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What average age should children start to know the alphabet??

(69 Posts)
carbonarayum Mon 25-Mar-13 19:30:04

Saw a friend today with a just turned 3 year old who apparently knows the full alphabet and can almost spell his name. My DC 2.5 is no where near this. He can count to 10 (but can't really actually count, if you know what I mean -well maybe to 2) and knows what the alphabet song is and knows the alphabet poster on his wall is the alphabet, that's about as far as it goes..!!!

Friend talking of teaching phonics, practicing handwriting etc..

Freaked me out a bit as I'd have thought this would be a big step off yet age wise??!!

Just wondered what others experiences were?

YellowandGreenandRedandBlue Mon 25-Mar-13 19:36:07

Massive range of normal and please don't worry. There are three possibilities, either her child is doing this spontaneously and is therefore quite advanced, her child has been drilled or she is fibbing/overstating.

None of the three possible scenarios mean anything for your child. Please don't worry and try not to compare!

pompompom Mon 25-Mar-13 19:36:23

DS could sort of reel off the alphabet at about 3 but couldn't recognise any letters, didn't understand what it was, definitely couldn't spell his name though (only managed that at about 4.5)

He did get counting early though, knew his numbers from about 18mo, and could actually count items up to 10 at about 3.

There's a huge variation. My nephew could write his own name at 3 and was really good at his numbers at that age too.

blueberryupsidedown Mon 25-Mar-13 19:48:26

I went to a museum recently and noticed a mum changing her baby's nappy and singing the alphabet song. Baby must have been one year old. Part of me wanted to shake her and give her a slap, and say Just pull funny faces, make silly sounds, sing funny songs. Stop trying too hard. Just enjoy......

Both my boys could identify the first letter of their names (mostly by spotting them on car numberplates) by about 2.5, and could 'recite' the alphabet song by about 3 and could write their name at the end of Nursery, which is what, 4.5. They could spot simple letters such as o and k. Again on car number plates.

DS2 is a real superstar at maths and by 3 years old could count in 2s, backwards... Now at nearly 6 he knows all his times tables up to 12 and can add three digit numbers in his head. He's a little bit... unusual. His speech therapist was very surprised when playing Janga, he could count the bricks in threes backwards, without hesitation..... Having said that, it is very very unusual and he is on the Special Needs register because he has a speech disorder.

Some parents are a bit OTT with early learning but it's their choice... We tend to 'go with the flow' in my family.

YellowandGreenandRedandBlue Mon 25-Mar-13 19:58:31

By knows the alphabet I thought op meant correctly name each letter when looking at them?

Mine could recite the alphabet song pretty young but only in terms of parroting it because it was heard so many times.

Tee2072 Mon 25-Mar-13 19:59:43

Well, my 3.9 year old son doesn't know the alphabet at all.

His 3.9 year old cousin can write his name.

So it depends on the child.

AppleAndBlackberry Mon 25-Mar-13 20:05:12

I think it helps if they know some letter sounds and can count a bit before they go to school but you have a couple of years before that. 3-4 is probably about right for showing interest in letters and in writing their name. My 3.7 year old spontaneously attempted to write her name a few months ago without anyone trying to teach her. You can also start 'I spy' at around 3 and see if they can recognise what letter a word starts with.

CognitiveOverload Mon 25-Mar-13 20:08:23

Depends on the child. My ds has known his since three but he likes numbers and letters. They all have different rates of learning certain things. Best not to compare too much.

RubyrooUK Mon 25-Mar-13 20:11:04

My two and a half year old can competently count to 20. However, he might recognise that there are 3 or 6 raisins on the table; he'd have no clue if there were 17. He can recognise numbers when out and about on posters, buses etc. I haven't taught these to him in any big way - he's just interested.

He can also sing the alphabet song but couldn't identify any letters (as far as I know, not sure I've asked). He can spot a few words in books like "puppy" or "no" that he recognises but can't read.

He can't draw a straight line to save his life, let alone even attempt to write his name. He is firmly in crazy scribble territory.

So I think it totally varies from child to child depending on their ability in various areas and their interests.

ThisIsMummyPig Mon 25-Mar-13 20:16:07

DD1 knew all her letters (lower case) when she was 2.5, because she had a set of magnets and was really interested in them. She is now in reception and is one of the slower readers. (next to bottom group)

DD2 at 3 knows nothing, but can sing the alphabet song because her sister brought it home from school.

In response to your question though, reception seems to be fine for learning your alphabet.

teacherlikesapples Mon 25-Mar-13 22:15:35

There is a big difference between 'knowing the alphabet' (memorising the song) and actually knowing the letter sounds, recognising the symbols (then eventually matching each symbol with its letter sound) then also understanding the concept that those letters can convey meaning, when written in words.

Knowing the alphabet & numbers as you have described is rote learning. It is no different than learning a song. The deeper level learning required to become functionally literate, takes being exposed to language & letters in a variety of contexts, over a long period of time. Some children pick up the skills quicker. Over the last 14 years I have been some children who begin to understand these concepts at age 2, others who only just start grasping the basics at age 5. Most are somewhere in between. There is a massive range.

As a teacher- my preference would be to have children who are read, sung & spoken to often, rather than a child who has been sat down & taught their numbers & letters formally by their parent.

The easiest children to teach are those who enjoy books, who have been encouraged to experiment with mark making, who have parents who focus more on 'learning dispositions' (Have a go, try your best, mistakes are an important part of learning- everyone makes them! Keep trying...) These parents focus on participation, effort & process rather than academics & 'doing it right.

So relax- learning about letters & numbers can happen organically, naturally during your normal schedule & day. We are surrounded by numbers & letters as part of life, so it can be easy to subtly & occasionally add them into conversation. Waiting for a bus, texting, seeing a sign. Point these situations out to your child. Quick, meaningful & with context smile

Activities like duplo, playdough, threading, and mark making are all the practice he needs for handwriting right now.

Lawabidingmama Mon 25-Mar-13 22:20:20

I would say there is a big difference between 2.5 and 3 years, my DD1 is nearly 3 she's known the alphabet song for a good while but just as a song, she knows all her letters now at 3 and most of the phonic sounds i would say this has cone about in the last 2 months she has been able to recognise her name for about 5 months but its only 3 letters and can spell it. I've not pushed her but we got a phonics DVD for Xmas and it started from there she likes to point out letters etc in fact DD2 who is just turned 1 loves the phonics DVD claps her hands and saya A A at the letters ha! They all do different things at different times it depends on what interests them. I don't sit down and 'teach' my DDs maybe that comes when they are older? But I find they tend to just pick stuff up themselves and through reading and talking etc

Lawabidingmama Mon 25-Mar-13 22:22:46

What a lovely post teacher very reassuring xx

Willdoitinaminute Mon 25-Mar-13 22:26:54

I didn't teach my DS the alphabet. He learnt it at school after he learnt to read. How often do you need to know where a letter comes in the alphabet when you are 3. It is merely a shape with a name. They have to learn it all over when they start school and if you haven't taught them the phonic version it can be very confusing.

purples Mon 25-Mar-13 22:53:53

Neither of mine knew alphabet before reception, neither could read/write their own names before starting school. Compared to some of their school mates who could read/ write simple sentences, could do times tables etc prior to starting school.
I was a little worried that I should have pushed my 2 DCs into learning the basics, I felt that they were behind. BUT I'm a firm believer that the preschool age should be a fun experience for child and parent, and any academic learning at this stage should child led, plenty of time for learning the 3 rs when they are at school. Yes, we shared books, painted pictures, played with water, did jigsaws, sang nursery rhymes etc etc...but they weren't interested in learning to read, so I saw no reason to make them.
At school, both my DCs soon caught up with and overtook their peers who had started to read before reception. Now both my DCs have a love of reading, and both are excellent mathematicians.
My advice is enjoy the preschool years, and follow your childs interests. When they start reception they will be taught the basics.

MiaSparrow Mon 25-Mar-13 22:54:33

DD is 25 months and knows the alphabet song, as does EVERYBODY IN SAINSBURY'S now but, as teacher says it might as well be any song she's reciting. She can recognise a couple of letters in her name and has an alphabet place mat at the table, which she loves. I must admit I got a bit over-excited a couple of months ago but I've since realised she's just a very good mimic. hmm

ChazDingle Mon 25-Mar-13 23:04:42

DS 2.10 has know all the letters since just after two, i means recognising them written down. I didn't set out to teach him he just sort of picked them up from a toy computer he got for his 2nd birthday, its what he's into. He's also good at counting and can recognise numbers written down in excess of 100 and count over 300. He can't write yet still at the scribbling stage

However he is totally impractical, things like undressing, getting dressed it is a real struggle to get him to even try. he also can't drink out of an open cup as good as i have seen most children his age and he's not potty trained.

Preschool have raised the possibility of him being autistic sad

duchesse Mon 25-Mar-13 23:14:00

Anything between 24 months and 48+ months is "normal". Some children know them all by their 3rd birthday, some are still learning them through reception. My personal feeling is that social skills are the most important things to teach preschoolers.

SofiaAmes Mon 25-Mar-13 23:16:51

My kids learned the alphabet way after their peers. My ds was the last one to learn to read in his year. My dd was definitely not near the top in how early she learned to read. They just weren't ready at the time. But when they were ready they learned it just fine. At ages 10 and 12 they both now read 7 or 8 years above their grade level. Ds has been tested (only because his teachers kept telling me there was something wrong with him because he wasn't reading at age 5) with a genius iq and dd as highly gifted.
Knowing your alphabet early just means that you learned your alphabet and nothing more. It's absolutely not a sign that your child is smart or slow or going to be a good student or a lousy one, a good reader or a bad one. It's important to some parents, so that's what they spend their time doing with their kids. And other parents have other priorities.

firawla Tue 26-Mar-13 09:53:11

Depends on the child but also don't forget that 6 months is a long time when you are only 2 and half so its normal for there to be a noticable difference between your dc & the 3 yr old?
My oldest knew all his letters at 3 but dont think ds2 knows any at all

ChunkyPickle Tue 26-Mar-13 10:04:00

Don't judge mothers singing the alphabet song to little ones too much - I know that I'd sing whatever came into my head first - be that alphabet, winnie the pooh or twinkle twinkle little star - it was just a song to fill the time for me as well rather than a hothousing attempt.

DeWe Tue 26-Mar-13 10:34:44

Depends on the child and whether you mean reciting the alphabet song, or knowing the letters.

All mine were early readers, reading by the time they were 3yo and the girls were certainly writing sentences at 3yo with no help from me.

Alphabet though was widely variable.
Dd1 knew her letters upper and lower case at 2yo because she developped a huge interest in the computer keyboard at that age. She didn't know the alphabet song until she went to preschool at 2.9yo. Don't know exactly when she learnt it there.

Dd2 was singing the alphabet song at about 16 months. Turned a few heads that one. However that was simply because dd1 was singing it. As far as dd2 was concerned "el-em-en-oh-pea" was an usual word. She knew all her letters some time between 2yo and 3yo.

Ds knew the alphabet song round about age 3yo after he got a book with it in and he'd sing pointing at the letters. I'm not sure when he knew his letters totally. He knew most by 3yo, but I don't know that he knew them all if they'd been given out of the context of the book. However (age 5) he was somewhat surprised to be told that there were only 26 letters in the alphabet.

VinegarDrinker Tue 26-Mar-13 10:44:01

I'm a huge believer in "going with the flow" and would happily follow the Scandinavian model of education (ie no reading/writing til 6 yrs+).

However, noone told my DS that...

He has always been fascinated by the world around him. He talked early and constantly asks "what's that?" about colours, shapes, numbers and letters.

As a result at just 2 he can recognise numbers and count up to 40, recognises and knows the phonic sounds for all of the alphabet, recognises his name and several other words and can tell you what letter any word he hears starts with (even words he has never heard before). He knew his colours before 18 months and shapes soon after.

However all of this is child-led. We literally just answer his questions. We don't own any flash cards or workbooks.

I absolutely wouldn't stress about trying to push your child into anything they aren't interested in, especially something so important to their future as reading/writing. The last thing you want to do is put them off.

AFAIC you can no more teach a reluctant child the alphabet than you can potty train a child who is not ready.

carbonarayum Tue 26-Mar-13 22:36:12

Thanks all for the great posts. Teacher especially. I do try and be child led and then sometimes you come across people who are teaching their toddler in an almost formal way and with a one year old also in tow i think oops should i have been doing that rather than letting him play with cars, sing nursery rhymes, read books (all the things he asks to do daily). He was/is a slow talker but now can speak 4/5 wordsentences so wondered if slowness in this was related. When there is only you Mon-Fri doing the caring it s easy to think you should be doing more!

CecilyP Wed 27-Mar-13 12:40:46

When they are old enough to get a job as a filing clerk? Alternatively, when they are old enough, and can read and spell well enough, to want to use a dictionary or other index.

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