“Now I know my ABCs, next time won’t you sing with me?”
Do you remember singing the ABCs growing up? For many kids, this song is their first introduction to the alphabet. It may also be their first time saying something from memory.
The English alphabet is a group of 26 letters that represent sounds in the language. Knowing these letters (and their sounds) is a basic skill kids need when they learn to read.
Kids typically learn the alphabet at a young age. But some may need extra time and practice to master all the letters.
When do kids usually know the alphabet?
Learning the alphabet happens in stages, and some learn later than others. But by the time kids start kindergarten, most know the alphabet.
Here’s how and when kids typically learn their ABCs:
By age 2: Kids start recognizing some letters and can sing or say aloud the “ABC” song.
By age 3: Kids may recognize about half the letters in the alphabet and start to connect letters to their sounds. (Like s makes the /s/ sound.)
By age 4: Kids often know all the letters of the alphabet and their correct order.
By kindergarten: Most kids can match each letter to the sound it makes.
Along the way, kids begin to develop other skills, too. For example, around age 2 or 3, kids figure out the letters in their name. When they start school, they also learn that uppercase A is the same as lowercase a, just capitalized.
Why kids might struggle with the alphabet
Some kids have trouble recognizing individual letters or the group of letters that make their names. They may confuse letters that look similar, like b and d, or mix up uppercase and lowercase letters.
Often these challenges are part of typical development. Or it may be that a child needs to be exposed to the alphabet more. But for some kids, not being able to know the alphabet could be a sign of a deeper issue with language.
The best way to help kids learn their ABCs is to have them experience books and language in a fun way. Here are things to try:
Read to kids. Try alphabet books like Dr. Seuss’s ABC or Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.
Do alphabet puzzles. Floor puzzles are a great way to practice recognizing letters.
Make ABC art. Have kids create ABCs with clay or play-dough — or even write letters using crayons.
Play letter scavenger hunts. Ask kids to find things that begin with a certain letter, like finding a book for the letter b.
Play alphabet games. Name as many animals as you can that start with the letter d, for example.
You don’t need to buy brand-new puzzles and books. Instead, check out the local thrift store or library. Or talk to family and friends with older kids to see if they have books to pass down.
If there are concerns, parents and teachers should connect and share what they see. Together, they can dive deeper into what causes
trouble with reading
and make an action plan.