me drawing people and writing letters, she asked me to show her and now at 3 1/2 she can write most of the letters, can write out words and draw people (a big circle, with two eyes, nose, mouth, hair sometimes ears). It takes years for a child to master, writing, reading and fine motor skills so be patient.


answers from Chicago on

I suggest logging on to Montessori resources on line and find some suggestions there.



answers from Minneapolis on

Depends on his age, but when ready make sure you are using the same style of writing as the school district he will attend. There are many types, but most schools use one of two. Traditional (Zaner Bloser) that is sticks and balls that go straight up and down and Modern (D'Nealian) that uses "tails" on the end of letters and is written with a slight slant to the right.

Why go through all of the work of teaching him one way for him to have to learn another?

If he is not ready to write his letters, you can still work on identification of letters (both upper and lower) in random order and even start talking about sounds most of the consonants make. Be careful not to make the sounds of the letters with an "uh" sound after them. 'B' is made with the softest sound with a puff of air...not BUH.

You can also talk about the different fonts in books and see if he can still recognize the letters for instance, the letter 'a' here doesn't look the same as we teach them to write it.

Have fun, visit the teacher supply stores for the best quality of materials and ask people who work there for help. They are usually teachers moonlighting for extra pay (sad, isn't it!).

Also, you can work on things that he will need and can memorize easily. Work on right/left, days of the week, and the obvious colors, shapes, and numbers.

Wanted to add: write the names of ordinary objects on the actual item around the house (ie. "door" on the door). Make sure you only capitalize proper nouns and write in upper and lower case letters.


answers from Los Angeles on

I bought the foam letters for the bathtub. But My son (2 1/2) picked up some letters from watching sesame street. When he pointed out an "E" to me (much to my surprise!) that's when I started working more with him. There are alphabet books that have pictures of things that start with a specific letter that you can use too. preschool is a great help too since they learn a lot from other kids. Now he can identify all the upper-case letters.


answers from New York on

You didn't mention the age of your son, so it's hard to know what's appropriate for him. If he is very young, no matter how smart he is, he will not have developed the motor skills to have a proper pencil grip - and then he goes on to school with a bad habit about how to hold the pencil. I also agree with the previous poster - it may sound simple to teach letters, but different schools do teach different styles of printing - Zaner Bloser, D'Nealian and others. It's harder to re-learn to print than to learn for the first time at school. I work in an elementary school and I can't tell you how many kindergarteners start whose moms or dads have taught them to write their name. Sounds wonderful, right? Except that the parents have taught them to write their name in all caps - likely because kids recognize uppercase letters first, they are often easier to write (more lines, less curves) but it's not acceptable to write KAYLEIGH in school, so it's really as if they haven't learned at all. I don't mean to discourage you, but if your child is really young, you don't need to teach him too much. Get him some alphabet magnets and make words, sound them out, let him know what phonemic sounds the letters make. Put up the "op" and let him put letters in front to see what words he can make - top, pop stop, etc. I would also say to get a letter board of the style of print that he'll be using in school and have him trace the letters with his finger. Then have him practice by making the letters by pointing his finger in the air (what we call Sky Writing when we teach the PAF program)


answers from Boston on

There is absolutely no educational benefit to forcing a child to learn these things. He is too young to understand the concept of letters forming words so I really don't understand why you feel so pressured to push him. You won't find one reputable educational source asking for this. Kindergarten teachers will tell you they would rather have a room full of curious kids who can pay attention and sit in a circle and separate well from parents - THEY will teach them their letters.

You can serve your child much better by providing lots of outlets for his curiosity and creativity, and by giving him lots of activities that help him develop fine motor skills so that, when the time comes to write, he has good control of his hands and fingers. Things like puzzles, building toys (Legos and K'nex and so on), arts & crafts (with coloring, gluing, cutting, other types of manipulation of hands and objects) will go a long way. You can do this outside too - picking up pebbles or shells or gently picking up worms after a rainstorm, putting out birdseed, drawing in the dirt with a stick - let him experience more textures and more opportunities to develop the skills he will need when his brain is ready to absorb concepts like letters.

Really. You'll be glad you did in the long run.



answers from Providence on

'Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons' is a great book that teaches reading as well as writing letters.



answers from Seattle on

Not sure how old, but start with his name. It is easy and fun and most kids are receptive to this. Don't be surprised if the letters are all over the place and look out of order and upside down, etc....that is completely normal.
My daughter is almost 3 1/2 and has been starting to write letters about 3 months ago, but it was her that wanted to do it. She ran up to me one day and said, look mom, and A. And sure enough it was.
I also do printouts from the computer for tracing letters. She really likes that because they usually have a picture to color too.


answers from Atlanta on

The hand-eye coordination it takes for writing is pretty advanced. If he's age three or younger, I would concentrate on reading. The single best thing you can do is to read to him. I also recommend a book by Glen Doman called Teach your Baby to Read, The Gentle Revolution (name is something like that.) This has a great method of teaching whole words not just letters or phonics. Letters don't mean anything unless they're in the context of a word. If you teach whole words, your child will learn the phonics and letters naturally. My boys did. They are six and eight and both reading far above their level. Let him color and draw whatever he likes. Once he's reading a few words, try having him trace those letters. All the best to you!


answers from Dallas on

It is wonderful that you recognize that your son is smart and you want to foster learning.....HOWEVER, I suggest not to push him or he will get burned out too fast.

Make it FUN

One thing we do at school to help the younger students is to write the name in bright yellow highlighter and then the students trace the outline of the highlighter to get the gist of writing. This works is you are using the tracing method as well.

Just remember to make it fun, not a chore so that he will enjoy learning.

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