A-B-C, easy as 1-2-3

Smooch is obsessed with letters right now. A few months ago, he started playing very close attention to his little alphabet puzzle. Then I got out an old ABC chart from my kindergarten days to hang in the playroom, and we started singing the song and pointing to the letters. Before we knew it, he was asking us to write letters on his papers when he colors. He’s an exuberant and gleeful dictator as he points to the spot he has in mind: “Geen O! Pup-pew S! Bwoo E, I, O, I, S! Wew-oh Y!”

I’m torn, y’all. On one hand, I’m so excited that he is interested in print. He points out signs everywhere we go, especially if he sees one of the letters he truly recognizes (O, S, Y, sometimes E and I) and he listens eagerly when we tell him what the signs really say. I’m a lifelong reader, and it’s important to me to foster that same love of literacy in my boy. My husband struggled with reading as a kid (though, clearly, he’s managing quite well as an adult) and he just wants Smooch to have an easier time of learning the skills he’ll need. The part of me that’s excited about this wants to give him lots of opportunities to expand on this interest – songs, books, posters, doing his own ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ – and chances to show off a little bit for our friends and family. (What can I say. I’m a mom.)

On the other hand, I don’t want to push him. I don’t him to feel like I’m forcing him to do alphabet stuff all day long so that he eventually hates the thought. I don’t want to be some kind of loony stage mom making him perform a song and dance for all the neighbors, you know?

It’s hard for me to know, partly because he still doesn’t speak in complete sentences and he can’t tell me how he feels about it. I can’t sit down for a heart-to-heart, “Hey, Smooch? Do you want to work on your alphabet with me? Do you like doing this stuff?” and hear him answer, “Sure, Mommy, I’d love to,” or “No thanks, Mom, I’d rather play with my trains today.” All I can do is what I’ve been doing – I watch him, I try to read his mood and his interest level. My gut feeling is that we’re doing the right thing for the time being. It’s not a real intense, “schoolwork” kind of thing. It’s playful and fun, it’s broken up throughout the day, and I think he does honestly love it. I could probably stand to scale back a little on encouraging him to “show me the O” – especially in front of company.

This, I think, is the dance of parenting as kids get older. You take a few steps forward, urging them on toward something they seem to want or that you know they need. You take a few steps back, if they seem overwhelmed or frustrated or if it’s going to fast. You dip and sway together, feeling out the moves that will get you both across the floor. For now, we’re doing the Alphabet Hop.


6 Responses to A-B-C, easy as 1-2-3

  1. Heather says:

    You’re probably doing just what he wants. That’s so great that he’s interested. My son, at 3 1/2, still doesn’t really care which letter is the K for his name.

    I’m sure you’d know if he wasn’t into what you’re doing.

  2. That’s great he is so interested in letters! I think as long as you are following his lead and fostering his interest, then it’s all good.

    Maybe he’ll be an early reader!

  3. susiej says:

    And, yes, what a sweet dance it is…. I love your header.

  4. Coralie says:

    AS long as he’s having fun, let him have fun. Don’t “institutionalize” it, don’t make it work, don’t even structure it. Play with his letters, and they’ll forever be fun for him.

    I’m a teacher, and the biggest mistake I have seen with parents is that they think learning has to look like school, so the second their child asks what a word says on a sign, or how to spell their name, they’re enrolled in a class, or scheduled for 30 minutes a day of “school” at the kitchen table, and it sucks the fun right out of it for the kids.

    Ooops, found my way onto a soap box. Sorry

  5. fizzledink says:

    I’m with you, Coralie. I was homeschooled up through 6th grade, and the very best thing about it was that it didn’t look like “school,” at least not in the beginning. (By 4th or 5th grade, I was doing a lot more textbook/writing/studying work at the table.) I think keeping things fun and engaging and as play-like as possible is the secret to early childhood learning… when it’s fun, it never becomes boring old schoolwork. (At least, that’s how it was for me, and I hope that’s how it will go for him.)

    And hey, no worries – soap boxes are always welcome here! 😉

  6. Elaine says:

    It sounds like you are doing the right thing. My son went through this phase too, with the letters and signs. We would “brag” on him to family and my husband’s grandmother (who actually used to own a children’s bookstore) kind of urged us to back off a little because she thought kids were being pushed too much these days.

    Anyway, it sounds like you guys are just having fun and learning at the same time. Nothin’ wrong with that!

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