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What Is the Average Age for Kids to Learn Spelling?

My daughter is 3 and half years old. She knows all the numbers, the letters and the sound of them, and she knows how to spell her name, but I don't think she really understands the connection between knowing letters and spelling them to words. My mother keeps telling me that she should be able to spell by now, so that makes me a little nervous. I don't want to act like a paronoid mom, but since she is my first and only child, I don't have much experience about this. and my mom's comments certainly doesn't help either. Moms, can you give me a general idea?


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Hi Awesome Moms!

Thank you so much for all your support and advice. I almost cried when I read through all the responses: I truly didn't expect receiving that many emails! Your advice makes me feel much more comfortable and relaxed. I never thought that my daughter was behind and I usually try to ignore my mom's "concerns", but sometimes she gets me :)) She always have very high expectations, for me when i was growing up and now for my baby! While I know she means well, I will have to remind her to chill out a little bit. Thank you Moms!

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I wouldn't worry about that yet. If you would like to promote learning to spell in a fun way, my son LOVES this toy: http://www.melissaanddoug.com/dyn_prod.php?p=2940

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I don't mean to be rude at all, but enjoy your child. Don't worry about spelling at this age.Let them be children for a while.

1 mom found this helpful

I wouldn't worry about that yet. If you would like to promote learning to spell in a fun way, my son LOVES this toy: http://www.melissaanddoug.com/dyn_prod.php?p=2940

My kids learned to spell, if you can call it that, around 3 or 4. They really just recognized some of the shorter words. When they went to preschool at 4 yrs old, the teacher even said that for the first year or so they really just recognize the word rather than acutally realize the connection. My son started to "plus" as he called it in preschool. He knew 1 plus 1 is 2 and things like that. Every child is different and pushing kids to learn before they are truly ready just makes us paranoid when they are not at the level others think they should be. I think your daughter is right on track..It is great that she knows those things you mentioned. Keep up the good work.

Wow is your Mom in for a shock when she finds out they don't even teach spelling anymore! YOur daughter is fine. You will find that in many schools they now they use the method of "spelling the way it sounds", which I found to be very confusing when the kids got slightly older and had to learn to "really" spell. They don't teach the old school spelling methods at all anymore in most schools.

True spellng does not come until later around kindergarten or first grade. You can start pointing out things like store names, traffic signs etc.. Also you can introduce words like go and stop while walking. Teach her when you spell go she can walk, when you spell stop she stops. Show her words around her, like on cereal boxes, the title of the book you are reading, etc..Before you know it she will start reading simple words and then spelling some small words. She's doing great and I would not push her. Many children do not even know all their letters or sounds by kindergarten. More and more studies are showing that children that are allowed to play and less focus is put on academics in younger years actually do better in school. She's doing great relax and enjoy your time with her before you know it you will be picking out a college!!!

When I am sick of people giving me UNwanted advice...I just say...Oh, I had not realized you got your teacher certificate recently? OR I have not realized you got your child psychology degree recently? Stops them in their tracks.

Your daughter will be in school for the next almost 20 years....let her have fun and enjoy her toddler years!!!

Spelling at 3? That's crazy! Don't worry about it until she gets in school! She'll learn to spell as she learns to read.

Your mother is crazy. Get the book, Einstein didn't use flash cards. It is very informative on the topic of normal child development and how children may be able to learn the name of letters early but don't understand spelling and they may learn to say the numbers long before they really understand quantity and counting including one to one correspondence. Maria Montessori believed that there were sensitive times and that children were more able to pick certain things up at certain times and at your child's age it is vocabulary. You can spend a huge amount of time trying to push a child to learn something they are not ready for but if you wait a bit they will learn it quickly when they are ready. The object is to help them to love learning and in no way pressure them so that they are turned off learning. So I would just expose your little one to lots of books and show here words on signs all around her. Spelling in general isn't learned until they are 5 and older. Lots of children come to kindergarten not yet knowing their letters. The work of young children is play and they will learn much more by being allowed to discover the world through play and interaction. There is a lot of research on this. Voices for Illinois Children and others probably has stuff on their website about this. Enjoy your little sweetie and remember mothers dont generally come with degrees in early childhood development and often never read a single book with a scienctifically validated background on parenting or education, so take what they say with a huge grain of salt. Good Luck.

There is a difference between recognizing high frequency words by sight (the, it, mom, etc.), and actually spelling other words. Based on my kids' school experience, in kindergarten, they were encouraged to write a word the way it sounded to associate sounds with letters. Although in K and 1st they did have weekly words they were learning to recognize, it wasn't until second grade that they actually did spelling tests and focused on proper spelling.

Kids won't really learn spelling until 1st grade, some kids who are beginning to read in kindergarten may recognize and "spell" easy words like Cat and Dog. Reading usually comes first, spelling later.

Don't worry about spelling until at least first grade! Sheesh! Even then "invented" spelling is accepted because at least the kids are making an effort to sound out the words.

Enjoy your 3-year old!

My children did not grasp the concept of spelling down pat until late Kindergarten/1st grade. They could spell some easy words like "cat, dog...etc.... " but beyond that, everything was very creative, phonetic spelling. No, your daughter is not behind - she is right on track. Kids learn at different paces. I was convinced that my daughter was behind in kindergarten because her best friend read the "whole series" of American Girl books while my daughter was still on Dr. Seuss! The teacher assured me that her "friend" possessed an incredible ability to read and my daughter's reading ability will come at her own pace! You will encounter children with gifted abilities like that. It's sad that kids these days can't develop at their own pace without a parent feeling like their child may be behind the rest. I hope your mom settles down and just enjoys playing with flash cards with your daughter!!! However, your daughter will still learn to spell at her own pace.

My children (13 and 10) are good spellers but not excellent. What they lack in correct spelling, they make up in creative writing. My daughter is also a voracious reader. It all comes in due time.

Good luck.

Kids don't learn to spell until Kindergarten but even then they don't spell that many words until 1st grade. So don't worry your three year old is just fine. I have a four year old that is in preschool and everything you say is what they learn in three year old preschool.

From the perspective of kindergarten teachers, children should not be too concerned about spelling while they are still learning to become writers. All of the kindergarten teachers that I've worked alongside DE-emphasize spelling because they want the children to think about the subject/material about which they are writing. Once the child is a more confident writer (2nd grade) then it's okay to focus more on spelling.

If a child is so focused on spelling, she will miss the bigger purpose of writing, which is to communicate ideas.

I'm sure this is drastically different than when your own mother was in school!

Your mom needs to relax! Most kids start learning to read in kindergarten/1st grade. Some kids are still learning their abc's in kindergarten.

Real reading skills don't start till 1st grade for the majority. Even then, in 1st & 2nd grade, they are using a lot of "invented spelling" which means only the teacher can read what they wrote!

OMG.. she is VERY advanced. My best friend son is the same way. Now he is in 3rd garde, still "gifted", but has leveled out somewhat with his peers.
I have worked in preshools and had my own daycare.
Children on a normal level do not learn connections with sound letters spelling and reading until k. Some older preschool kids will learn in pre k.
Spelling her name is advanced for a 3 yr old!
Nurture her gift and make sure she enjoys reading. Don't push her or make it a chore, she will not enjoy it. Loving reading is the key to any childs future success in school!
You are blessed with a bright child!

Hi F.,

I homeschool 6 children. Each child has their own timing. I had a few that were early readers, but reading at 3 is, in my opinion, very early. That is really great that your daughter is already recognizing letters and numbers. I would say the best thing to do is start with small words. For example, start with at, then add bat, sat, fat, mat, etc. You get it. The other option is go to the library and pick up beginning word books. The best gift you can give to your daughter is loving to read. Copywork is fun for kids too. They like using chalk boards or dry-erase boards. I'd encourage ryhming books too. We like to take shaving creame and put it on a cookie pan and make words and then erase that word and do another. Also put pudding in a Ziplock bag, and do words on the bag. Books on tape are great also. Most of all take the cues from your child. Timing is everything. Sometimes they like to do work in a.m., p.m., with certain people. Most of all, make it fun. Learning at that age should be a wonderful time.

My older son didn't really "get" spelling until late kindergarten/early first grade. My younger son is much quicker and gets most letters now, half-way through kindergarten. There is no need for her to understand spelling before kindergarten. Your daughter is doing well to recognize numbers and letters in preschool. Spelling is a concept, and concepts are usually grasped in order (recognize letters, realize which letter begins a word, then which letter ends a word, then the middle letters). Don't worry and don't pressure your daughter. She's doing well!

Sounds like you have gotten a lot of good advice. I think you will find an article written by Dr. Susan Johnson about "Teaching our children to write, read & spell" very interesting. It suggests developing the ability of a child to use both the right & left hemispheres of the brain together before teaching reading etc. The left hemisphere is used for sight memory of words & the right for phonetics so a child must be able to access both to read & comprehend easily. She suggests numerous physical activities that use both sides of the brain to help your child develop these pathways. The article can be found at:
Also you can find more on this & simple activities for you & your child if you search for info about the proprioceptive system.
Blessings-C. B

Simply stated: your mom is wrong.

My son is 3.5, also. He's learning to spell, but I KNOW it's only memorization. He doesn't have the concept down at all yet. He knows how to write the letters, but it's not like I can even sound out a word for him and he will pick up how to spell it. Maybe the first letter, but that's when I REALLY pronounce it.

I think reading comes first and then spelling - like the other poster said. When I took my son for his 3 year check-up, the doctor was shocked that he knew what he did. Seriously, do NOT worry at all. It's great that she knows what she does. Just keep practicing with her and make it fun.

Hi F..
You sound like a great mom, but I would relax a bit. I teach 2nd grade and some of my students are still trying to get ahold of this skill. Let her be a kid. It seems like she already knows so much, so the spelling should come naturally for her.

Your child is more than right on track - please keep it FUN for her! Your mom is wrong, wrong, wrong.

3.5 is a little young to know how to spell. I think that you are lucky that she already knows all of her letters and letter sounds. There is a reason that they learn letters in Kindergarten. Most kids are ready at that time. I would try your best to respectfully disagree with your mother. Keep working with your daughter on what she seems ready for, you don't want her to get frustrated with learning at such an early age...she still has a lot of education left! Try to make it fun. I'm sure that you can probably get your hands on some pre-school curriculums to make yourself feel more comfortable, and give you some ammo against others opinions regarding what is appropriate for a 3 year old to know.
My sons is in the kindergarten readiness program at his pre-school. They have a very academic curriculum, and they are not expected to spell more than their name. Most of the kids in his class are 4-5 years old. Certainly they work on letter sounds and spelling out words, etc. but mastery is not expected!
It sounds like you are doing a great job getting her ready for school. Just remember that learning should be fun, and that you know your children (and what they are ready for) best! Keep up the good work!

Hi F.,

If your daughter is only 3yrs.old and knows her letters and numbers, then she is doing really well. She might not understand putting letters together to make words but if you are reading to her then she will notice the letters being put together in the book. Remember, she is only 3. When she starts kindergarten then they will start putting small words together to read and then into small sentences. Please don't let your mom scare you over this. It sounds as if your daughter is doing just fine.

Good luck,

J. J.
(mother of 5)

F., I don't know any average ages, but 3-1/2 is awfully young to worry about spelling, in my opinion. Some people always have something to criticize so if it weren't this, it might be that. Let your little one be little for a while; she'll grow up and spell before you know it. Mine are almost 26 and 23 years of age. They didn't do spelling in preschoooll

my daughter is 3.5 as well and she is just now learning the sounds letters make. She knows all her letters and numbers but she only knows sounds for about half the alphabet. She can spell her name and a few other words but that's it. I know it's all memorization. We have spent alot of time playing on Starfall.com and one evening not to long ago I made labels for lots of stuff in our house- the wall, door, her horse, table, etc and we put the labels on everything in our apartment.
Our ped. said we were right on target. I wouldn't worry about it. I remember I didn't learn to read until I was in school.

Hello as a preschool teacher i can tell u that your child is already above avg. in preschool at age 4 and 5 is when kids start to learn the things your child already knows. Preschool is where we start getting kids to know numbers letters and how to write their name before they get into kindergaten, when my daugther started kindergarten she knew all those things and was so a head of the other kids she was board all the time. I dont want to be blunt but tell your mom she is your daugther and you are doing a good job already, and i will also add for being a frist time mom and your daugther knowing all that already wow that is awesome,,good job mom and relax you have her above avg already so keep doing what you are doing and as she starts school you will see she is above where she needs to be and that is always a good thing, my daugther started school ahead of the game and now she is in second grade and still ahead of the kids her age and she loves it...But you dont want her to be to far above avg cause then you will run into issues like i did with my son and that is the boardum set in so he started acting out because he was to far ahead of the other kids he could not do the work he was givin because it was way below his avg, so keep up the good work and tell grandma to stop worring also, she loves her and wants her to always be the best i am sure, but you are doing just fine with where she is now....Good Job....

I just went to a kindergarten meeting at a nice north shore school and they don't expect kids coming in at age 5 to know more than how to spell their names. More is terrific but not expected. You and your daughter is doing great, your mom, however, not so much!

There is a dvd by leap frog called letter factory! It is so neat and highly helpful. My son watched it over and over for weeks and he can now successfully read in kindergarten. My son was the same way new all sounds and letters, but it is highly unheard of that a child reads at 3 years old. You are doing great and your daughter seems very bright and educated I wouldn't worry to much she will eventually succeed at her own pace with the assistance of you and tools to help her!!! Good luck.

I think your mother is being too judgmental. While working in an elementary school, there were children just learning to read in kindergarten. As another person said, enjoy your child...reading to your child is a wonderful way to help your child learn to spell. The fact that your daughter can spell her name is wonderful. I don't know where your mother gets her information, but putting that kind of pressure on you and your child is a set up for failure...your daughter is doing just fine. If there's a problem with her spelling...her future teacher will let you know. For now...if you don't have any already, I would buy some beginning reader books and spell words periodically with your daughter...that's what I do with mine. Every child is different and learns at a different pace. Seems to me your child is already ahead of the game by spelling her name.

Take care, hope this helps some.

She will learn to use inventive spelling by Kindergarten where she sounds out the words she is writing and spells them to the best of her ability. She will also be exposed to word wall words (sight words) that she will learn to do a variety of activities with, including spelling. It sounds like you're on the right track. Keep working with her on her letters and read every day:)

At 3 years old, they do not know how to spell. ( unless they are a genius)
First grade is when most kids start to spell words correctly.
The only thing a kid might know how to spell at 3 is their first name.

Tell Grandma to relax!!! Your kid is doing great!


I'm not sure where your mom is coming up with her information but it is not accurate. The fact that your child can connect letters and sounds is wonderful! Kindergarten students are asked to work on developmental spelling (identifying a beginning and final sound by mid-year etc) so your daughter is ahead of the curve. Let her explore letters and sounds through fun activities - don't drill on spelling. Enjoy your smart little girl!!

Kids don't spell well until at least kindergarten or even first grade. I think your little one is right on target. If she knows her letters and even the sounds she is doing great!

Hi F.,
I am an elementary school teacher and my kids are 9 and 6. My daughter is in kindergarten this year. They are currently learning the connection between letters and sounds. She is learning to spell and read "sight words"--frequently used words that kids should know very quickly. She knew how to write and read her name at 4 years old and a few other words, but not much. I definitely would NOT worry about her not knowing how to spell at 3 1/2!! If she knows/recognizes the letters, she'll be that much more ahead when she does start school. Don't worry and enjoy this time with your daughter! It flies by as I'm sure you already know. Good luck! C.

I did not read any of the other letters, so I'm sure someone else said this already but I can't help myself. Agh! What is wrong with people??

My kid is 5 and quite bright and didn't know all of his letters until recently, let alone spelling. My other son is in gifted reading and math and he didn't read early. Kids learn things at different times. Early reading MEANS NOTHING. Really. There's no rush. Tell your mom to chill, and let your daughter enjoy her childhood. She's got 12 years of school ahead of her to hit the books.

Sadly, 75% of adults out there still can't spell-- many more teens out there also are lagging on their spelling skills thanks to text speaking ---I wouldn't worry too much about her not spelling at 3 and a half---let her play with toys and blocks for a while. Send her off to school and worry then.

Seems that she's already ahead of the game with knowing how to spell her name---if she was 10 years and you were posting this question then there would be a valid concern---for now, just enjoy her.

give her a couple more years before you freak out. Kindergarten kids need to spell simple words (15 or so by the END of kindergarten). Usually by the beginning of kindergarten they are understanding that c a t put together is cat.

But please mellow out and let the kid be a kid. Can she build a tower with blocks? Can she build a house out of legos? Can she kick a ball and swing a bat? There is lots to childhood that isn't reading. I'm finding kids that don't have a clue how to PLAY. Please concentrate on that for now and leave spelling for school age.

IMNSHO, social skills are far more important to the foundation for learning than book-knowledge.

My daughter used to sit on the floor of our study when she was 18 months old, looking at alphabet books and saying the letters out loud. At no point did she ever look up at me for my approval or to show how proud of herself she was. A year and a half later, she was diagnosed with an ASD. So yeah, she now knows her letters at four years old, but you would never get that because she doesn't sit down and answer questions. I'd urge you to focus on social connections and play rather than the spelling and such.

Good luck!

Worrying about this is so futile since kids seem to level out by the time they have been in school for a few years, but if you really want to speed her up a bit, try www.starfall.com My Son learned a lot on his own with this free website and now my nephew who is 3 loves it! Just make sure you don't introduce them to anything new or they will lose interest quickly. My Nephew keeps asking for starfall because he doesn't know about other online games out there so he is really learning his stuff. You'll love it!

Your daughter is actually quite ahead of many other children. I would back off a bit and tell grandma that you want her to have something new to learn when she gets to kindergarten! At this rate, she'll be bored stiff.

Congrats on such a smart little girl!

Hi, F.! My daughter is 5 and is learning all of her letters and numbers, as well as the sounds that each letter makes. Is your daughter even in pre-school yet? She is doing wonderful for her age! Try not to put too much pressure on her, as we all do with the first one. She will be better for it in the future. BTW, my 5 year old is my third child and she is the one who is the most carefree and my oldest is the one who worries all the time and is afraid of her own shadow. They are all different, I know, but let her be little for awhile. She is actually ahead of the game, for now. : )

I'm sorry if I offend your mother, but she needs to relax. I am a former teacher who saw plenty of second graders who still had trouble spelling. Your daughter is too young to force anything on her. It's great she knows what she knows, but forcing things will sometimes backfire. If she's curious about things, show her words of things she loves: cat, dog, mom, dad, love, etc. Don't push. My 4 year old is very interested in spelling right now, but only on her own time. She will be a great speller when she gets to school, but is just having fun with what sounds go with what letter and how they fit together. Good luck.

She's doing fine. She needs to be able to read the words before she can spell them. Sit with her and start with simple 3 letter words like DOG CAT etc and make the sounds of each letter and then say the sounds fast and show her thats how you read and you just said C-A-T Cat. She will learn how to read. Spelling will come later.

Good luck.


Age 5......preschool age, knowing the sounds of ABC and sounding them out, by 5 they can put them together more.

Your daughter is doing GREAT! Most kids learn to read in Kindergarten, some before and the spelling follows that. I think 3 is way too early for reading or spelling, but that's just me. Now my 2nd is 4 and he's spelling, but that's because he's following his older sister who is in 1st grade. Most kids in his class (pre-K) can't read or spell and they are doing well.
I think today's parents get too worried about this at an early age. Is she in preschool? I would find a place for the fall and enjoy her childhood.
Good luck, but I would NOT worry right now, she's great!

Not yet!!
Sheesh, I didn't even know my alphabet at first grade...and now I'm in grad school. So I think your daughter is doing great.

Your daughter is doing very well for her age. My oldest was at about that same stage in her learning at that age, but my second child is four now and just reaching that level. Every child has different rates and interest in learning. Don't push her unnecessarily. Just keep making it fun and take every opportunity throughout the day to make her experiences in the home a learning experience as well....

1.) count the steps going up and down the stairs. Maybe count in English when you go up and Spanish when you go down.

2.) Sing the ABC's when you wash her hands after going potty.

3.) Let her help you cook and bake. Show her the measuring cups and spoons, talk about the processes of mixing, let her taste the different ingredients, even count the different things that go into the recipe...you can even spell them. She won't understand everything at first, but she will start to remember and she will have a great time with her mother.

4.) Go for walks and investigate everything in the neighborhood. Maybe spell things like dog when you see one. Spell words on signs like Stop. Spell go when you see a green light.

5.) Limit her television viewing to educational shows like Signing Time, Sesame Street, Leap Frog shows...our library here in Huntley has a good selection of educational DVD's to teach sounds, counting, reading, math, signing, foreign languages...and so on.

6.) Buy lots of learning toys from Leap Frog, puzzles, memory games, and so on.

You get the idea. Just make sure that you keep it fun and don't force her to sit and learn if she doesn't want to do what you have decided it is time to do. Change to a game, flash cards, or coloring. Everything can be a learning experience just think about the activity and what you can say and do during that activity to teach her something.

Good luck! And stop worrying. Every child is different and they all have talents and interests that are different than other children. I have three now and they are completely different. All just as smart as the others, but in different ways.

It sounds like your daughter is right on track. She may even be a little bit "ahead of the curve". I work with this age group at a preschool, and she would be right where we would hope by the time she was ready to move to the 4s! This is not expected, and most kids know some (not all) letter/sound connections. We continue to work on this in pre-K. I would not expect spelling at this point. Nothing to worry about, she's doing great! :)

What on earth does your mom expect her to know how to spell? It sounds like your daughter is doing great in her development. I know kids older than that who are still working on letter sounds. Plus I think reading generally comes before spelling. My son is 5 and reads on a third or fourth grade level, and he still has a hard time spelling words on his own. Please don't let your mom's comments get to you.

Magnetic letters work well.

I am an early childhood teacher. No she does not need to be spelling now. You are most likely correct that she can "rote" identify her letters, but truly doesn't have a lot of meaning to them. There is no need to be concerned at all. This is a great first step in learning literacy. It is still a little developmentally early, but you can play letter sound games and have her find words, objects and pictures of things that start with a chosen sound. For example, if her name is Sara, have her find pictures or objects that start with the Ssss sound. Just an idea.

Hi F.,
I have one word for you CHILL! Sounds to me like your 3 year old knows what she needs to know in Kindergarten! I have had 5 children and none of them knew all the letters or numbers at age 3. The stuff your daughter already knows is taught in Kindergarten. Don't worry, your daughter is already ahead of the game, and she sounds very smart. As for actual spelling, the kids that catch on early (like yours)start learning in Kindergarten, but most kids don't really learn that until first grade!! The best thing you can do for her right now is just reinforce what she already knows and read books to her every day! She will do very well. God Bless you.

It sounds like your daughter is right where she needs to be. Spelling happens after reading. Your daughter might start to pick up on spelling some common three letter words (cat, dog, mom, dad) but I would advise don't stress.

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