My child (3 yr old) will soon begin his reading journey, and I'm wondering if now (or at least within a few months) is a good time to get him to start learning the ABCs?

I recently found a programmer-themed ABC book on Kickstarter (so if it actually manages to get funded, it will still be at least 6 months out before I can sit down and read it to him; he'll be 4 by then).

Is age 4 a good time to do this, or is it too late/early? I don't want to waste time showing him something for learning purposes that he can't quite grasp yet, but at the same time, I don't want to put him to sleep (I have enough problems with that already :))

  • Does he currently identify any letters or numbers? We weren't exactly trying to teach our daughters ABC but by about 1 1/2 or so both knew them. We think just because we point them out in the little bath letters, toys and such. Plus it's hard to avoid them hearing the song since its embedded in so many things these days. But it was another year and a half before our oldest could understand combining the sounds to read simple words like "to" - I'd say start now. 3 is a good year for comprehension so start pointing out every letter and number around
    – Kai Qing
    May 6, 2015 at 20:59
  • He can identify some letters, yes. He (like most children his age I would imagine) watches Sesame Street and can repeat the "Letter of the Day" so I guess he's already been exposed to the alphabet visually in a small way. May 6, 2015 at 21:15
  • I don't see any harm in doing it as soon as possible.
    – bjb568
    May 8, 2015 at 1:02

5 Answers 5


When my infant was born I never knew any lullabies, so I used to sing A for ant, B for ball, C for cat.. up-till W carefully using the names of the things which could be seen in the real life, daily - as a lullaby with full expressions and in a loud and clear voice.

And now my toddler is 2 years old and when I say - A for, she says ant, so on and so forth till W.

Key is the repetition. Instead of telling your child - sit down and read that, I recommend you to:

  • Sing around ABC loudly, clearly, and frequently when she is around. Me and my child have made a game out of this. We compete on who sings louder.
  • Give her an apple (if she likes it) and then say loudly - A for apple. Next time before giving her apple, show the apple to her and ask - A for, and let her fill in the blanks. It may take some time for you because you are starting quite late but it is better than forcing the child to sit and read the book.
  • Be sure to use the words which the child can see or wants to see in her house or street. For example - I used A for ant because there are ants all around the house and it is easy for her see them. I used the word K for key because we have a bunch for keys hanging near the door which she often takes for playing.

  • Please don't rely on the books which use words like A for ambulance and S for scorpion. How many times in your daily life you get to see ambulances and scorpions? The child will soon forget the words which she cannot relate to in real life, daily.

  • "How many times in your daily life you get to see ambulances" makes me laugh. Being near a main artery we see them at least a few times a week and my son would be so sad if he didn't - he loves "weo-weos," as he dubbed siren-having vehicles at a young age. But you're dead-on with regards to using words your child hears/uses for letters. My son's first and best letter acquisition was his initial. "H, for me!"
    – Don
    Mar 28, 2016 at 16:56

When should I teach my toddler the ABCs?

Age 3 is a great age to start, in the context of picture book reading together, to start developing some familiarity with letters and sounds. As long as it's not a chore, but is incorporated into fun reading, it's fine. This way the child gradually absorbs the letters while having fun with story books.

And that is why there are such large quantities of picture books that are alphabet books!

  • 1
    Your other "answer" was considered to not be an answer, and was converted to a comment on the OP by a moderator. While answer can be short and sweet, it's rare that a short answer on this stack is a complete answer. This answer is much better because of the additional details and guidance.
    – user11394
    May 8, 2015 at 4:32
  • 1
    Thank you for explaining. It is easier to learn what is expected when some explanation is provided. May 8, 2015 at 5:15
  • You're welcome. And I do want to emphasize that there's nothing wrong with shorter answers. Some of us tend to get rather long-winded here, but it's not the expectation (I personally have a habit of answering when I'm very tired, which kills all brevity for me). You'll just want to make sure you answer each part of the question, and usually provide some details that justify or explain your answer. I don't think you generally have a problem with this, though, or it would have come up sooner.
    – user11394
    May 8, 2015 at 5:27
  • Glad I managed to get it to work. Please note, my first attempt was one line, three sentences. May 9, 2015 at 3:45

At age of three we started singing the ABC song.

We look at name tags (on clothes, toys etc.) to identify if something belongs to her.

She can identify and also draw an A (her name starts with A).

We teach numbers in elevators so she presses the button for the right floor.

  • 2
    I like these. Also, you can decorate the door to the room where she sleeps (even if it's a shared room) with the letters of her name. You can buy some plastic magnetic letters, and play with them together on a cookie tray. May 9, 2015 at 4:13

I make letter spotting a various thing with my 2.5 year old. When we're looking at things he's already interested in - colorful signs, a fire truck, whatever - I will point at a letter or a word and say it or spell it. At this point all he gets is "O" and I have not convinced him that bullet points and periods aren't also Os. :)

I see from your comment that he's got a little of this in that sort of way already, so if your question is when you should start making concerted efforts I'd think the answer is "when he'll pay attention." My personal philosophy is that getting this stuff in context and little dribs and drabs is the best approach, so I wouldn't be real inclined to sit down with an ABC book and make a rigorous approach of it. If there's a book he'll pay attention to, super, but I'd be just as inclined to write letters on things or get various foam letter blocks.


It's never too young to start any type of familiarity with letters, shapes, etc. One easy thing you can do to just teach the ABC's is to sing one of the many ABC songs to them. You can download free ones for your iPod if you have one, sing it yourself, buy a tape or CD. We did a lot of driving with infants in the car and had a selection of songs about ABCs, colors, shapes...it can drive you crazy listening to them over and over but it's amazing the rapidity with which toddlers absorb stuff. These are just quick, easy, passive ways to introduce ABCs. It's even better if you have and take the time to actively play with them around concepts related to ABCs and reading, but we don't always have that time.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .