What's the Best Way to Teach the Abc's and 123'S to My Toddler?

Updated on October 25, 2010
G.G. asks from Tampa, FL
36 answers

Hello! Since I'm a first time mom and want to do everything I can for my daughter's education am wondering, whats the best way to teach my 19 month old her ABC's and 123's? She recognizes them and says a few letters and numbers from watching Elmo and Barney (which she absolutely loves, lol) but I want to help her expand that. I hear beween now and 3 years old is when they most absorb information, kinda like a sponge. I dont want her to just learn it from tv, I want to be involved in her education and would love to start right now if possible. Everyone has a different way of teaching it or at least introducing it so she/he is familiar with it, I'd love a few suggestions.

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answers from Washington DC on

through life. read to her (dr suess' ABCs is an excellent book) and point out letters, and count things with her (cheerios, stop signs, birds). period. a toddler does NOT need flashcards and formal lessons.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

We tried flash cards REALLY BIG hand made by my sister, but what actually got him singing his ABC's was Super Pig from Super WHY on PBS kids ... and numbers that is really just something you sneak in when you can like when plating food get a plate that has three sections and count how many foods can go on the plate and how many choices did mommy make for dinner (entree, veggie, fruit, bread, whatever it is) and help her count with you. Really just random times start counting and sining the alphabet song, just because she does not say it does not mean she does not absorb it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

by singing songs. As soon as they can remeber twinkle twinkle they can remember their phone number.Teach all those important numbers through songs.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Portland on

What toddlers are wired for at your daughter's age are play and language development – verbal, not written. But she'll grow the most, intellectually and emotionally, from all kinds of play. Free play, exploratory play, pretend play, active play, manipulative play, and more play. This is the baby's real "work." This is what allows the brain to develop properly. A focus on academic learning too early will take time away from real play.

If you want your baby to learn to read when she is ready, read to her, enjoy reading yourself, and talk to her about everything in slow, clear sentences. Count objects that you show her or give to her, find reasons to count up to ten (higher is useless and often confusing for kids under 3 or 4 years old). Don't use baby talk.

The single most accurate predictor of a child's success in school is a big vocabulary and the ability to use language well.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I wouldn't do ANY "formal" type "teaching" of letters OR numbers at this age. Everything needs to be fun and play. Do NOT "quiz" her on any of it either.
Keep everything fun and play. You can do "I Spy" (which are find the hidden object in the picture games, in book form) with her, instead of reading a "book" at naptime or bedtime, or in addition to. That will help expand her vocabulary too... because you'll have to explain to her what some of the objects are in order for her to find them! It can be really fun.

When she is eating, have her (you start and help model it) count out bites of food... "okay, after you have eaten 3 bites of ___ then you can be done." As she grows, add more bites! ;)

Make everything as finite as you can... don't use abstract counting... Count the number of blocks she can make into a tower without it falling... Count the number of colors of blocks she used. When you fold laundry, do you "pair up" socks? Count how many pairs of socks need to be put away.

As far as letters... just READ READ READ to her. As many stories as she wants! A love of reading comes from exposure to stories that she loves. Take her to the bookstore/library and let her pick out a few books and you pick out a few and then read them. Whichever ones she really likes, try to find similar type books. They don't have to all be filled with huge whole page pictures... some of my kids' favorites around age 2 were the Frog and Toad books. There are pictures, but they are very simple and not filled with lots of color. The STORIES are GREAT, though.. and if you use different voices for the Frog and the Toad the kids think they are SO much fun... They are 9 & 12 now and still pull those out sometimes, because they are funny...

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

For both of my kids I would just count things as we come across them. Everytime we go up stairs I count the steps with them. When we get out of the car to go into the store we count the cars in parking spots on the way in. Anywhere I know they will identify what we are counting and recognize what we are doing, I try to take advantage.
For the ABCs, I started singing it every diaper change from when they were infants. My 3 year old was able to recite them at 2.5 (I don't know if that is late or early but beating other kids wasn't my goal). He now asks me about writing the letters and we just started to trace with our fingers different letter when we come across them on his toys or books.
Kids are naturally inquisitive so going with her cues with what interests her and adapting the "teaching" to that will help. good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

My daughter is now 3 and at that age, she had a bunch of ABC books (Dr. Suess, Chicka Chicka ABC, etc.). She also had the alphabet letter magnets, wooden puzzles, foam letters that you can play with in the tub and alphabet place mats. And she watched Sesame Street as well as Super Why, another good show for learning letters and reading. We did not do flash cards or formal lessons in any way. I also read to her before nap time and bed time. She knew all her big letters by age 2 and the small ones at 2.5. She just seemed to naturally absorb it, and she was also very interested in finding and noticing letters everywhere when we were out and about (the McDonald's M, and K-Mart K, etc.).

I also got in the habit of singing the ABC song to her when I brush her teeth. Since they say you should take the same amount of time brushing your teeth as it takes to sing the ABC song. She picked it up quickly, AND it helps getting her to cooperate for brushing her teeth!

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answers from Las Vegas on

Repetition. Sing to her and talk to her counting and naming things as you see it.

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answers from Chicago on

When my daughter was a toddler we would count everything. Like Danielle said stairs, cars, everything. I would give her cheerios or crackers and we would count them. She started counting very quickly.
For her ABCs we just sang the ABC song whenever we could. Driving in the car, on a walk, during bath time, diaper changes, every chance I could I sang it to her. After she started singing along I would point out letters to her and say them. I did the same with numbers.
Like someone else said repetition is the way to go. And try to find opportunities to add a little learning to your activities. Also, reading every day to her is probably the best thing you can do with her. Plus, what's better then snuggling up with your baby and reading a fun story?!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

First off, relax! At 19 months, she is waaaay too young for you to be worrying about her knowing letters and numbers! Introduce them in fun ways, counting songs and games and things. When you go to the store talk to her about everything "Hmm, we need 2 gallons of milk. 1, 2" as you put them in the cart. Or "this says aisle 1 - there's the 1." Or when you are bathing her, count her fingers and toes. Same thing with letters. Point them out when you see them, and play sound games. Things will come gradually - DO NOT expect her to know her letters and numbers before she is 3, probably not till she is 4. Same for colors. Talk about them as you experience them, make it part of your day. But don't expect her to know them before 3. Kids go through a natural progression of development, right now she should be learning speech (through listening to you and interacting with you), letters and numbers and colors come later (and she'll recognize them before she can name them).

And read, read, read. 20 minutes every day. Put her on your lap and let her touch and see the book. Make it a real interaction. Kids learn sooooo much about books and reading and words and letters by being read to every day... so much more than flash cards or "your baby can read" gimmicks!

Again be patient. I know its tempting to push her into knowing all these things early, especially when we see adds or hear from other parents about how their baby was reading at 2 (whatever....). Learning must be FUN!!!

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answers from Cincinnati on

Repitition is the key...you wont do it in a weekend...this will take a month or so. My daughter is almost 22 months and knows the ABC"s but some of the letters dont come out of her mouth...L,M,N,O P sounds like a word (eminemopoloy) My daughter is in daycare and they sing the ABC's 2 or 3 times per day. After breakfast they do learning games (ABC's and Twinkle twinkle) to associate the song with something all the kids slap their thighs when singing...I knew My kid knew the song when I would sing her the song and she didnt say anything but she would slap her knees to the beat of the song. I also bought her bath letters and we play letter games in the tub.
Keep singing your baby the song...do it after each meal...she will get it probably sooner than you think

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I thought my 3 year old his ABC's and numbers by doing these kind of puzzles for toddlers (big pieces) with him when he was 2. The number puzzle was from 1-10 so he recognized the numbers, but he learned mostly from counting stairs every time we had to use them (we live on the 2nd floor). The ABC puzzle has an object underneath the letter that starts with the letter, like "C" - Cat. And I read, read, read. Picture Books at the library are perfect to begin with, I still get them because they have big letters and lots of pictures which keeps my son's interest.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Albany on

Repetition, repetition, repetition.

When my step daughter was that age, we spelled everything, pointed to every letter, sand abc every night before bed.
Singing the song with a book so you can point at each letter as you sing helps.
Associate the letter with the animal.
Play a matching game, like she has the letter in her hand and has to find the same letter in the alphabet.

It took her a couple months, and only some letters click every now and then, and you just jump on them and go over and over the ones she picks up so she remembers.
It can be frustrating sometimes though, you've told them ten times that this is an A. So what is this letter? I don't know....
bless their cotton socks.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Another electronic suggestion, which is like Sesame Street Cubed:


Click on step 1 ABC, it'll take you to a letter block page, and go crazy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

It is inappropriate to teach a 19 month old the alphabet, numbers and such! JUst because they can learn it doesn't mean they should. What happens is, you are making the left hemisphere of the brain very high and the right brain very low. There becomes a functional disconnect between the two hemispheres that deeply affects the child when they go to school and try to do actual work because they need both sides of their brain to work in tandem. At this age all she should be doing is working her brainstem and cerebellum. Movement is what matures these areas. She needs tons of movement activities all day long in order for the brain to be built correctly from bottom to top so she will be ready to go to school at 5. Reading is a task that should not be acheived till between 6-7 years of age. The US rushes kids and that's why we have so many learning disabilities. Instead, get your kid crawling, climbing, swimming, sliding, swinging, crashing, pulling, pushing,lifting, carrying, spinning, hanging, jumping, and anything else you can think of. Fine motor comes from gross motor so the stronger connections you make, the better hand control for handwriting, eye movement, auditory processing and eventually learing letter recognition, phonemic awareness and then learning to read. In our office we see (babies) who were taught to read and now they are Asperger Syndrome, autistic, ADHD, or just simply disconnected between their brain and body. Don't risk it. Your daughter does not need that at this time in her life. Read books to her and build her vocabulary, comprehension, sequencing, and have FUN! Those skills will go much further then rote learning of things she has no concept of. There is absolutely no use for TV. It ruins the way the eyes work together and actually makes learning to read a nightmare.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Hi G.!

I was just like you with my daughter. She is now four years old. She has every educational game you can think of.

I make a song out of everything. Address, telephone #, words, colors. We do a lot of it in the car. She learned how to spell "stop" because everytime we stop at a stop sign we sing a song and spell the word.

Whatever you decide, make it fun. You know what your daughter likes. My daughter loves music that's why we make everything into a song. ]

Children are visual. A is for apple. Everytime she eats an apple have an apple song......

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Nashville on

I know you said that you didn't just want her to learn it from the TV, but the Leapfrog Talking Letter Factory has been a great resource for me to teach children letters. My kids haven't seen it in over 2 years, but still sing the alphabet songs and do all the different the different letter sounds with the motions.

They also have the Math Circus which is good for numbers and basic addition.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Hi G.,
I swear the leap frog fride alphabet toy teaches them the fastes way. this is how my son learned it within 3 weeks. it has all the letters of the alphabet, sounds and vowels sounds. the kids puts the letter in the electronic fridge thing and it says the lettter and what it stands for. i am not sure the exact name of it, but you will find it witht the leap frog toys at walmart or toys r us.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Bakersfield on

Get the magnetic letters and numbers and stick them on your fridge.

The ABC song has its infectuous tune for a reason, you need to sing it and encourage her to sing it too... and always point to letters wherever you see them and tell her what they are and what sound they make. Hop on Pop is a really good first book and helps with letters.. along with the Dr Seuss ABC book, its really good too. As far as numbers go, you just start counting things and putting them in front of her.... It's very basic but repitition is the key, you will do this all the time and the little light will finally go off and you will be very proud of what you helped her accomplish. Counting food is the easiest way to start counting. Always do it while she's in the mood, they sort of let you know when and when not they will be absorbing, but nevertheless if you continue to be diligent with the repetition you will see her begin to respond. Start reading a lot, that really helps. I swear by dr seuss books because my boys really responded quickly to those, but I know the younger moms here probably know of other books as well. You need to get her some markers to write with too, she should be able to start writing her name and such... get a big tablet and just sit on the floor and "play".
Have fun.



answers from Salt Lake City on

I agree with the moms...repitition and constantly pointing letters out and counting everything....Also, for fun, lean the ASL (SIgn Language) alphabet....I would sing it and sign it and my son knew his ABC's by the time he was 2...something about the action and the song.....now if he has a hard time recoginzing a letter I see him going thru his signs to "find" it and then he usually gets it right. Also, print out coloring pages offline of the letters. Just google it and you will find A LOT. The more fun you can make it for them the more they will remember and enjoy learning....which I think is more important than learning the "facts" at an early age (enjoying learning that is). Good luck and HAVE FUN!!!!!!!!



answers from Eugene on

Fisher price online has infant and toddler a online game for abc's. It has great colors and sounds for the little ones to enjoy learning. Learning while playing is the best. Anything toy with letters on like blocks. You can say look at the A. Can you find the A? As you play with the blocks. Know the letter she recognizes as you are out and see them on street signs, ask her.



answers from Tulsa on

an electronic game that has all this on it. my son has an alphebet number color and shape school bus. it has elmo on ita and it talks to him. he also has an train with all of this on it also. he loves that thing to death. you can say find the green triangle and when they push it it pops open and you can cheer for them. be creative. I dont like electronic games unless they are learning games. constantly tell her bring me 3 pieces of candy if she does she gets to eat them. high recomendation on skittles and m&ms to teach colors. use your imagination.

books books books and more books. she may be reading before school also. mine was reading at 3 because of books and he knew his alphabet cause we bought alphabet books and workbooks. he did a page and I put a pretty sticker on it he got to pick the stickers when I bought them and I chose his reward sticker.


an electronic game that has all this on it. my son has an alphebet number color and shape school bus. it has elmo on ita and it talks to him. he also has an train with all of this on it also. he loves that thing to death. you can say find the green triangle and when they push it it pops open and you can cheer for them. be creative. I dont like electronic games unless they are learning games. constantly tell her bring me 3 pieces of candy if she does she gets to eat them. high recomendation on skittles and m&ms to teach colors. use your imagination.

books books books and more books. she may be reading before school also. mine was reading at 3 because of books and he knew his alphabet cause we bought alphabet books and workbooks. he did a page and I put a pretty sticker on it he got to pick the stickers when I bought them and I chose his reward sticker.



answers from San Francisco on

She might be a little young for this, but I used to make a game with my two youngest, beginning about 2 or 3, -- I would hold up a card, and I would throw a penny to whomever knew the letter or number. They loved it. It was so cute!! Oh I miss those days sometimes.



answers from Johnson City on

Environmental print is wonderful for teaching ABC's and 123's. My son is 19 months, and currently knows the letters 'A - E' ... We work on a specific letter each day, and I have pictures of letters and numbers posted throughout our home. He also has a Melissa and Doug magnetic alphabet board which he plays with daily. I also sing the alphabet with him several times daily and I count as we are going about our daily tasks such as "we walked down two steps." My biggest suggestion is to immerse your child in print and read frequently.


answers from Dover on

Preschool prep company has dvd for letters, numbers, colors, shapes, and sight words (cheaper to buy all 7 together than separately and sometimes you can get brand new ones off ebay cheaper than on their sight). They are great. You as a parent won't care for them but kids love them. My daughter knew her letters, numbers, colors, and shapes but I got the whole set to help reinforces when the home daycare she was going to didn't continue their curriculm.

You can also teach her by picking a letter/number each week to teach her. Example: a...give her snacks that start w/ a, point out anything/everything you see that starts w/ a. Write the letter a on a piece of paper and let her try to trace it (don't expect perfection), help her cut out objects that start w/ a to paste on the page. You can do the same w/ numbers, shapes, colors. Point out letters, numbers, shapes, and colors everywhere you go.



answers from Miami on

I know you say that you don't want her to just learn from tv and I agree with that and support that, but I just had to tell you that you should get the LeapFrog Letter Factory DVD - kids LOVE it and it really taught my 3-year-old her alphabet amazingly well. I think she was 2.5 when she first started watching it and she learned the whole alphabet without me even realizing it - well, I knew that she knew several letters, but not all...

Also, there are many great books out for kids to help them with the alphabet and numbers and you sitting down with her to read books for a few minutes a day can do wonders not only for her learning, but for bonding and to help instill a love of books at an early age.

Hope this helps!



answers from Miami on

My Daugther knows her abc's and numbers from daycare, but I noticed that they teach this with the ABC's song and playing a lot with letters. They decorate one letter each week and see things that begin with that letter for the same week.
At home I bought a mini computer for toddlers with letters and helped her a lot too.



answers from Orlando on

Try letteroftheweek.com and also get the leapfrog dvd The Letter Factory.



answers from Norfolk on

One thing that we've done with our kids (boy, 4yo, and girl, 2yo) that has been fun for all of us is a lot of word games. We do it a lot when we're at the dinner table or driving somewhere in the car. For example, I'll ask the kids to think of words that start with the letter "s," or to look around and find things that start with a certain letter (truck, trailer, train, toll booth, etc). We also do rhyming games, where I'll start off by saying, for example, "Cat, rat, sat, flat..." and get the kids involved with thinking up more rhymes. We have a refrigerator door full of letter and number magnets and so if I'm in the kitchen cooking, say, chicken soup, I'll spell "soup" with the magnets and then refer to it while I'm cooking. One day my son was racing his trucks on the floor and we used the magnets to spell "Start" and "Finish." I would say "Okay, get your truck and put it at the S-T-A-R-T!" (spelling it out for him) and after a few times, he was spelling it himself. We have kid's books everywhere and if I possibly can, I make a point of stopping whatever I am doing to sit down and read to them, especially if they bring me a book and ask to read it. Every night at bedtime is the same routine--toothbrushing, pajamas, lay in their bed together and I read a story. Then they each get 20-30 minutes of "lights-on time" which is a time for them to look at their books before they go to sleep. It helps, I think, that my husband and I both love to read and there are books all over the house. The kids do watch a little TV (mostly PBS Kids and a tiny bit of Disney channel) but we don't want TV to replace the together-time that reading encourages. When you read with your kids, they get to cuddle up to you and they really love the closeness and it gives them a good, positive association with books. Have you figured out yet how passionate I am on this topic? I commend you for wanting your daughter to learn. Just make it fun and low-stress! My son, 5 years old next month, actually read me a book yesterday! (and I know he really read it, not memorized it, because it was a new book for him). Enjoy your time with your daughter!



answers from Port St. Lucie on

We did most of the thing everyone is suggesting, reading, singing, repetition, etc. and one different thing we did was use bath crayons and write the letters and numbers during bathtime on the tub, say them as you write them...my son also had a magnet board with all the letters and numbers and LOVED it. He knew the alphabet song before learning each individual letter but by 2 he knew the letters inside and out - upper and lowercase. The fridge phonics letters were fun for him too, then we could start spelling easy 3 letter words with those :)

I think it's great you want to start 'teaching' now - they do absorb so much at this age. Have fun!!


answers from Dallas on

I haven't read the responses but Leapfrog has tons of great toys, movies, flash cards, etc.. I swear this is why my 2.5 year old knows every letter and it's sound and we're now starting to sound out words. The Letter Factory movie, flash cards and the toys all use the same jingles, pictures, etc. so they become very familiar with each letter. I can't recommend them enough.



answers from Miami on

Preschool Prep Company videos are awesome! they will earn ABC 123 in 2 weeks!



answers from Johnstown on

My girls all loved watching Sesame Street and the Baby Einstein DVDs. We would also get them coloring books that had the letters and numbers on them and we would keep repeating what letter/number they were coloring. With my older one, it was pretty much up to whatever the babysitter felt like doing because hubby & I both had incredibly demanding jobs that would let us come home when the bosses felt we could. She knew every single letter and was able to count to 10 by 18 months. When we had the twins, we decided it was best for me to stay home due to the outrageous cost of childcare...and guess what? They were the same way! It just goes to prove that it doesn't matter how, but repetition is the key :)



answers from Jacksonville on

There is a great website called starfall.com. My 2yo plays on it from time to time (with help) and loves it!



answers from Daytona Beach on

I didn't read all the responses you have already gotten, but what I did was sing the ABC song while washing their hands. With how many times we wash our hands in a day they catch on really quick and soon she will be singing to you. You could also sing to her while you brush her teeth. Good Luck



answers from Boca Raton on

As new mommas we want to do the best for our kids but relax and have fun. yes their brains are developing rapid fire but that also includes language, gross motor skills, fine motorskills, social skills, developmental milestones etc. the best way at this age to teach is to incorporate it into your everyday life through reading, conversations or play. The last thing you want is frustration. Helping her to develop a lifelong love for learning is the best thing you can teach her.

Good luck :-)

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