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My son is 3.5 years old and attends kindergarten. He is one of the youngest in his class. He has not been showing any interest in writing alphabets and quickly loses focus. His teacher has told us to make him practice writing alphabets at home. I am wondering if he is too young to learn writing. At what age do children usually start writing alphabets?

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According to the US Department of Education, your son is of the age when children typically become interested in writing (or pretending to write) the letters of their language. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't mention the child's interest in learning letters until the age of four. So you can see there is room for individuality.


It has been shown in study after study that the single most important activity in language acquisition, improvement, and a desire to read is to yourself read to your child every day. I have not seen a study that emphasizes the need to be able to write letters by 3.5, however, studies of letter-writing skills and their implications often begin in preschool with 3 - 5 year olds.

The importance of learning the alphabet at 3.5 years on long-term goals (e.g. the ability to read/spell) is not clear, but clearly your preschool teacher has an agenda for your child, and it is an achievement goal (i.e. set by educators, probably at the state level.) Forcing him to practice his letters may make him more resistant, not less, unless it's incorporated into an activity he really likes. It also matters if he is capable at the level of fine motor skills to form letters. It's important to understand why your child has no "interest". Is it because they are frustrated or have a fear of failure? These and other possibilities need to be addressed with your child and his teacher.

At 3.5, most kids will find it difficult to write letters neatly or in a small size. They can 'write big', though, especially if it's interesting.

Whether you help at home depends on how important you think cooperating with your child's teacher is. You might ask the teacher the reasoning behind the goal, and how you can help.

If you want to encourage your child to learn his letters, I would suggest reading about the ways you can do this. Some ways including pointing out letters (and their sound) while you read, i.e. "read with your finger" by underlining the words with your finger as you go along (something children themselves used to be admonished for doing!) At an opportune time, you can go back to the story with your child

Remember we read about the Cat in the Hat last night? The word cat is spelled (show) C-A-T. Let's try to write these letters with your finger/(other).

Make it large and make it fun. Writing in the sand is fun (you can make a small shallow sandbox for this). Writing on a whiteboard with a large marker or in thick chalk on the sidewalk is easier than on paper with a crayon. Make a game of it. (On the sidewalk, you can make it about them, e.g.)

What do you want to say? Ok, then we need the letter I and then a space, then A and M, another space, and finally, a B, A, T, M, A, N (with you helping, of course.)

Or, ask your child to name a letter, when he does, write the letter, and draw something amusing that begins with that letter (e.g. an egg with legs.)

Please note that letter recognition and letter-sound recognition are different things, so the second activity is both a letter-recognition and a letter-sound recognition exercise.*

*Other ways to teach letter-sound recognition is verbally. Questions like, "What sound do you hear in bat but not in at? That's right, /b/. The letter that has the /b/ sound is B. (Or "cake" but not "ache" /"pants"/"ants", "cup"/"up", etc.)? Start with letters at the beginning of the word, then letters at the end (fork/for, team/tea, farm/far, etc.) Also, some letters are easier than others.

Typical Language Accomplishments for Children, Birth to Age 6 -- Helping Your Child Become a Reader
Your Three Year Old

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Here, in Germany, kids begin to learn to write letters in the first form of elementary school, which children can enter no earlier than at age 6, and quite a few kids start school when they are 7. There really is no concerted effort to teach children to write earlier than that. Nevertheless German adults can read and write as well as adults from other countries. I therefore think that you can relax and allow your child to be a child for a few years more.

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    This is a good approach, but it doesn't answer the question. The question isn't "When do schools start to teach the alphabet?" But I'm sure the OP takes comfort in your answer. – anongoodnurse Mar 13 '18 at 18:03
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    @anongoodnurse The question is: "At what age do children usually learn to write alphabets?" My answer is: "In my country, children usually learn to write alphabets when they are six years old." It seems to me that my answer answers the question rather exactly. – user31704 Mar 14 '18 at 19:55
  • Same for the Netherlands (well they don't start at 7). Between 4 and 6 they may be introduced to letters but it's more of a play thing, writing really starts in "group 3", more or less 6+. – Remco Jan 23 at 11:04
  • @user31704: While that may be true, it doesn't follow logically. The fact that it's one of the first things that is taught in schools only tells us that it's a skillset that is imperative to schooling, and that age 6-7 is the upper bound after which we expect close to all children to have acquired this skill. If 75% (made up figure) of kids knew how to write letters on admission, this would still be the first thing schools taught, because everyone needs to be on board with it. – David Hedlund Sep 23 at 7:20
  • @DavidHedlund: yes, but that sounds very far fetched to me. – Remco Sep 23 at 10:22
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It's different in different countries. Which country are you referring to, or do you want a general answer?

I live outside the U.S, so where I am children are encouraged to learn alphabet recognition at about age 4, and it continues through to 5&6 yo. Usually they start learning to recognise the alphabet at about age 4-5 and practice "writing" their name using alphabet magnets or stickers. Nothing super formal though, so not all of the 4-5 yo will be expected to pass a test and write out every alphabet letter an adult calls out.

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I am a proud grandma of a 22 month old boy. We started his alphabet and number oral and verbal training when he was 18 months old. He can recite ABCs and can visually recognize them, in order and out. He counts to 20 and visually recognizes the numbers. We’re on our way to learning the sounds of each letter. Children are sponges. Eager to learn and please when we only take the time to teach them.

  • Hi and welcome to Parenting.SE! The question is "At what age do children usually start writing alphabets?" and while it's great that your nephew makes such progress, your post doesn't really answer the question. Please take the tour and have a look at the help center. It would be good if you updated your answer accordingly. – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Jan 18 at 17:58
  • @AnneDaunted it's grandson, not nephew, by the way ;) – Omega Krypton Sep 22 at 5:33

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