- Start around 2 years-old – 66% of 3 year-olds got this
- Time and repetition are the keys – use “the song“
- Picture books help with letter sounds
- Try our free worksheets to practice writing letters
As a parent, you are probably trying to help your toddler learn the alphabet. This is a critical part of getting your child ready to enter kindergarten. Because the alphabet is the foundation of learning how to read and write, it is critical for children to have a solid understanding the 26 letters by the time they enter kindergarten.
At the same time, teaching a child the alphabet might feel like a rite of passage for parents. It can be hard to teach kids the alphabet and it seems like every child struggles with some letters more than others. If you are having trouble teaching the ABCs, you are not alone. This is a common struggle. The key to learning the alphabet is time and repetition.
Roughly two-thirds of parents of 3 year-olds report their child ‘Almost Always’ is able to recite the letters of the alphabet in order, according to our data at KinderIQ:
Children start showing interest in the alphabet around the age of 2. This is the same age when basic foundational processes of communication start to take root, so it is natural for children to start learning their ABCs around this age. There are three clear parts of the ABCs that your child will have to learn. These include:
- How to say each letter out loud
- How to write each letter on a piece of paper
- The sound that each letter makes in a word
With 26 letters and three separate parts to learn, it is easy to see why some children struggle. On the other hand, there are plenty of techniques that you can use as a parent to help your child master this foundational communication skill.
Before Starting Kindergarten
The alphabet is a complicated beast. Some letters make different sounds in different words. There are also two and three-letter combinations that make challenging sounds. The “th” sound is notorious for challenging kids. While your child doesn’t have to learn everything about the alphabet before starting kindergarten, there are several tasks that your child should be able to accomplish. This will give you a benchmark that will act as an objective goal for you and your child.
Before beginning kindergarten, your child should be able to:
- Recite the alphabet from A to Z (or sing it)
- Pick out uppercase letters
- Pick out lowercase letters
- Know which uppercase letters go with which lowercase letters
- Pronounce the sound that each letter makes
- Trace letters effectively
While some children can also write their upper and lowercase letters, some are harder than others. As long as your child can write a few letters, he or she is on track.
Now that the objectives are clear, how can you help your child master these skills? There are a few strategies that you can use to help your child learn.
Introduce the Alphabet By Singing
The first step in learning the alphabet is to learn the characters. This is part of learning the phonetic name of each letter. One of the ways that you can introduce your child to the alphabet at an early age is through song.
There are plenty of songs that you can use to help your child learn. You probably started singing to them as a baby. As your child turn 2, he or she can start to participate in the song. Put a nice dance routine to it (as your child gets older) and he or she will start to learn the names of the 26 characters.
While CDs are a bit outdated, there are plenty of online videos and downloadable songs that you can use to help your child learn the names of the different letters. Once your child has a reasonably firm grip on the names, the next step is to be able to identify them.
Picture Books Are Entertaining
There are plenty of alphabet books that you can read to your child. Because you probably started reading to your child as a baby, this should feel like a natural extension of something you and your child already do together.
Pick out a few books that your child loves and start to identify the letters. These letters should be very big and colorful to grab their attention. Try to stick to either uppercase or lowercase letters first. Because the uppercase letters are all very different, children tend to learn these first.
As you read, ask your child to say the names of the letters. This will help him or her learn the phonetic names of the characters. Once you feel like your child can recognize the letters effectively, you can get more creative with your activities.
Introduce Tactile Letters Through Arts and Crafts
One of the most powerful activities for helping children learn any new skill is tactile creation. This helps your child grow creatively and holds their attention by keeping their eyes and hands busy.
There are plenty of letter-tracing kits that you can use with your child to help them learn how to write. Ask your child to trace the letters on the page with his or her finger. This is a great activity for children who are just learning how to write. There are many cards that have arrows, showing children how to trace each letter. This helps them learn how to write their letters and can even pair up upper and lowercase letters, helping children learn which letters go together. This is a powerful learning activity that will help your child learn the alphabet.
As your child gets better at this activity, you can start to quiz them.
- First, show your child the letter and ask them to trace it. As they trace the letter, have them name it. Then, have them say the sound the letter makes.
- Next, scatter the letters throughout the room. Ask them to find a certain letter, trace it, say the letter, and pronounce the sound.
This is a simple progression that will help a child learn the names of the letters, how to write them, and the sound they make.
Use Creative Puzzles
One of the most creative ways to help kids learn the alphabet is to use a puzzle. There are lots of alphabet puzzles that use large, wooden letters and have creative pictures on them. While this might not help children learn how to write the letters, it si important because it shows children what the letters do.
Usually, the pictures on the letters are of items that start with that specific letter. Therefore, these puzzles are great for helping children expand their vocabulary while also learning verbal skills.
Because most children like puzzles, this is a great option; however, there are plenty of other creative games involving the alphabet as well. Take a look around and see what might work well for your child.
Teaching a Child the Alphabet with Targeted Strategies
These are a few strategies that you can use as a parent to help your child learn his or her ABCs. This is a major milestone for children and you might think that your child is having problems. If this is the case, remember that there are plenty of opportunities for you to help your child master this skill. With some time, effort, and consistency, every child can learn his or her ABCs and use them to enter school.
Try our printable kindergarten worksheets to practice writing letters, along with tons of other great kindergarten skills.