How to Teach the Alphabet to a 3-Year-Old

Learning the alphabet is the first step towards reading.

Before a child can master reading, he must first learn the 26 letters of the English alphabet. Developmental psychologist Judith Hudson claims that most children are capable of recognizing letters of the alphabet by age 3, although many children do not completely master the alphabet until ages 4 or 5. (See Reference 1.) While memorizing the alphabet is an important skill for all children, realize that complete understanding, memorization and mastery may take time, so be patient with your child as he learns.

Sing "The Alphabet Song" with your child. One of the most common methods used to teach the alphabet is through a catchy song that lists each letter of the alphabet in order. Sing the song with your child each day or simply listen to the music with your child to work on learning each letter in order.

Practice letter recognition one letter at a time. Instead of presenting your child with a chart or list of all the letters, which can be overwhelming for any 3-year-old, focus on one letter at a time. Take a few days or a week to completely master one letter before you move on to the next. Point out the letter of the week when you see it in street signs, books or cards. Practice saying the letter with your child and, if your child is ready, practice writing the letter.

Make alphabet-centered crafts. Provide your child with a variety of art supplies and create a special project together. Choose to draw or paint a picture of something that starts with a specific letter. For example, draw butterflies when you teach the letter 'B.' (See Reference 3.) If your 3-year-old is learning the letter 'H,' decorate a small bird house or cut out pictures of houses from magazines.

Place letter flash cards around your home so your child sees them each day. For example, write "'A' is for Apple" and place the card near your apples. You could also write "'D' is for 'Door'" and hang it on a door in your home. Read the cards out loud to your child each day.