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Teaching 3 Yr Old Abc's/numbers

For months I have been trying to teach my 3-year-old her ABC's and we are stuck on A, B, and C. She just can't get past these and still doesn't know those real well. We have been using flashcards and a doodleboard. I'm assuming she'll need to know these before she enters preschool? Do any other moms out there have any creative ideas for her to learn these? Thanks!

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Thanks for all the EXCELLENT advice. A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Now I don't feel so pressured to have her learn them. I'll let the teachers be teachers and mommy be mommy. I'll just do a little here and there and make it fun for her. I guess I assumed she needed to know them since my daycare's daughter knew hers prior to entering preschool and I didn't want Alyssa to be struggling just in pre-school! Thanks again for all the great responses - everyone has been a huge help!

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After checking your post, I checked my email and this is what a relative had posted on her site!!!

Teaching Letters

Posted: 29 Mar 2009 03:58 PM PDT

I found an article in Parents magazine May 2008 (Um, yeah, I'm a little behind in my magazine reading, carrying on...) on teaching your child letters, I found a few good pointers and thought I would share them.

~ It's best to begin by teaching your preschooler to write their name
~ Even though it's easier to write capital letters don't encourage them to write their name in all capital letters - it's a hard habit for kids to break later
~ From their name you can teach them the rest of the upper case letters
~ MANY (if not most) kids write some of their letters backwards, don't worry it doesn't mean they're dyslexic
~ Don't be focused on just writing with pencils and crayons - these may actually be too small for your child's motor skill level, try using rubber grips (sold at any school supply store) or even larger markers and crayons)
~ "Straight Talk: after a child learns how to write her name in uppercase and lowercase letters, teach the rest of the capitals. Go in the order of difficulty: start with straight letters, then curvy ones, and end with diagonals, says Jan Olsen, a handwriting expert in Cabin John, Maryland."

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ARe you talking letter recognition or just being able to sing the ABC's? My daughter has been in daycare, preschool and now 4-year old kindergarten and will be 5 in June. She STILL does not recognize all of the upper case letters, much less the lower case ones. Am I worried? Absolutely NOT! She is very bright, just not so interested in sitting down to learn letters (for some reason though, she recognizes all numbers 0-10!) She loves books and being read to, knows all her shapes, colors, etc and knew those "early". Do not worry that she doesn't know all those letters! Sit back, relax and just play!

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Hi R.,

I see some people have already addressed this, but I think kids learn best when they are not forced to learn something. Your 3 year old should be playing, not studying. Whatever she picks up on her own through PLAY is fine, but forcing her to learn something before she is ready is not developmentally helpful.

Personally, I do not think flash cards are a good idea. Kids are being forced to learn everything so much earlier now than ever before. I am not convinced that this is a good thing. Denmark has the highest literacy rate in the world, and they do not begin to teach their kids to read until they are 7. (Of course, there are many factors that create this statistic, but it is something to consider.)

I selected a preschool based on PLAY and learning social skills, not in attempt to create some sort of genius that will get her in to Harvard some day. (I am an attorney and my husband is an engineer, by the way.) I am just not convinced that this kind of pressure is good for kids...and I don't think it makes them happier. Happiness - not genius - is my goal for raising my child.

Good luck with your decision.

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Kids do NOT need to know their letters before pre-school! Please don't push her or learning will stop being fun for her!

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When my oldest daughter was about 3 or so, her aunt bought her a LeapFrog alphabet magnet toy that sticks to the refrigerator and has the letters you can put in it to hear the name of the letter, and what it sounds like. Since then, my 2 1/2 yr old daughter has now been playing with it, and because there is a little button that she can push to hear the whole alphabet, she has been learning her abc's, and can pretty much (she misses t,u,v) can say her abc's all by her self!!


Just make it fun. And, one thing we've enjoyed is the DVD "The Letter Factory" from Leapfrog. It puts learning the ABC's into song, plus teaches phonics.


I don't have the energy to read 44 responses, so I don't know if anyone else suggested this, but I can tell you this REALLY WORKS.

Leap Frog has a DVD called "The Letter Factory". Not only does it teach the ABC's, but it teaches the sounds the letters make. My 3 y.o. has known his ABC's and letter recognition since 2 because he has been in daycare/ preschool his entire life, but he LOVES the DVD and it taught him the sounds each letter makes within a week. It's awesome!

After that they have ones for math, pre-reading, reading, etc...I bought a 5 DVD set that has it all and the price was very reasonable.

Good luck!

I have never heard that ABC's and knowing numbers were required for preschool entrance. I taught my kids their ABC's and 123's by using them constantly...singing, counting toys, playing with blocks. And if you have a 16 month old, you will probably be surprised to find that while you are teaching this to your 3 year old that she will learn it at the same time. I think that singing the alphabet and number songs was what really helped cement it for my kids. Also driving time is a great time for this, you have a captive audience.

There is a video from Leap Frog called The Letter Factory which goes through the whole alphabet and relates each letter to a room and activity. My kids love this movie and it has helped them learn their ABC's. And I also would suggest the fridge phonics as the kids love to be in the kitchen when I cook to which we then play with the letters and sing the song. Also just singing the ABC's helps them learn.

I highly recommend "Fridge Phonics" by LeapFrog. (http://www.leapfrog.com/en/fridge_phonics/fridgephonics.html) It's a base unit with magnetic letters that helps teach their kids the ABC's. You put the letter on the base and once you press it, it sings a catchy song that tells the child what the letter is and what sounds it makes... my 26 month old got it at Christmas and knew his ABC's by the end of January... (Just a note- the front of our fridge isn't magnetic, but we use it on a dual sided easel we have by "Step 2"- one is magnetic. This was awesome as it's portable...)

Another thing he got that helped practice was a wooden puzzle of the ABC's (the one he has is part of a 5 puzzle set in a rack by "Parents" that is sold at Target. (http://www.target.com/Parents-Puzzle-Rack-with-Puzzles/dp.... He loves to dump the letters off and put them all back on... great way to reinforce it!

Good luck!

Preschool is meant to teach her these things. You don't need to worry about her knowing certain things before she starts preschool.

She will naturally learn ABC's, colors, shapes, etc...through games and toys you play with together. Have fun!! I wouldn't sit down and try to teach her with flash cards or have any other specific "teaching sessions".

Let her learn through playing. Do puzzles together that have shapes, letters, colors and talk about the puzzle while you put it together. Get magnets for the fridge. You can start with spelling her name.

Please let it go. Kids do not need to know the alphabet to enter preschool. They get plenty of practice with letters in preschool and even more in kindergarten. 3 year olds should be getting experiences (like trips to the grocery store, restaurants, parks, etc...) and get lots of time to imagine and create. She'll never get this crucial time back for using the imagination and it is not something kids can catch up on later. Your daughter can learn the alphabet any time.

licensed teacher

It sounds like you have the visual tools but in my experience it helps to hear it as well. Songs with ABCs and counting...as well as toys with the same thing helps. Anything that involves multiple sensory skills vs. just one is always best for learning.

I too have had great success with the Leapfrog letter factory DVD - it is awesome. My daughter asks to watch it over and over again...she is three and a half and tells me what letters say, she recognizes letters and is writing her name. If she recognizes a letter and isn't sure what sound it makes, she will ask. All of this started within a few times of watching this DVD. It is nice and catchy for kids! My daughter did know her alphabet before I picked this up, but I would think the DVD would help her to learn the alphabet too.

After she watches it a few times, just make sure you are working on it with her. We don't formally sit down to work on it, we just make it part of our daily activities. I would recommend singing the alphabet song any chance you get.

There are other dvd's in the series. We just picked up Word Factory which teaches them to combine letters and sounds into words. It's a little bit advanced for my daughter right now, but she does ask to watch it and I think she'll be spelling and reading simple words before long.

I think rather than try to teach her specific letters, just make sure she has lots of exposure to the alphabet. (I'm a preschool teacher.)

Read really great ABC books regularly -- go to the library to keep getting new ones. Give her ABC puzzles and magnets to play with. Put up an ABC poster or alphabet picture cards in her bedroom.

And focus on the letters in her name. Teach her the letters in her name -- how to write them and how to name them -- focusing on the first letter first.

When you go places, try to find the first letter in her name on signs and billboards.

Three letters is fine for a three year old. You want her to know several letters by the time she goes to kindergarten. She'll be able to do that no problem.

I'm not a huge supporter of candy rewards, but if you want to get the job done quickly - buy a bag of m&m's (or alike) and reward when she sings one extra letter. This is how I tought my son to count and colors. But I agree that there is NO RUSH as long as she is going to preschool, they will teach her and they will let you know if she needs to catch up.

When my daughter was little, we took blank postcards and wrote one letter on each card, along with a couple small, very basic pictures of things that started with that letter. Then we taped it up in the living room so she would see it all the time. That seemed to really work with her. I dont think you need to stress too much about it yet though, she has plenty of time. I volunteer at my kids' school a lot. In kindergarten, they do this thing where every letter has a name ( Andy Apple A, Benny Bear B, Gertie Goose G, etc) and they recite them A LOT! along with the sounds. They pick it up so fast, you wouldnt believe!!

I do have one, what I think is good, big advice...when you sing the ABC song and get to the end, dont say "w, x, y, and z" just sing "w, x, y, z" because kids tend to think "and" is a letter too and have a hard time dropping it!

Kids are all over the board when it comes to what they know when they enter Preschool and K. My husband didn't know his ABC's until during Kindergarten (he never attended preschool, and entered K late). I knew my ABC's and how to spell some basic words by the time I entered Preschool and was teaching my sister how to spell things too (3 years younger than me).The biggest difference between my husband and me is that my parents read to me all the time and his didn't.

My first advice is to read to your child. You can read books about ABCs or anything else.

My second suggestion is to do what we've done with our son: sing the ABC's as a bedtime song every night. Print out ABC templates to color and hang on the wall. Just keep a running dialog about letters. "Grandma starts with G. Cat starts with C, etc" relate it to whatever you are doing at the time. Grocery shopping is a great time to do this- point out which letters are on (bg) the products you buy. Get (r) (rrrrrrrrrrrrrr) Let her do a letter "treasure hunt" while you shop; see how many A's she can find on items in your cart. Let her type on the computer- we send emails to Grandma. My son will type his favorite letter (G for Grandma B for Bumpa R for Riley P for papa M for mama) We don't edit or anything; we just let him go at it. (r) All the letters in () here are letters my son has typed while I'm doing this response LOL.

Don't feel pressured to have your daughter know all her letters and numbers by Preschool. We have done almost no 'work" with numbers at all at this point. And the "work" we've done with ABCs is really just play- and we only really do it because we enjoy it. I have always loved letters, words, reading and writing. It comes quite naturally to me so I can't help but share my love of it with my son. Math has always been less fun for me so I tend to stay away from it- it feels much more like work than play for me. I hope someone else can foster a love of numbers in my son, but I don't think I will be the person to do that.

Just do what you feel good about doing. Part of the point of school is to teach those things anyway.

I have two 3 yr. old boys, and one of them had the alphabet down, but was having a hard time getting their sounds down. While my other son was mixing some of the lower case letters up. We rented a movie from the library called Letter Factory from the library, and after a couple of times of watching that they both had their alphabet down plus the sounds the letters make.


This will be long, but my 18-month-old son knows all of his letters and sounds, upper and lower case, and I really believe this is why! You've gotten some great advice, and nothing will replace the small day-to-day reinforcements you're already doing. However, I just can't say enough good things about the Fisher Price Fun 2 Learn Laughtop:


We purchased this for my son when he was 9 months old because he loved to open and close the lid just like on Mommy's laptop. It has a music mode and that is initially what he played with most. He could also "check his e-mail" by pushing a large green button that would pop up one of three little messages. He just thought he was big stuff!

Eventually he moved on to letter mode and each key you press says the letter, the sound it makes, and has a little graphic of something that starts with that letter. For example: "L - Lion - Laaaa!!) He would sing "Laaa!" with the lion and just giggle!

Then, at about 15 months, he moved on to this game where it "rains" a letter down and you have to press that key within a few second to make the letter drop into the barrel. For every 10 letters you "collect" you get a little song and picture. For weeks he would sit on our laps and we would point to which key to press and he would press it. Then one day I heard him start up the laptop, switch it to that game, and heard all of the letters dropping into the bucket! I literally had to sneak up behind him to see what was going on and he was very accurately pushing each letter all by himself! It moves on to harder levels with upper and lower case letters combined, and he got every last one of them - 30 in a row before he got tired of playing after the third level!

I was impressed, but thought it was just the toy motivating him. So, I got out the magnadoodle and wrote a few letters on it and asked him to find "S - ssss" and he pointed right to it! We have now had him find letters on signs in waiting rooms, on his foam alphabet mat, in books, etc., and he gets them every time. In the car I'll say, "What letter does T make?" and hear a little "t-t-t" from the back seat. We also have a LOT of alphabet books with sliding windows, things to touch and feel, flaps to lift, etc., and these are easily his favorite books because he knows he gets so much praise for knowing his letters and sounds!

Again, sorry to be so long, but I got the laptop at Wal-Mart for $30 and ignored the 3-7 year age range and I am SO glad I did! Good luck!

Just make ABC's a theme in your home. Go to the library each week and check out new ABC books and read them when you would normally read other books. Let her watch Sesame Street - it is such an educational show and a three year old will really get a lot out of it. There's always a letter of the day and they spend a good 5-7 minutes singing about the letter, having game shows about the letter, and other fun things with the letter. I swear this is the major reason why my 2 year old knows all of his letters. Keep it up with the flashcards, if she's interested in them. Get a letter puzzle to do together daily. And, if none of this works, don't fret!! She'll get them eventually. My sister's kids did not know their letters before preschool, and they're all fantastic readers today. If your daughter's even interested in letters at all, that's a step in the right direction. Just keep making it fun and a major part of your play/story time!!
Good luck!
Amy K

My kids had ABC puzzles, which worked great! There are also nice "workbooks" you can get at Walmart, ShopKo, Walgreens, etc. which have kids trace letters and numbers. It may just be that your she just doesn't learn from observation, which is fine ... you just need to use a different approach. Good luck!

Does your daughter like to color? On the internet there are coloring pages with the letters of the alphabet on them. She can have fun coloring and learning her letters at the same time. I've used them with my two girls. My youngest daughter is currently in 4-K. We struggled with her prior to starting last fall with getting her to learn her name, ABC's, etc. I don't think she was expected to know too much going into the program. But now that she is with her peers, she has caught on at an amazing rate. I think as long as your daughter shows interest and you keep working with her, she will be fine. Good luck!

Dr. Seuss' ABC book is fun & she will not seem like work to her. It will just be a book with a silly story.

She will learn at ther own pace. Don't try to force it on her. The more subtle you are at 3 the better. & no she will not need to know her letters before preschool. They will teach them to her there...

I hate to say this, but Mickey Mouse Clubhouse taught my son to count while I was on bedrest (he was around 2) and Word World on PBS and REALLY helped him with his letters! I don't like relying on TV, but they have helped TREMENDOUSLY! He counts to 15 now, doesn't "sing" the alphabet on demand but recognizes all of his letters. We catch him singing the alphabet when he is alone or in the car, but doesn't want the attention :) Good Luck!

Does she like the flashcards? Anything that a toddler associates w/fun will be learned.

Does she watch PBS or TV? How about Sesame Street or Super Why?

Does she use the computer? Have you tried any kid-oriented websites like www.pbs.org; they have one game called Keyboard-O-Rama where the child hits the key on the keyboard and Elmo says the letter, it's fun, really :-)

Do you have toys/games that utilize letters? We enjoy Fridge Phonics by Leapfrog. We also used those foam tub letters/numbers (available at Target and anywhere). I think other toys would also utilize letter learning, perhaps SpeakNSay or others. You could do a search on Google or Amazon.com.

Have you read any parenting books on learning letters/encouraging reading/literacy? I would think your local library would be brimming with handouts, etc, on this - ask a librarian next time you're in. I believe they suggest pointing out letters on signs, cereal boxes, clothing, etc, etc, etc, among other things.

How about using food? Check the cereal and cracker isles. Isn't there even some sort of letter soup? I think you might be able to buy pasta in letter shapes too. I know you can buy letter cookie cutters too, you can use them for sandwiches, JELLO, cookies, etc, etc. Then make a game out of using them - spell her name with them - make a "G" cookie to give to Grandma, "D" cookie to give to Daddy, etc.

Hope these suggestions give you ideas. Good luck!

Just so you know, she will absolutely NOT be expected to know them in preschool. They will be working on them then buy even some kids start Kindergarten not knowing them and that's fine too. Just keep doing what you're doing and make it fun, eventually she'll learn even if it's much longer than you thought!

I think you'll find that she'll make great strides in her 3 yr old year. My little one didn't really know his letters or numbers when he first turned 3 and then somewhere along the way, he was extremely fascinated by them and wanted to focus on a particular letter or number (almost an obsession). This would last for a few days and everywhere we went and everything we looked at, he would just pick that out. We also started doing activity books or workbooks. He saw it as a big game. I let him decide which pages he wanted to do. You can get inexpensive ones at the dollar store in famous characters such as Pooh, or Sesame Street, etc. He also loved getting his own magazine (in his case it was Thomas the Train) which also involved activities. He never responded to flashcards. Each child is different. By the time he turned 4, it suddenly dawned on me that he knew his letters and his numbers and could correct adults if they accidentally spelled his name wrong (it's a French name and isn't commong in Minnesota).

I'd never say that I deliberately tried to make sure he knew all of his letters and numbers by a certain age. I found that as a parent, you can just continue doing what you've always done,i.e. read everyday, point out things as you drive along or in the store, and your child will show you what they are interested in.

I promise you. Your child will want to learn the sounds of the letters, what they stand for, etc. They seem to develop this curiousity for it on their own as their brain matures.

In my experience, nothing is required for preschool. Kindergarten may be a different story. I have a 3.5 year old boy and he is by far my least advanced child. (I also have an 11 yr old and a 9 yr old). For counting he sometimes gets to four, sometimes doesn't. Usually he does to three really good and then says either a random number or even a letter. For the alphabet he does abcd, messes up the efg, and then gives up. but if we sing it with him then he will try to jump back in parts he thinks he knows. And you know what? I'm not worried one bit. When he gets to preschool next year and the teachers realize he doesn't know them yet, guess what they will start working on. Don't stress out about it. Do the counting and abcs with her for fun. She will catch on more and more, but don't make it into a chore or act frustrated that she isn't getting it. I'm confident that both your daughter and my son will have mastered these by jr. high.;-)

I had the same problems with my 3 year old. For her birthday someone bought her Hooked On Phonics Learn to Read (Pre-K) edition, and I didn't use it for several months thinking it would be over her head. But I decided to try it, and she knew all her letters within a few weeks. She loved the computer games with really are a lot of fun and 100% educational. It's easy for a 3 year old to do by themselves, as long as you guide them a few times first until they get the hang of it. This comes in especially handy when you have a younger child who needs your attention! Good luck!


First of all, pre-school is where your child should be learning her ABCs and 123s. She should not be required to know them before, it is great if they do. Secondly, go to your library and check out a bunch of ABC books. Books are the best way for her to learn them since she will see them in print so she is actually reading. This will make learning to read even easier for her since she already has made that connection to books. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Eating through the Alphabet, Doctor Seuss's ABC, are great books with which to start.

Throw away the flashcards and read the book "Einstein Never Used Flashcards:How Our Children Really Learn -- And Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less"


IMO, our culture is being sold a bill of goods by the toy companies.

Your 3 year old definitely DOES NOT need to know her ABC's for preschool. There are plenty of children who enter kindergarten without being able to identify all their letters. I would keep it light and fun - flashcards for a 3 year old sounds kind of extreme unless she really enjoys it. But I wouldn't worry about it. One day she was surprise you and know them all.

I did a home preschoold with my son. For months everywhere we went I would point out letters to him. when shoping I would stop and say "What is that letter" He would never know and I would tell him and then have him point to the letter and say the name. One night I just cried, My son was not going to make it to kindergarden and it was all my fault because I could not teach him his letters. So a few weeks later we were in a hurry and trying to get the kids to run into walmart. My son stoped suddenly. I though now what! He said look mom and pointed to the Walmart sign and told me what each of the letters were! I thinks know more then when they let on. He will not need to know his Alphabet for preschool. Just let him learn on his own terms!

You have gotten lots of great responses! I have a 2 year old, and she has been able to song the ABC song and identify all the capital letters, plus count to 10 and id all the numbers up to 10, since 19 months - now she knows all the lower case letters, and all the sounds the letters make, as well as counting to 20.

Most of our "work" was done as just part of the day - we have a variety of placemats that have letters, numbers, colors and shapes on them, and we use a different one each week at the table, and we go over them as we are finishing up eating (since mom and dad usually take longer, since we sit down after serving here and we eat more food). She also has the leap frog phonics set: http://www.amazon.com/LeapFrog-Fridge-Phonics-Magnetic-Al...

It taught her all the letters and their sounds and the ABC song.

For numbers we count things as we do them - counting socks while folding laundry, count steps as we go up or down, counting swings at the park...etc... and she has a placemat with numbers on it. Colors and shapes were from the placemats and her shape sorter ball - she even knows hexagon and octagon. Also, Sesame Street is her favorite show, and it has taught her LOTS!

Good luck -a nd work with both kids at once, you will be amazed at what the littler one learns right along with the big girl!!

Good Luck!


Have you tried singing the ABC song? Songs are more fun than flash cards.

I just enrolled my son in P4J and the only question they asked about the abc's was if he knew 5 uppercase letters. Expectations were not very high for anything. Keep exposing your daughter to different letters and make a connection with them, like what her name starts with as well as your name and other friends' names. Relax! Keep working and one day she'll surprise you and just get it!

We have the Melissa and Doug abc sound puzzle. My son loves it! There is also a numbers one. You can find them just about anywhere. They are a bit pricey but my son has been doing these puzzles since he turned two. Here is a link...

Sing them! We sing our abc's in the car and I sign the letters at the same time. My daughter knows how to spell alot of stuff and can sign it at the same time. Make it fun!

Hi R.,

I know you have a TON of responses and I haven't read them all. What I did read are excellent suggestions. I'm an elementary teacher and private tutor and all I can stress is that as Mommy, you need to keep learning very fun and stimulating. If it becomes a chore or your child doesn't want to do it, DON'T push her. Also, key into her learning style. You may not be able to apply it, but you may be able to help her teachers in the future.

Does she learn best by watching someone and then doing it? Does she like to do it on her own and then ask for help? Does she learn best from song and rhyme? Does she learn from repetition from hearing it or seeing it? Does she like to write? Does she like to tell stories? Does she like animals? Does she have a special interest into something?

Use what she likes and be creative with how you introduce or practice new concepts. That is the key to teaching anyone something new!

Good luck and HAVE FUN!

You've gotten some good ideas and I am sure that you will get more. I'm just going to advise you not to worry about it too much. Keep it light and fun :) I have a Master's degree in reading and taught kindergarten for many years. Many children start kindergarten without really knowing their letters/sounds and leave reading. Those who came to kindergarten knowing all their letters and sounds were not necessarily the strongest readers at the end of the year. I have a 3 year old daughter who goes to preschool 2 mornings a week and I know that she is being introduced to letters, but she certainly doesn't know them all. I don't try to "teach" her anything at home other than pointing letters out or answering her questions about letters/sounds...I know it will come. Please don't stress about it :)

First of all IN preschool they will work on learning their letters, numbers, shapes, colors, etc. You do not have to have it all done before she goes. In fact there are a few kids that don't know all their letters by the time they are in kindergarten. Don't push or worry. Each kid is different. I have done home daycare for 18 years and have taught preschool. I have a child that is almost 3 and just starting to talk!! I a child that is almost 4 that knows all the letters and the sounds and is starting to put them together to read. All kids are different. I will say one thing that is FUN is "Refrigerator Phonic". I did not put it on my frig. Instead I put it in a shoe box and let my son play with it whenever he wanted. They have both upper case and lower case letters. It REALLY helped because it was a toy, not work.

I had the same problem with my son. The advice that I used was to sing the ABC's while brushing his teeth. I would also sing and count while in the bath tub. It really help my son, maybe it will help out your daughter also.

Try writing each letter on an index card with glitter glue. Have him run his finger across the letter in one continuous stroke and say the letter out loud. Have him do this over and over, one letter at a time. Having him see it, feel it, and hear it allows for more sensory stimulation to the brain, which aids in the learning process. Good luck!

I would not worry about her needing to know her ABCs before preschool. My son started preschool at 3 also... He knew MOST of the ABC song and could recognize quite a few by looking at them. But, preschool is meant to help with things like ABCs and colors and numbers. Don't be stressed if your child knows them all or not. Just keep the learning fun and sing the ABC song with her as much as you want. Another fun thing is to get her a Leap Frog Fridge Phonics toy... They're really cute and teach the ABCs while singing a song. Good luck! She'll learn them eventually!

This may be a ways out, if you have the foot of snow we do, but we used sidewalk chalk. I could print out the ABCs and he was pretty interested in copying. We also had the bathtub letters; you can get them at Target and I think they're by Munchkin. I would spell out words for him with the letters and he was totally jazzed that that was the WORD for HORSE!!! Oh, and we also did Crayola bathtub crayons--I would draw a picture (very, very badly, but enough so that he could remember the word) and then spell the word over it. I'd leave him alone in the tub, and eventually he started copying my words.

My son liked playing with the Leap Frog letter toys and a Melissa & Doug chunky alphabet puzzle when he was learning letters. BUT, your daughter will ABSOLUTELY NOT need to know the alphabet at all for preschool and even really for kindergarten. I have a friend who is a kindergarten teacher and they teach all about letters and sounds in her class. My sister in law was also worried about her son not knowing his letters going into kindergarten and he had them all down by the middle of the year. Just play and have fun -- she'll be in school soon enough!

Pre school teaches a lot of different things, letters and sounds, numbers, colors, but what is really important, it teaches socializing. Make a game out of learning the letters if you would like, but don't push it and make her frustrated. It use to be that these things were taught in Kindergarten, not to 3 year olds. It might make them pretty bored if they know it all before going to school.

If you still want to teach it, choose just one letter like the A and have her look at her books and point out each A a she sees. You can also do this with signs along the highway and other places you go. After she seems to know the A and knows it's sound, move onto the B and so forth. She probably doesn't have the hand control needed to actually write the letters down but if she can trace you can write them in dotted lines and have her trace the lines. I wouldn't spend much time on this every day or you will have her hating school when she gets there. My oldest son had interest in doing all that, my youngest son had no desire what so ever in learning or coloring. If you find yourself pushing her and you losing your patience, it is time to put it up.

Dear R.,
As a mom who's homeschooled 3 of her 4 children, I'd like to say you're setting yourself up for failure as a parent if you keep pushing your 3 year old like that.

Your daughter is obviously not ready to learn her ABC's the way you want her to know them. She will learn them when she's ready to learn them. She probably knows way more than you give her credit for.

Some children are ready when they're 3 to learn to read and write; however most children aren't ready. It also doesn't mean that one child is smarter than the other. It simply means that one is ready to learn before the other. I have found through homeschooling my children that all children are different and learn at different times and some learn with different methods of teaching.

My advice is to back off with the ABC's and let her be a 3 year old. You will be a much happier parent if you can let yourself do this. You can provide an enriching environment for her to be around, but you can't force it.

What I've also learned is that when a child IS ready to learn their ABC's/number etc... then she/he will take off with it and learn it really fast.

Relax mom! :)


I'm not a huge tv person (we only have a tv that is for videos--no regular stations at all...) for kids but I DO recomend this one!!! It is a great learning tool to use in corolation with flashcards, writing, and singing.

We have the Leapforg Fridge Phonics toy, and my son knew his ABCs before he was two-years-old. Not only is it educational, but it also gives him something to play with in the kitchen out of my way while I make lunch and dinner.
My mom is a kindergarten teacher, and she has seen how well it has taught my son, so she is not recommending it to parents of her kids in the classroom that are struggling to learn their ABCs in the hopes it will help.

Dear R.,

She will learn that in kindergarten. Preschool may introduce them but she certainly does not need to know them. She is probably not ready. My three year old knows some letters but only because he recognizes them and likes them. He likes the letters S,B,O and U (which he calls horseshoe). He has a series of books about each letter which makes him interested in some. Studies show kids can learn to read earlier but by pushing them before they are interested we actually teach them the reading is a chore instead of pleasure.

Hi R.,
My 2-year-old actually learned his ABC's mostly by himself from using a Leap Frog Phonics Bus, it has three frogs that sit in it and it plays music, but it also has every letter on in and when you press the letter it tells you what it is and I think one of the modes tells you how to say them too. I was amazed that he learned so fast from it! Hopefully this helps!

one thing that we did is to sing the abc song twice through while brushing teeth. our son is 28 months and knows them like instinct, though every child is different. ive heard various different things regarding school - some think that kids should know them before school, others are not concerned with it at all. talk to your specific school for that info. also ask them about an early childhood family education (ECFE) prgram or learning readiness. im sure most schools have them - and get your kid signed up right away. its less like school and more like ... perhaps more like day care or something - they do a few learning things - but theres a lot of different things to do and play. the learning readiness i havent had much experience with yet, but it sounds like the program works wonderfully.

so try out the programs in your area. even if the ECFE or learning readiness cost $, its worth it if you are concerned with getting your child started and dont quite know how to do it. it would also be fantastic for your 16 month old too! :D but yeah, i recommend singing the abcs during brushing teeth - remember to try to be clear with the letters as you sing it - and DONT say "y and z" - just say "y z" - my husband made sure of that so our son didnt get confused. we need to work more at the "l m n o p" part :P you have to say that part clearly and slowly :P LOL.

good luck!

also if you are interested, usborne books has the "your baby can read" learning system, and my son just LOVES it. you can check my website www.usbornforthefuture.com - if you have trouble finding it - just write to me and let me know.
good luck!

To make it quick, my almost 3 1/2 yr old has the Leap Frog Letter Factory Game as well as the Leap Frog Refridgerator magnets (they both teach phonics as well). When she's in the bathtub she has foam alphabet letters and the numbers 0-9. I agree with others who've said to sing the ABC song while brushing teeth or washing hands. I wouldn't worry too much about her knowing them before pre-k, after all she's there to learn them along with other things!

Hi, R.!
When my first daughter was 3 I wanted so much for her to be smart and advanced and all that. However, everyone around me said not to push her ahead. Now I understand what they meant. If you push her to focus on the alphabet, numbers, and reading, it shifts her thinking into a linear mode, which limits her creativity when she is older. What is so much more important at this age is to expose her to broad general knowledge of how the world works. Take her to the train station, the airport, gardens, farms, etc. and talk to her about what she's seeing, and really listen when she talks. Also give her choices and respect what she decides. (Both options should be things you're OK with!) This will help her brain development so much more than ABC's. And when she's interested and eager to learn ABC's, then show her a letter or two. Let her build up a desire before you give her info, and she'll drink it in. (I did it this way with my daughter, and she had the highest test scores in her whole high school.) If you want to talk more about this, send me an email. ____@____.com And give her a big hug!

I bought my son "Little Steps: Alphabet, Colors & Numbers" DVD's when he was 2-1/2, he loves them. but his favorite is the Alphabet one (cause it has a train on it), he wants to watch it all the time and he now sings his ABC's all by himself and wants to sing them every night 100 times before bed. Just find something she is interested in and and see if they make and alphabet movie using them, like ELMO. She will catch on when she's ready, if not thats what school is for, they are their to teach our kids this stuff.

Don't push her!! She does not need to know letters and/or numbers for preschool. The most important thing you can do for your child is to read and talk to her. Something we did for my son was to make our own alphabet book. I printed one letter per page (upper case, lower case and the handshape (ASL). We then cut pictures from magazines and took pics of family for each picture.

Hi R.,

I have read some of the responses and you have some great ideas! My daughter will be 3 in August and we have started looking at preschools and from the ones we have looked at they said that the child DOES NOT need to know the whole alphabet and numbers. It helps to know them when before going into school BUT by the end of kindergarten they have to know them to move onto first grade (kindergarten and preschool SHOULD help/reinforce what they are learning at home and can learn them through out preschool and kindergarten).

It is great that you are working with her at home but every child learns at different paces, as long as she knows them some time within the kindergarten year she will be right on track. My mom is a preschool teacher and she has some kids that know it "all" and others that only know ABC and 123 (and school ends in 2 months). She also said that repetition is one of the best ways for a child to learn. So don't get frustrated and keep working with her, some day she will just spout them all out, keep repeating what you are doing.

Here is what my daughter likes:

We have a Leap Frog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Set:

Letter Puzzles

In the car we listen to CDs and I make sure to always have a number/letter CD so I can put that in after a fun song CD.

With numbers we count everything, going up the steps, down the steps, how many red lights we see when at a stop light... you can incorporate counting into everything you do which will help your daughter repeat/hear it daily.

We sing the alphabet song at least once a day, of course now that she knows it I hear her sing it at random times.

Also there are alphabet tater tots, daughter LOVES these. After they are cooked and before she eats them I ask her what letters she has. She now does this even without me asking.

Find some books that are stories but that have the alphabet in them... daughter's favorite is Chicka Chicka ABC by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault... this is a good book because it does the alphabet in order but adds in other words so it helps break it up into sections, plus once the child know the abc they can read it pretty much by themselves since they can point out the letters.

I second the recommendation for keyboard-o-rama on sesamestreet..org. We also look at the Fisher Price ABC Zoo game on their website that has the ABCs and animal sounds at the same time. Target has foam letter and numbers in the bath section to take in the tub (we stick them on the wall and on body parts for a laugh). All the Leapfrog products are excellent. She will learn the letters just by hearing them over and over, no worries.

Leap Frog makes a word item that sings the ABC's my daughter use to play with that and within a week was singing the song herself. So I would suggest getting some type of toy that sings that song and you will be surprised how quickly she picks up the song.

Hi R.,

The first thing I want to tell you - something you may already know - is that ALL children develop at their own pace in each aspect of development.

Figure out what really sparks your daughter's interest and use those interests as cues in her learning process. If she loves music, sing her the alphabet song - and mix it up by making your own special tune/beat. Turn it into a silly dance, an art project, or anything else that she likes to do. I had two special ABC songs with super crazy beats and silly dance moves that made my son giggle, and my daughter's ABC fun was totally different.

We aren't big on tv but rather than just putting on any show or popping in any video, go to the store or video rental place to get "learning shows" for the kids to watch (your 16 month old will pick up on it too!). Sesame Street and Barney (I hated him until we were given a video and I was surprised) were really good choices. They have videos specifically for the Alphabet, Numbers, and all kinds of things. Rent a few movies to see what character(s) your kids see to like and then buy the video. Sesame St. has several different videos about abc's and numbers and they aren't super annoying either, with the variety the kids will stay more interested (I used them when I needed quiet nursing time).

I also made signs of the alphabet, numbers, shapes, colors, and some spanish words to decorate their play area. I would quiz them and they had fun running and pointing out the answers. It also helped that they were surrounded by these things. At times, I would watch them and they would trace the letters (or whatever) with their fingers, or just point at the sign and say what it was.

Just know that in order to move on from Kindergarten the child must know and recognize the alphabet and be able to count to 20. Most children know more than that but that is what is needed to move on. Several parents think that their child needs to know more than they do to start any kind of school but if that were the case there wouldn't be a need for preschool or kindergarten teachers.

Hang in there, all of the sudden it will just click, and who knows, she may know it and just doesn't want you to know (my daughter did that to us and I was freaking out for a while!). You are doing a great job.

SAHM of an 8 y/o 2nd grade boy and 6 y/o kindergarten girl.

Sometimes singing it to the tune of Mary had a Little Lamb, helps separate the letters for them to be easier to learn. My son likes the youtube video of supergrover's disco ABC's. Just do a search online for it, that's how we've always found it.

Hi R.

How I worked with my two to learn their A,B,C was we sang the song together allot . And we played games with ABC cards . Any chance I or my husband got we would tell them some thing started with a letter and show them what it looked like and then talk about the letter how many words we could think of that started with that letter . We did the same thing with numbers .

If she's not learneing them, she doesn't want to yet. All kids learn at different rates. My older daughter knew and recognized all letters by 15 months old, and reading chapter books prior to entering kindergarten. My younger daughter could have cared less about letters until she was in pre-school, and wanted nothing to do with phoenetics until kindergarten. Now that they are in Junior High, they are botgh straight A students. I didn't force any learning that they weren't interested in, no matter what "other people" thought they should or shouldn't know at any particular age. Learning anything at such a young age, is not where parents should ever be concerned with "keeping up with the Jones"( or their kids!! )

Both my daugthers learned their alphabet from the Leapfrog Letter factory DVD. It is bright colorful and not only did they learn the alphabet but with the associations they make in the DVD, my daughter entered 3 year old preschool knowing most of the sounds each letter made. Great DVD.

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