Teaching the Alphabet to a Two-Year Old

You are looking for some fun and easy ways for teaching the alphabet to a two-year old. Here are 20 of our favorite ways to practice the alphabet.

I’ll never forget the day my chubby 18-month old wandered over to our alphabet poster and started pointing and singing.

I grabbed my phone and started recording. He was singing the ABCs.

The alphabet is all around us and many children have a natural interest in them. Plus the alphabet is the foundation of written language. If you want to teach your child to read, then you need to include the alphabet.

If you found your way to this post, you want to teach your two-year old the alphabet.

All three of my children learned the alphabet as two-year olds and it’s totally possible that your child can, too!

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Can a two-year old learn the alphabet?

Yes, a two-year old can absolutely learn the alphabet. The alphabet is just a bunch of objects.

So if your child can learn to name animals or other objects, they can name the alphabet.

Drilling your two-year old with flashcards all day long isn’t necessary. You can teach them the alphabet in more hands-on and movement-oriented ways.

Should a Two-Year Know the Alphabet?

No, it’s absolutely not critical that your two-year-old knows the alphabet.

But is it important? Yes.

If your child has strong alphabet knowledge when they start school, they are less likely to struggle to learn to read. Research has demonstrated for decades that knowing letter names is the best predictor of future reading success.

Children who struggle to name the letters of the alphabet in preschool are at a greater risk of reading failure.

To all the people who say it’s developmentally inappropriate, I say. “hogwash.”

As I mentioned above, if toddlers can learn to name twenty animals and their sounds, they can do the same with the alphabet and letter sounds.

And if I hear one more blogger say learning the alphabet isn’t that important, I will probably cry.

As a mom of neurodivergent children who LOVED to learn the alphabet, it’s pretty discouraging to say their special interest isn’t important. It’s hurtful to hear that someone says the skill they excel in doesn’t matter.

And as a mom of a dyslexic child who is well-versed in reading failure statistics, I can say it is very important your child learns the alphabet.

It is research-based that alphabet skills and phonemic awareness skills can prevent reading failure. This is not a scare tactic – it is the truth.

Two-thirds of fourth-graders in the United States read below grade level. So it makes a lot of sense that parents would leverage their toddler’s interest in the alphabet and do what they can to prevent that.

So this post gives you the support you need for teaching the alphabet to a two-year old.

Teaching the Alphabet to a Two-Year Old

These are the best practices for teaching the alphabet to a two-year old:

  • only do a few letters at a time
  • keep it brief
  • make it hands-on and interactive
  • repetition, repetition, repetition

Should I teach letter names or sounds first?

When teaching the alphabet to a two-year old, one of the most common debates is around teaching letters names or letter sounds first.

You can do both. Show your child the letter.

Say, “This is the letter a. /A/.”

With my two-year-old, I include letter sounds just for exposure. I feel it’s easier to master the letter names first and then add in the sounds.

With older preschool and kindergarten-age children, learning them at the same time is the best practice. However, what is best for your child is what you can do right now.

I can work on letter names with my two-year old, so that’s what I’m doing!

Can 2 year olds write letters?

When teaching the alphabet to a two-year old, you might wonder if they need to write letters, too. No, most 2-year olds are still working on these pre-writing strokes:

  • horizontal lines
  • vertical lines
  • circles

It’s more important to focus on tracing lines and developing those prewriting strokes.

20+ Alphabet Activities for Two-Year Olds

  1. Alphabet soup
  2. Letter thaw (one letter per muffin tin)
  3. Sidewalk chalk letters
  4. Read alphabet books
  5. Watch Elmo’s ABCs
  6. Sing the Alphabet Song
  7. Erase the Letters
  8. Alphabet Puzzles
  9. Alphabet Sensory Bin
  10. Road Letters and Number
  11. Bath Letters
  12. Letter Magnets
  13. Sandpaper letters
  14. Alphabet Hop (on ABC carpet)
  15. Alphabet Blocks
  16. Alphabet Chart
  17. Alphabet Cookies
  18. Secret Code (grab post it notes and put a couple of letters on a door)
  19. Alphabet Stamps
  20. Alphabet Bus (Leap Frog)

Check out each of the activities below for teaching the alphabet to a two-year old. Please note all activities must be done with parent supervision and you need to use your judgment about choking hazards with your child.

Alphabet soup

Grab a bowl, fill it with water, and some plastic letter manipulatives. You can use either plastic alphabet magnets or letter beads (as long as your child isn’t putting stuff in their mouths).

Then give your child a spoon for stirring, a ladle for scooping, and bowls for serving. As your child scoops, you can name the letters for them.

For beginning two-year olds, just use a few letters at a time while they are learning letter names.

Letter thaw

Grab a muffin tin and place one alphabet magnet in each tin. Then fill with water.

Stick in your freezer overnight. Pull it out and leave it on your counter for about 10 minutes before you want to do the activity.

Remove 3-4 of the frozen letters and place on a tray with a rim. Give your child a spray bottle or small pitcher of warm water to melt the ice around the letters.

Practice naming the letters as your child thaws them.

Sidewalk chalk letters

Write a few capital letters in sidewalk chalk in a safe area.  Tell your child the letter names.

Ask them to run, jump, or twirl over to the letters.

If you only have a small area available, draw a sidewalk chalk parking lot.

Put one letter in each parking space. Then give your child some toy cars to drive to the letters in the parking spaces.

Read alphabet books

Don’t underestimate how much your child can learn about the alphabet from reading alphabet books. Some of our favorite alphabet books are:

Watch Sesame Street Alphabet Songs

Seriously, the DVD Sesame Street Alphabet Songs did half the work of teaching my older two children their ABCs.

If you’re going to let your two-year old watch TV, I highly suggest this one!

Sing the Alphabet Song

The classic alphabet song to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle helps children remember the letter names. Use an alphabet chart to connect the letter names to the letter symbol.

You can grab this free printable as a gift to my email subscribers. You’re welcome to unsubscribe at any time, but I bet you’ll love the learn-at-home tips!

Erase the Letters

On a chalkboard or dry erase board, write a few letters. Give your two-year old an eraser.

Say the letter name and ask them to erase it. This develops good motor skills at the same time!

Alphabet Puzzles

Puzzles are a great way to help toddlers learn. So you might as well grab an alphabet puzzle to use with your child.

Melissa and Doug is our favorite puzzle brand.

Alphabet Sensory Bin

Grab your alphabet magnets and them in any sensory bin. Use rice or beans as a base. Add some scoops and let your child play.

If you’re concerned about mess, set some boundaries with your child and follow through. So I tell my two-year old, “the beans stay in the bin.”

If he dumps some on the floor intentionally, he gets one reminder. Then I remove the bin and say, “You can try again tomorrow!”

Road Letters and Number

Printable Road Letters and Numbers are a fun way to learn the alphabet. While the purpose behind these roads is proper letter formation, you can just use them with your preschooler to build letter recognition.

Just start with a few capital letters and grab some little toy cars. Your little transportation vehicle fans will love this activiity!

Bath Letters

Your child wants something to play with in the bath. So you might as well make it learning!

These foam bath letters stick to the side of the tub when wet. So grab a few at a time and practice naming those letters.

Letter Magnets

It’s a cornerstone in many homes with preschoolers: letter magnets on the fridge. Playing with letters on a magnet surface is so much fun for two-year olds.

Just make sure to supervise your child well around magnets.

Sandpaper letters

These tactile sandpaper letters make learning the alphabet multisensory.  Your child will see the letters, you can say the letter name, and they can feel the shape of the letter.

Alphabet Hop

I randomly made this game up one day to keep my two-year old busy. We have an alphabet carpet I got at Costco years ago. I only got it to keep a Little Tykes slide from scratching and slipping on our wood floors.

I just call out a letter and my two-year old hops on it. You can make it even more language-based by saying, “hop twice to the B.” You could also encourage your child to crawl, twirl, or run to the letters.

Check out these similar carpets, or take a large box, slit in open, and write the alphabet on that!

Alphabet Blocks

Learning to stack blocks is an important toddler skill. So grab some of these fantastic Melissa and Doug Alphabet blocks.

As your child builds, you can comment on the letter names and ask your child to find the letters they already know.

Leapfrog Leaptop

My two-year old loves the Leapfrog Leaptop. It’s great for entertaining him on long road trips, too.

I just set it to alphabet mode. When he presses a letter button, it displays the letter and says its name.

Alphabet Cookies

If you have a Trader Joe’s nearby, grab their alphabet cookies the next time you are there!

It makes a fun snack while learning the letters and my older children use them to spell words.

Secret Code

Grab a stack of post-it notes and write a few letters. Place them on a door your child commonly uses like their bedroom or the playroom.

Tell them before they enter, they need to use the secret code. At first you could say, just tap the letter L. As your child is more advanced, you can say, “The code is L then C.”

Thanks to Developing Readers Academy for the idea.

Alphabet Stamps

These Melissa and Doug stamps are so fun. Just give your toddler a few stamps at once so you don’t end up with a huge mess (as me how I know).

Check the stamp ink is washable! Then let your child stamp and you can help them identify the letters.

Alphabet Bus

This is the other noise-making electronic toy we have at home for the alphabet. My toddler likes putting the individual letters on the Leapfrog Alphabet Bus. Then he presses the letter as it functions as the button.

There is a catchy little song that plays for each letter.

Recapping Teaching the Alphabet to a Two-Year Old

Here the TL, DR summary for teaching the alphabet to a two-year old:

  • Two-year olds can learn letter names and letter sounds.
  • Many are able to master animal names and sounds – so they can do the same with the alphabet.
  • While early letter knowledge doesn’t teach your child to read, it makes them less at risk for reading failure.
  • 2/3 of American 4th grades cannot read proficiently, so it’s more than okay to want to prevent that.
  • Parents with dyslexic children (about 20% of the population) know that many children won’t just learn the alphabet “when they are ready” like many popular bloggers want you to believe.
  • Two-year olds do not need to focus on writing letters – making lines and circles is more appropriate.
  • There are twenty hands-on activities your children can do!

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