What Age Should a Child Recognize Letters and Numbers??

Updated on March 06, 2015
M.H. asks from Springfield, VA
16 answers

I will try to not go into as much detail as I could! My son will be 4 in April and he has been in a school/daycare since he was 2. He just got his annual observation and he meets and exceeds in all areas of educational and social development except for letter and number recognition. I have known this of course because at home I also try to teach him and he has never been able to name them. I have alphabet and number puzzles, books, flash cards etc... He knows only 4 letters and has for a long time. There was something about them that just "clicked" with him. The only reason I worry is because there doesn't seem to be anything I or school can do to help him understand. A part of me thinks I just need to give it time and one day it will "click" and he will learn them in one week and then recite them to the level of annoyance! A part of me is worried that there is a problem here. He potty trained completely in one week. he went from diapers to all underwear magically one week and I wonder if learning this stuff will be the same way. My question is, is this normal? Is there any type of learning disability that would only affect this type of learning. He shows NO other signs of one. Here is one example of what I'm talking about.

This weekend I decided to take one letter at a time. Saturday was time for letter "A". We went through is phonics books and had him find all the "A"s he could as well as trace it. Then we watched "word world" and he shouted out everytime he saw the letter. I would draw it on the chalk board and ask him what it was and he would tell me. We ended the day with a letter hunt. I had him go through the house and find as many "A"s as he could in his books, puzzles, toys etc... For every one he found, I gave him a penny to put in his piggy bank. He loved it. The next day was letter "B" and we went through all the same things. Today, if I ask him what letter either of them are, he can't tell me. He says "K"? and won't even guess at what "B" is. Something just isn't getting through OR he knows all of them and is messing with us. This is something else I wouldn't put past him. He did that with his colors for awhile. He would get this look on his face that told us he knew what a color was and stopped himself from saying it so that he could call it something else instead. He does mess with us a lot, like he doesn't want to admit he knows something. Any ideas or help would be appriciated.

I know school is also doing what they can. He came home yesterday with a paper about the number "3". He traced the three several times and it was obviously the number they learned about during the day. I asked him what it was and he acted like he had no idea, He guessed "1".

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

My son just started pointing out the two letters we went over, he is just having trouble remembering the names. He got a birthday party invitation yesterday and he said look mom, k! He pointed to the letter "A" and I praised him while correcting him too. My husband put in a Scooby doo movie and my son pointed at the "B" and said "look daddy!" I think he will get it, I'm less worried now. Singing the alphabet isn't a problem, he has been doing that since he was 1.5! I ordered the leap frog fridge phonics and letter DVD, maybe that will help. Thank you all as always! Oh I'm not "pushing" him. I do this in 5-10 minute blocks in between playing outside and letting him watch his shows. He isn't in boot camp, I didn't mean to make it sound that way. We are doing it in a fun way and I'm not showing any type of discouragement when he gets things wrong. I act very neutral about the whole thing.

Featured Answers



answers from Tampa on

My 4 year old knows some number and letters. But my 7 year old knew them at age 3. It takes different levels for them to learn. Don't sweat it they will pick it up. Both my girls are Sept. babies and miss the cut off at school. They are older in class and it's to their advantage. Good luck!

More Answers



answers from Tampa on

They say boys are slower then girls. He will get it when he is ready to. I think I got lucky with my son. he learned his letters in one weekend after I bought him that leapster hand held game and bought the game letter factory..they also have a DVD out of the letter factory. Its so cool. He didnt know one letter and by sunday he was singing his ABCs..this was at the age of 2. He is now 4 and he is starting to read because of the games to this leapster. I guess because he knows all the sounds the letters make he knows how to sound out words now. It really was a great investment and its less then $50. Good luck :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Fort Myers on

I am responding as a teacher of a school that has dicovered there are a lot of children out there with undiagnosed dyslexia. I would highly recommend you have him evaluated. Our school found out about Laurie Frydenlund of The Learning Solutions, who is the Barton specialist in Fort Myers. Also when searching for her name on the web for you, I also discovered a seminar next month right here in Fort Myers by Susan Barton. http://www.dys-add.com/seminars.html lists seminar dates and locations. There is also a resource teacher at Classical Christian Academy that can give you information about diagnostic options. Since you are aware enough to search out help now, I'm certain you'll be able to help your son. When parents ingore a problem and don't get help until they've failed in school, it is much much harder.



answers from Tampa on

Hi M.,

I can definitely recommend the Hooked on Phonics (Hooked on baby) DVDs, as well as the Baby Einstein DVDs for number and letter recognition. My daughter is 19 months old now and she knows all the numbers, and about 10 letters, and since I didn't specifically teach her the letter shapes (other than showing her in the books a few times as we were reading), I'm pretty sure she's picked it up from these DVDs. I know that she learned to count from Dora the Explorer (she's been counting since 12 months), but they don't show the actual shape of numbers much, so it must be the Phonics DVD.
(Unfortunately she has some serious feeding/eating/vomiting/gagging issues, so the only thing that works to distract her while feeding is watching DVDs - I try to look for educational materials, but she definitely watches more TV/DVDs than other kids her age).



answers from Naples on

Perhaps you should find out if there are any state resources to have him evaluated for potential learning disabilities. You might start with the VPK program or the Office of Early Learning. If they say he is too young to evaluate yet, at least you will have peace of mind for another year, and it all might "click" by then! Good luck!



answers from Tampa on

The best I have seen is Children Behavior Help. com, it has helped me alot. Kia



answers from Tampa on

Hi M.,

Congratulations on all of your son's achievements! He is doing so well in SO MANY areas! Be sure to let him know that his hard work and effort is awesome! I agree that you don't need to stress about the letters/numbers right now, but I know that I would be a little concerned, too.

Questions regarding "messing with you": Were you still offering pennies during the review? Were you matter-of-fact about him not knowing the letter, or showing frustration or deep concern? Does Dad only get involved when your son is not showing results? Do you ever talk about being proud of his "best effort" -- no matter if it's *right or *wrong?

More Questions regarding learning style: You mentioned books, flashcards, tv/video and puzzles ... have you ever tried him making the letters from playdough, pipe cleaners or fingerpaints? (Maybe paint the letter B and then show him how to make it look like a honey bee. Make a playdough B, let it dry hard, then have it chase you/him like it was a bee going to sting you.)

I just wanted to suggest a few tips to "test" whether or not he's "messing with you". He probably isn't!! But to check, you can all play (Dad, too) the game with the pennies again ... let him again earn 2 when ever he gets it right, but then take one of his (from his bank) away when he gets it wrong. If he suddenly gets it right again, you'll know that he's learning, but just not a performer. If he's upset about losing the penny and still doesn't get it right, you'll know that he truly isn't retaining the lesson. (Don't get frustrated or overly concerned. Be sure to make it FUN - not all about correct answers every single time. When he losses a penny, it's the normal consequence of the game, not a punishment.) I would also give him a goal of earning 26 pennies so that he can earn something fun (like a sheet of stickers) ... and incorporate Counting (the pennies) into the lesson ... and maybe even line them up on top of alphabet puzzle while singing the ABC song as he places a penny on each letter. As soon as he has enough pennies to get to z, he gets something special.

My boys had a Leap Frog Fridge Phonics - You could incorporate it into a game by taking the 2 letters he learned and hiding them somewhere and when he finds it, he calls out what letter he thinks it is, then runs to the fridge to "plug in the letter" and check if he's right. Right or wrong, it's still fun and the game continues for as long as he enjoys it. (My boys never get tired of hide-n-seek ... they will play any learning game for much longer if I turn it into a hide-n-seek game. When my 8 yr old is tired of telling time (5 mins), I hide the clock in the playroom and he has to try and find it and yell the correct time before the timer goes off. He'll play for another 30 mins!) Also my sons are close in age, so there's a healthy competition at our house. Maybe your son would enjoy these games with a friend? Can you invite a same-age boy over for a playdate and play the fun learning games with the two of them? It would help show you what level your son is at compared to the friend. If it's totally mismatched, and your son gets sad or frustrated, change the game to hiding other objects, or earning pennies for knowing colors instead of letters/numbers. Mix it up and use your son's strengths so that he can win, too.

Oh! my sons LOVED to play with shaving cream at that age. We would spray it onto the counter top and write letters in it. You could play shaving cream one day, teach him a letter, and let him "earn" shaving cream time if he can tell you the letter the next day. Same with paint ... help him paint the letter one day and if he remembers it, he gets to paint again the very next day.

Well, now that I wrote you a book ... SORRY! I just want to say that you should relax and enjoy teaching your son. He's very young and has a whole year & a half before he "has" to know letters and numbers. Don't pressure him! If you have a feeling that he's "messing with you" already, you should try changing your approach to teaching and your expectations at seeing results. If he sees that answering correctly satisfies you, but answering incorrectly gets him extra attention, then he will go for the extra attention all the time. If he does have a learning disability, these games will help him have fun while learning, thus making the learnng experience totally enjoyable - and something to look forward to - instead of frustrating. It will also strengthen your family bond and help you understand his best learning style. Enjoying special time with mom and dad on a daily basis while he plays/learns is going to positively shape the rest of his life. Have FUN with it!

Good Luck and God Bless!



answers from Fort Myers on

As others have said, your son is still too young to be screened for a learning disability. However, if in a year, he's still showing a weakness in learning letters and numbers, you may want to go to http://www.bartonreading.com to check out the warning signs of dyslexia. My older daughter was reading three-letter words at age three, but my younger daughter couldn't even sing the alphabet at three years old. My younger daughter was really smart at other things, so it never made sense. It wasn't until she was six years old and we had a dyslexia specialist come speak at our school that it all clicked. I was relieved when our younger daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia, because it's something you can work with.

I know you are in Sarasota, so it might not be feasible for you; however, the creator of Barton Reading, is going to be in Fort Myers on February 23rd for those in the area who might be having same issues. The information is at http://www.learningsolution.eventbrite.com. It's a free event.

Good luck with your son!




answers from Tampa on

There is a state program that will evaluate the development of your child for free. They evaluate all stages and types of development by doing various tests. I am pretty sure that the younger (1-2) year old program is called Fiddlers and I think the older program (3+) is call Fast Start???? Anyway - They will evaluate him for free and if he needs assistance, they will give it to you for free. They will even come to his school/daycare to provide private sessions. I am going through this program for speech therapy for my 3 year old. The number I have is for the younger program, but you could ask them the number for the older program. It is ###-###-#### and it is run by USF and the public school system.

Good Luck!



answers from Tampa on

My name is E. Waldroupe and I am a Prescool Director with a VPK Program in our school. Yes, your son should know these by now if he has been in a good program. I had to edit my response because I realized that he will be 4 in April. Also, I read some of the other responses, he is not too young to be tested for development delayment. Some of our 3-year-olds don't have number of letter recognition, but by the time they are 4 they usually are pretty close because that is what our Pre-K 3 Class focuses on as well as Phonics. You did not state where you were located at but the Director of your school could have him tested. Please e-mail me privately if you want at [email protected]____.com or you may call me ###-###-#### is my work number during the week or ###-###-#### is my home number for evening or weekends.

The Pasco-Hernando Coalition will come and assess children that may have development delays. I would suggest that you have him tested. I am thinking he might be dyslexic, which means he might get numbers and letter mixed up and that may be why he cannot recognize them. You need to really have him tested before he gets into Kindergarten, this is what I try and do for the children in the school that I am the Director of because once they go onto Kindergarten it is harder to have them tested and sometimes they get lost in the system and they don't get the help they need.

I am speaking also from being a mom of a daughter who is special needs, our daughter is adopted from China, she is going to be 9 on the 9th and she was diagnosed with Asperger's when she was 7. This is a Autism Spectrum Disorder which is a disability. I knew she had something from the first time I saw her in China, but when I was having her tested at 3, I was just told that she was hyper, I knew better and kept us doing what I thought was right. We had her in Speech and Cognitive Therapy from the time she was 19 months until she was 6. This helped a lot, she finally speaking really good at 4 and hasn't stopped. She is in 3rd grade now and a straight A student on honor roll.

So, I know now what I did for her in her earlier years has helped. We still have a long ways to go because of the Asperger's, but now we know and she is being treated for this as well.

Hope all works out for your little one. There is also some good videos from Leap Frog I believe is what we used with Kassie, she loved them. It was The Letter Factory and The Word Factory and another one, they were about 9.00 each and you can find them at Toys R Us. They have cute little songs and I have recommended these to other moms as well.

Good luck, and don't hesitate to contact me if you think I can help you any further.

E. R. Waldroupe



answers from New York on

I'm on the same boat...

My 5 year daugther does the same thing, she comes home from school and usually brings with her homework and a note from her teacher telling me that the letter of the day was "A". So we sit down to do the home work, and then I ask her what letter is that?? and she seems not to know....and goes "mommy is this a K?????" I don't know what to do I bought this cool stickers went around the house stick in everything that I could find that stared with a letter A and told her that we were going to play scavenge hunt we needed to find as many letter A and she would get a prize. Well she found all of then, and to make the game a little more difficult I also stick some other letters but surprisingly enough she only went for the letter A...GO FIGURE......



answers from Tampa on

Relax...:) He does not need to know them before he is 4. Kids go at their own pace. I have found that some where between 4 and 5 is when they begin learning letters and numbers. Just enjoy him. My son was born in Sept so he is one of those late cut off kids. He is 5 and just now beginning to get interested in letters and reading. He is not unusual. I know some kids (mostly girls) that are interested in letters and numbers when they are 4, but most are 5.



answers from Tampa on

I'm surprised that you think a 3 year old is suppose to recognize all letters and numbers. My daughter will be 4 in March and knows a few numbers and a few letters. She's been going to daycare since she was 6 months. They have homework everyday where they trace letters and numbers. The teachers goal is to have all the kids know them by the age of 5. So, don't stress. Your son is not behind, and will learn them in time.



answers from Little Rock on

I know every one says the same thing, but it's true. All kids are different. Difficult to grasp because we all want our children to be on track and perfect, which they are! In their own personal way. My daughter I thought was very ahead and knew hers about 2yrs. My son who is 18mo is saying letters before talking. Which btw was a couple months ago and now hes saying much more finally and can correctly tell me a letter. My point.. I was so worried just a week ago about his speach and poof.. Us mommy's just tend to over worry with our bundles of priceless joy.



answers from Tampa on

Did you ever stop to think you may be putting to much pressure on him. Good Lord he isn't even four yet. Not all children learn at the same pace. If he were older and doing this then I would be concerned. Years ago children weren't even taught their numbers or letters until they started school. Todays society puts to much pressure on little ones. It's great to work with them but you shouln't spend so much time on it. A great rule of thumb is five minutes at a time for children under five. Do five minutes here and there instead of long periods of time. Also you may want to get his eyes checked. Some children have problems because of how they are seeing things. Let him be a kid. He will learn. I never pressured mine when they were little like that and they are both on the Dean's list in college. I let them learn at their own pace.



answers from Los Angeles on

My 32 month old girl got a toy computer for christmas / 2010. Before christmas that she only recognized the numbers (0 to 9) from a tv show and the letter R that is the first letter of her name. Today, 6 days after she got the computer toy present she already knows all the letters!!! I'm amazed! Check the video I've uploaded today where she presses the keys the computer is telling her... (in portuguese)


For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions

Related Searches