Whole Parenting Family

Teaching Your Child Letters and Numbers

Parents tend to freak out about what precisely their toddler / preschooler knows. Don’t google “what should my preschooler know.” Children progress at different rates and respond differently to different environments, so let children develop a love of learning! Learning is fun when all parties are enjoying it, so here are a few enjoyable learning tools we’ve experienced.

Things like: books, books, books {Homegrown Gifts, Introducing Books Early, Books for Holiday Gifts}, music and music (Music and Its Impact, Popular Music in Our House}, no screen time {Damage of Screen Time on Babies}, and craft play and bean play {Jumpstarting Toddler Imaginations, Developing Fine Motor Skills}.

We all want our children to want to learn, explore, and take delight and pride in their accomplishments. Create an environment without distracting screens, disruptive music, and disengaged adults and you’re on track!

That all being said, this is how we’ve introduced numbers and letters in a way that has worked for SuperBoy to be obsessed with them and love finding them:

1) Music + Flashcards.

We played the Sesame Street ABC CD during breakfast for about 5 months probably starting a little after a year old. During each letter, I’d stand up the corresponding plain black & white flashcard (buy white index cards, and use a black magic marker–simpler is better). Not within reach, which was traumatic at first, but which preserved the cards from death by mauling. After a while of sitting there, looking at them, with someone feeding him his oatmeal, and singing along to the songs, he started pointing the letters out in books, on signs, wherever. He sees it as a game: find all the A’s in this page, etc.

Same idea for numbers. Find a song with the numbers that you like on youtube (we like the one that came with our Winnie the Poo cd/book). Put the numbers up and talk about them. We count everything–and ask him how many there are of everything.

Doing it during a meal not only distracts from “I don’t WANT to eat” but is an automatic sit-down time. The day can be so busy, and it can be hard to make time for this, so meals are perfect.

2) Magnets.

Use the old magnet on the fridge technique, or if your fridge isn’t magnetic (as ours isn’t), use it on your easel! We love our Beka one we got through Peapods. It’s made in the Minnesota of real wood and fabulous. Best Christmas gift ever. See details here {Fun Scenes from Christmas}. We arrange the letter & numbers, we talk about them, we count them. SuperBoy goes over to his easel and plays with them himself.

Again, it’s all about providing an environment in which a child wants to learn and engage. There are tons of toys and boxes and blocks with numbers and letters–those are great, but it helps if the child has been introduced to the letters and numbers on their own in a simple clear way.

3) Deck of cards.

My dad plays poker with his buddies weekly, and SuperBoy has been an honorary member of the pack for two years now. He would sit on my dad’s lap and watch the cards. He may be the youngest member of Card Sharks someday, or whatever the poker alliance is for teens.

In the last 6 months, he wants to play cards himself. We play a lot of “war” or derivations thereof–great for number identification and figuring out which are higher and lower. It’s also pretty cute when he starts out his morning shrieking “I want to play WAR!!” (or terrifying, depending). And somehow he’s unearthed like 10 decks and mixed them up. Sigh.

So don’t worry if your toddler doesn’t know his or her letters & numbers. Set aside time each day for showing them how fun they are. And even if you don’t specifically work on them, they will indeed pick them up on their own. 


  1. […] it effects their behavior and brain growth, here {Introduce Reading Early: Bring on the Books}, and here {Teaching Your Child Numbers and Letters} and here {Damage of Media […]

  2. Sandra Holmes on August 25, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    My grandson love sharks si as a learning
    Tool wanted to find cards or magnets with different sharks to help learn geography he have a book that he knows by hard. I PURCHASED A WORLD MAP NOW I NEED CARDS OR MAGNES