ABCs and 123s: Learning Milestones for Your Child
The “ABC Song” is a staple for the preschool set. Kids often memorize the song at an early age, but recognizing the letters takes a little more time. Simple learning activities help your little one make the connection between the song, the letters, and the sounds and shapes of the letters.
When Kids Learn the ABCs
Toddlers pick up the familiar tune of the “ABC Song” sometime around age 2 or 3. They hear it often from you and their older siblings and at day care. Even though they can sing the song, they probably don’t understand that those letters make certain sounds and correlate to the written letters.
Around age 3 or 4, kids start to make connections between letters and sounds. Your little one might start to recognize some letters and figure out which sounds go with them. When kids reach age 5 or kindergarten age, they usually recognize all the letters and understand the corresponding sounds. Keep in mind that children learn at a different pace, so your child may hit the ABC milestone early or a little later than other kids.
How You Can Help
Children pick up letters and sounds naturally, but you can help your little one along with everyday interactions. Talking about letters and sounds is a good start. You can also play simple, fun games and do activities that relate to letters.
Try these ideas to help your child learn the ABCs:
- Point out letters when you see them, such as signs at the store, words on buses and labels on packaging.
- Tell your child nursery rhymes and sing songs. Talk about sounds you hear multiple times in the songs.
- Look for starting sounds. During normal conversations, point out words that start with the same sound. Talk about the letter and how it sounds.
- Read to your child every day. Point out different letters you see in the text.
- Make your own alphabet book about something your child enjoys. Take photos or draw pictures for each letter of the alphabet. Write the letter on each page. If your child can’t quite make the letter on her own, draw it first; then have him trace it.
- Put letter magnets on the refrigerator, so your child can play with them while you cook. Talk about the sound each letter makes. Ask him to find a certain letter to help him recognize it.
- Write a grocery list for your child when you go to the store, and draw a picture next to each item. He can start associating the letters with sounds with the picture clues to help him figure out the word.
- Place labels on items in your child’s room. He’ll get constant exposure to the letters and start making connections with the symbols.
- Teach your child the letters in his name. Starting with something he’s familiar with makes learning more meaningful.
- Make letter practice fun. Put shaving cream or flour on a baking sheet, and let your child draw letters in the material. Another option is to make the shape of the letter on the floor with painter’s tape. Encourage your child to drive toy cars over the letter.
Other Milestones That Happen at This Time
The ABCs aren’t the only thing your little one learns at this time. Your child reaches lots of milestones and develops significantly during the toddler and preschool years.
At age 2 to 3, your toddler develops the following skills:
- Climbing, running and jumping
- Potty training
- Forms complete sentences
- Shows empathy
- Copies things
- Follows simple commands
- Points at and names pets, people and items
- Kicks and throws balls
By age 3 to 4, your preschooler can do the following:
- Hop and stand on one foot
- Catch bounced balls
- Draw basic shapes
- Use scissors
- Copy capital letters
- Tell stories
- Recognize some colors
- Follow more complex commands
- Know that printed have meaning
When your child reaches age 5, he should be able to:
- Retell stories
- Recognize rhyming
- Identify beginning sounds
- Know that reading goes from left to right and top to bottom
- Write letters
- Write some words
- Use future tense
- Count objects
- Copy more complex geometric shapes