View Full Version : I can't teach my 3.5 yo her ABCs?

02-05-2012, 12:17 PM
Maybe this is stupid but it's driving me nuts! I feel like I've tried a dozen different ways over the past two years to slowly introduce my daughter to the alphabet and she only recognizes A, Z, and O, sometimes M and S. in the last few months we have started to ramp it up a bit. I would like her to know her letters by age four. Maybe that is random, but it seems reasonable. We have played tons of alphabet games together on the iPad. We read together ALOT. Her sister reads to her too. We are a reading family. We often pick a certain letter to look for and have her try to find it on each page as we read. She likes to try writing letters when Z does schoolwork and can even replicate several. We really get excited when she makes one and tell her what letter it is (she copies from a chart).

In fact, she has been asking so much to do school with Z that I decided to try All About Reading, Level Pre1. It's just letter identification and later basic letter sounds. We have done lessons one and two--A and B. She already knew A but had a great time doing the activity and felt like a big girl putting a sticker on the chart. Yesterday, day 2 she dragged the bag to me and asked for lesson 2, letter B. We did the lesson, had lots of fun, twenty minutes later she couldn't tell me what letter we had done on the craft sheet. We watched a bunch of fun you tube clips from sesame street exclusively about letter B. I helped her make letter B on the whiteboard. We found it in books. This morning she calls it letter Z which she does recognize on sight.

What is this??? Is she trying to make me loony? Developmentally she has always been right on track or ahead. She was a very very early talker. Yes, she has terrible vision, but she is wearing her glasses. Yes I am the paranoid worried type. Where have I gone wrong?

02-05-2012, 12:35 PM
You haven't gone wrong. You have a bright 3.5-year-old who is enjoying learning at her own speed. If you're a reading family then she will learn her letters; maybe not on your timetable, but she will get there. I share the same worries about my son who is having trouble with math fluency. They're both going to be okay. :)

02-05-2012, 12:40 PM
I ran into something similar with my ds. I wanted him to know his alphabet before he started K.

Uh, yeah... no. My attempts at instruction just made him REALLY confused. However, despite that, he always read ahead in public K. There's no rush, honestly, and I wouldn't stress out about it. Sometimes it's a brain-development thing, and not much you can do. It doesn't mean your kid won't learn to read, and it doesn't mean you can't teach reading. It just means all the ducks aren't quite lined up yet, and you need to give it a bit more time. :)

02-05-2012, 12:51 PM
I'm pretty sure head start doesnt even teach the alphabet. If she's enjoying the activities, keep doing them, but dont stress over it. If she isnt recognizing letters by age 5, you might want to start worrying. It doesnt really sound like a vision problem, since she doesnt remember what letter you were talking about yesterday. But kids just grow in leaps and bounds. When it clicks, it will click.

I remember my first child could WRITE the whole alphabet at age 4, and my second one, at age 4, knew more pokemon than he did letters of the alphabet. But he was still reading at a 2nd grade level by the end of kindergarten. My youngest knew several letters at age 2, but was a late reader. You kinda just have to ride that wave. Like potty training or walking. (I still remember my aunt telling me she would TEACH my daughter to walk, at 11 mo. After 2 minutes she came to me, flabbergasted "She doesnt WANT to walk!" Uh huh. I havent been tying her down to the ground. She walked when she was ready. at 13 mo)

Crabby Lioness
02-05-2012, 01:09 PM
3.5 is still kinda young. She'll get there.

02-05-2012, 01:16 PM
Do you want her to just be able to SAY the alphabet? If that's the case, just sing the song alllllllll the tiiiiiiime. She'll learn them whether she likes it or not.

If you want her to know the sounds of each letter...yeah...just give it some time. There's no magic bullet there. Point them out a lot. That's all you can do (imo). For my kids, I started with their name. Write it on everything and point to it and read it really slowly all the time. It seems to be more interesting when it's their own name. And they just branched out from there, at their own leisurely speed.

Setting arbitrary timelines is appealing (I do it for everything, it just helps me plan), but plan for that to fail and don't be too disappointed. Your daughter sounds like a lot of fun, and perfectly capable of learning. She'll get there!

02-05-2012, 01:49 PM
They have something called "snap cards" on currclick (on sale right now) that has each letter illustrated- I am picking up a set for my almost 4 year old to help him recognize the letter symbols. Leapfrog letter factory is fantastic for teaching early phonics as well.

02-05-2012, 01:54 PM
or you can print free flash cards to go with leapfrog from running with scissors. http://projectsbyjess.blogspot.com/2010/09/leap-frog-letter-factory-flash-cards.html

02-05-2012, 02:23 PM
She's just doing her thing, being a 3 yo. I wouldn't worry. Really, if you let this get to you too much, by the time she's 9 and not getting long division, you'll have lost all your hair or put her in school long ago. :D

02-05-2012, 03:26 PM
Thank you for reminding me of a few things I already knew:

1) each at their own pace
2) she is too young too really worry about school, her job is play
3) I need to chill

Also, this is ALL my oldests fault. Yep, it's true. She knew her alphabet by 2.5 and neither my husband nor I remember making any effort to teach her. She is making Belly look bad. Now if Belly had been born first, her very early language skills would have had me dragging Z off for evaluation so I guess fair is fair.

The real point is... IT'S NOT ABOUT ME AT ALL. now where are those meds...

Thank you for helping me keep perspective. I guess we will keep doing school when she asks to do it with Z. I will keep everyone's curriculum ideas in mind for later if we still don't pick up along the way.


02-05-2012, 04:52 PM
Agree with everything others (and OP) have said. I believe there's a point where the spatial recognition of symbolic language just starts to click with a child and the key is to pay attention to that. It may be at 3 or 5 or 7. I don't think early talking corresponds much with early reading. The timing all has to do with when different parts of the brain are getting taxes with different things and then there's several times where the brain rewires/reorganizes itself. Your child's brain doesn't know it's supposed to be wired for reading by a certain age. :)

Don't worry, it doesn't have anything to do with how bright your dc is. I started trying to do alphabet puzzles and pre-reading with my eldest when she was 3. Just didn't click. She'd show interest or recognition then peter out. It wasn't until she was 4.5yo that she really seemed interested in letters all around her. A month shy of 5yo we started 100EL, finished it in about 5 months, and within 9 months she was reading 300+ page novels. Now at 8yo she can read anything, she read an 8th grade reading assessment at 450 wpm with perfect comprehension, and I got her Zaccaro's real world algebra book "because algebra is fun".

In comparsion, her 6.5yo sister has so far hit all of the reading milestones exactly 5mo behind her older sister, but to be honest behind her smiling quirkiness I see glimpses of a mind even sharper than her sisters, scary smart. For example, when I introduced math facts, I just did a handful and she had to count each on her fingers. The next day I asked her, "What's 3+4?" and she replied exasperated, "I already TOLD you it's 7!" Ok, well that was 18 hours ago and each of those facts she now had memorized. Typical for a middle child. it'd be easy to overlook her abilities (middle kids are least likely to be ID'd as gifted according to HOAGIES).

Then there is my youngest, who just shy of his 2nd birthday surprised us by knowing all of his letters and their sounds without us every showing him. (He must have watched his sisters.) Now at 3yo he can identify the first, middle, and last sounds of most words and identify which letter makes it. He can sound things out, reading simple CVC words, but right now he's just not that interested in reading -- he's more into using lots of adjectives and more complex sentence structures when he speaks. He really loves books, but right now there's always a lap open and someone willing to read to him. Maybe tomorrow he'll decide to learn or maybe next year. He likes doing little workbooks and games, so we do that. But I don't know that whether he does things earlier means eh brighter than his siblings. I think they're all bright and each is following their own path. My job is to meet them where they are, and as you said realize it's NOT about me at all. :D

02-05-2012, 05:33 PM
This brings back vivid memories for me.

I set out to teach ds the alphabet when he was about 4. He was all excited about starting "school," and had a little desk and everything.

Looking back, I realize I pushed too hard to get him to learn the ABCs. He lost a lot of his enthusiasm those weeks we worked on letters. I wonder if I had kept it fun, gone at his pace, and didn't push him too hard to meet *my* expectations, maybe he would have enjoyed school more since then. At times, it has been a real struggle and emotionally draining for both of us. (It's better now, but he's 14, so it took a while.)

My advice is, whatever you do, keep it low-key and fun. These things will come eventually, and setting up a goal or timeline for learning is almost guaranteed to cause problems somewhere along the way.


02-05-2012, 09:36 PM
I agree with the others to just let her learn at her own pace. However, if you are open to a DVD, the LeapFrog Letter Factory is AMAZING! Love it...

02-05-2012, 11:22 PM
I agree with the others to just let her learn at her own pace. However, if you are open to a DVD, the LeapFrog Letter Factory is AMAZING! Love it...

I second this show. There are lots of ways you can teach without really teaching. There are TONS of videos out there that cover ABCs in song and story, fun to watch for the kids. Wooden letter puzzles, foam bath toys/crayons, starting with recognizing the letters in their name rather then the ABCs, posting large letters somewhere at eye level, etc. It might help to make learning more like a game then a lesson.

We have a similar issue with my son (almost 4). He's got several letters down by sight, but we haven't even touched on sound yet. I really hope it clicks soon.

02-06-2012, 08:01 AM
For my son and now my daughter I started with the letters in their name. Those letters mean something! So Keegan recognized K for a very long time before any other letter because that is what started his name. He took forever to read, still not doing it by the end of Kindergarten. But his brain was ready in first grade and now he's finishing up 2nd and he's reading well ahead of his grade level. As said before it really is like walking they will do it when ready if you force it before that it's no fun for you or the kid.

02-07-2012, 01:13 PM
I also LOVE Leap Frog Letter Factory (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001TKUXUC/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=teacstar-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B001TKUXUC">LeapFrog: Letter Factory</a><img src="http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=teacstar-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B001TKUXUC) and Leap Frog Amazing Alphabet (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004AC6PXA/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=teacstar-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B004AC6PXA">LeapFrog: The Amazing Alphabet Amusement Park</a><img src="http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=teacstar-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B004AC6PXA) . For some reason I originally rebelled against the idea of using a cartoon to teach my child- but MY GOODNESS does it work. They LOVE it.

02-07-2012, 02:57 PM
She is learning in her own way at her own pace. Honestly, I taught preschool for quite a while and WE taught the kids the ABCs at 4 and 5 yo.

Try some fridge magnets. You can get a set for on the fridge. Try putting up her name. Let her learn the letters in her name. Then start adding other letters and let her just play and have fun with them. Get another set and put them in a large metal cookie tin. The lid doubles as a magnetic work surface. Great for play areas and car rides.

The ABC books are great too. We had one that was Animals for each letter. He loved it and read it constantly. Eventually the association between letter, name of letter, and letter sound clicks. Just keep reading with her and giving her cute ABC books for free play/free reading.

Also look into some tactile/montessori ABC activities. Like building letters with food, craft sticks, real sticks; tracing sandpaper letters with crayons; making letters out of clay; etc. One activity I did with my classes was to have a letter of the week - we'd do lots of stuff related to that letter including a craft project. It would be a big block letter and we'd glue stuff inside it that started with the letter. Like for S we glued sand one day, sunflower seeds another. I sent up a discovery center with seeds, shells, sand, sandpaper, satin, etc

02-07-2012, 03:02 PM
And knowing the alphabet doesn't necessarily translate to easier reading. Neither does early talking. My son could recognize letters/letter sounds and started reading really early but at 7yo he still struggles with singing the ABC song and knowing where letters fit into the alphabet. Thanks to speech issues, he signed and babbled full sentences but he was 5 before other people could begin to understand him.

02-07-2012, 10:19 PM
Lol on the Montessori stuff. She spends nine hours a week at a wonderful Montessori preschool so I can figure out this homeschooling thing with my oldest. We are all over those sand paper letter baby. ;) Of course there's no pressure on her there to learn her ABCs. That's just crazy mommy. She enjoys lots of self directed tasks and really polishes her fine motor skills. The Montessori approach to learning is so amazing. I am totally in awe at all of the incredible skills my oldest acquired in her brief time there.

We have watched a couple of the leapfrog videos and have ABC books. She is much more interested in whatever her sister is doing...which is how we got to this point really. She wanted to do some school because Zara was doing some. I'm just not sure what else I can teach her right now besides letters. She counts. She knows colors and shapes. She does crafts. She laughs and sings. Dances and is full of joy. I've got nothing else and she wants to do school too and she is NOT content to just sit and scribble.

I should definitely get another set of magnetic letters. I think the underside of the fridge ate the set my oldest played with so much. You have a lot of fantastic ideas. I am definitely going to put some of them to use. Thank you.

Today she remembers B. Sometimes I am almost certain she is messing with me.


02-09-2012, 05:33 PM
No one even believed in teaching kids the alphabet before Kindergarten (age 5) when I was a kid. When my mother was a kid, they didn't teach the alphabet til 1st grade (6), and all they did in Kindergarten was fingerpaint, play duck-duck-goose, have a nap, etc. And for her as well as me, Kinder was either morning or afternoon, never all-day, because it was widely considered too much for a child that young to be away from home all day.

I know how hard it can be with messages all around you saying otherwise, but the proof of the pudding is that in my generation and in my mother's, literacy was better, not worse, than it is today, and kids weren't expected to do ANYTHING academic before age 6.

That same daughter started Dick and Jane this past year, eventually got so tired of it she begged to be let off, we muddled about not doing consistent reading for a while, then muddled about doing it here and there with things she found interesting, and fast forward, she's all of 7 1/2 and the readers that say they are for her age group are horribly boring and too easy for her. She can now read almost anything, over my shoulder, at the computer, which was a bit of a sudden shock.

Not meaning to ramble, but just wanted to offer some reassurance. Books by John Holt helped me take a deep breath when I felt like the floor was dropping out from under me, when she turned 5 and wasn't off to kindergarten. Wishing you peace in the knowledge that there is plenty of time, and earlier won't mean better. If it did, today's kids would have better literacy than kids of previous generations who didn't begin even the alphabet until at least 5.

02-09-2012, 05:39 PM
I was thinking about this today - we just shrug and say 'its different today, kids have to start earlier' - but have they made any progress, really?

02-12-2012, 11:08 PM
Starfall.com is wonderful, especially for teaching letters. I agree with everyone else, keep learning fun without pressure. She'll learn soon enough and when she's 20, no one will care if she was 3 or 4 or 5 when she learned her letters. Just like walking...as adults, does it really matter if we started walking at 9 months or 15?

02-14-2012, 03:47 PM
Why would you want to?

02-14-2012, 04:50 PM
Why wouldn't you want to.

02-14-2012, 06:38 PM
some people believe kids arent ready to read until they are 7 - some kids teach themselves at 3. I think the reason you wouldnt is if they dont want to learn, and the reason you would is if they DO want to learn . . hopefully . . .

02-14-2012, 09:11 PM
She's interested. Attempts to duplicate them on paper when her sister is doing handwriting. Asks me what they are called when she writes them. Drags me school stuff and asks to do it. Retains zero, zip, zilch, nada. I'm not trying to teach her rocket science or even phonics. Just the alphabet. And only the uppercase ones to start. I would consider that reasonable, since she shows interest.

Thank you everyone for your helpful suggestions.

Crabby Lioness
02-17-2012, 11:52 AM
She's interested. Attempts to duplicate them on paper when her sister is doing handwriting. Asks me what they are called when she writes them. Drags me school stuff and asks to do it. Retains zero, zip, zilch, nada. I'm not trying to teach her rocket science or even phonics. Just the alphabet. And only the uppercase ones to start. I would consider that reasonable, since she shows interest.

Thank you everyone for your helpful suggestions.

#3 is the same way. 3.5yo, interested, zero retension.

HOWEVER, he knows where everything is in the house and has learned other things. One day the light bulb will come on.