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The Best Ways to Teach a Toddler the Alphabet & Counting

by Carly Seifert, studioD

During the toddler years, your little one's brain is absorbing and learning all kinds of information. Beginning around age 3, toddlers are usually able and ready to learn letter and number recognition, according to the Nebraska Department of Education. This doesn't mean you need to break out the flash cards and start drilling and quizzing your tot. Teach these concepts to your toddler through a variety of simple and natural day-to-day activities.


Your toddler undoubtedly loves music, especially when you're doing the singing (off-key though it may be). So even if the idea of singing makes you want to run for the hills, you can simply and effectively teach your child the order of his ABCs and 123s by breaking out the alphabet song, "This Old Man" and "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe." Your child will memorize information set to music and rhyme without even realizing it.

Tangible Letters and Numbers

Your child may be able to sing the Dickens out of the alphabet song, but this won't get her very far if she can't recognize the letters that go with it. Help her along by giving her a set of fridge magnets with letters and numbers, wooden alphabet blocks or sandpaper letters that she can touch and trace with her finger. Give her a few letters and numbers at a time. Tell her what each letter is and what sound it makes, and allow her some time to play independently with those fridge magnets while you cook dinner in peace.


Read books where letters and numbers are the theme -- not hard to find in toddler books. Point out and discuss each letter and number and reinforce these concepts. Name the letters that are prominently featured on the title page of a book, count objects on each page of a book, point out the page numbers, and go on a "letter hunt" by finding and counting a certain letter on each page.

Your World

You don't need Elmo to teach your 3-year-old what the letter "M" looks like. Explore the world around you for opportunities to discover letters and numbers with your little one. Play the ever-popular alphabet game during a long road trip. Have her assist at the grocery by helping you count apples or tomatoes as you fill your produce bags. Look for letters on magazines as you wait in line (you may want to skip the naughty gossip rags). Count the number of trees next to you when you're parked at a long red light.

About the Author

Carly Seifert has been a piano instructor since 2001. She has also covered adoption and introducing children to the arts for "Montana Parent Magazine." Seifert graduated from University of California, Irvine with a Bachelor of Arts in drama.

Photo Credits

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