Introduction: How to Get Your Two Year Old to Spell Her Name Before She Turns Three

First -- this is a borrowed idea from a crazy-cool educator of young tots in Los Angeles. A teacher who, against what common wisdom and research has told us, believes all kids can learn to spell and recognize their own name before the age of three.

And if meshed into your daily routine for about 1-2 weeks, it actually works. Most of the tots in the 2-3 year-old Parent-n-Me class that my daughter and I attend not only know how to orally spell their name--but can also recognize it. Wicked.

In took about two weeks for my head-strong 2 1/2 year old daughter to catch on. I found that in order for this project to be a success (and not become overly frustrating for either of you) you need to keep a couple of things in mind:

1. First and foremost, convince your strong-willed tot that the whole project was her idea. Master this, and you've got the parenting thing in the bag, don't you?

2. This needs to be as routine as brushing teeth. It takes a bit of discipline. We would spell and hop my daughter's name (more on that later) when she'd rise in the morning, at bedtime and any other time she showed an inclination.

3. NEVER push your child to do this project. At first she'll be confused, but after watching daddy do it a few times, she'll want to get in on the action, too. Remember, this project is a game and should be sold like one to the unsuspecting tot. We don't want them to hate letters before they can even read!

4. Have fun with this--if you're rocking the name game then so will your child!

Step 1: Gather Necessary Materials

For this project you'll need:

A LOONNNNGGGGG piece of butcher paper. Long enough to make that child work for those letters!


Tempera Paints in assorted colors, paint trays and paint brush


One eager to learn tot who is over the age of two

Scissors--for extension activity

Step 2: Write Up

Set up area by laying out newspaper and pouring paints into containers.

Now, don't make the same knuckle-head mistake I made the first time we put together the banner and write the letters of your child's name down the length' 'of the paper.

Using your pencil write out your child's name going UP the paper so that it looks backwards when written. However, when your child is later doing the "game" she'll need to jump up the paper to each letter in her name, spelling it as she goes...Get it?

*Make sure the letters are large and spaced out enough so that your child can hop from letter to letter. Capitalize only the fist letter in your child's name to get use to capitalizes and lowercase letters.

Step 3: Tracing Over

Have eager tot trace over each letter in her name with paint. It won't be perfect but believe it or not they can do it! Remember, when the time comes the kid will have all of kindergarten to master letter formation. No worries about mastery here just loads of small motor skills action.

My daughter has six different letters in her name so she chose six different colors of paint and which letter she wanted to paint which color.

Step 4: Ready When Dry

Allow 'ginormous name poster to dry!

Step 5: "And Now...Let the Wild Rumpus Start"

Time to really get creative!

Start with tot off the poster on the end where her name begins. Explain how she's going to play a name game with oodles of wiggly, jumpy fun!

Demonstrate what you'd like her to do first! Burn a few extra calories--it won't kill you!

First up, say the letter in front of you then take gigantic step to it! (The first several hundred times prepare to say the letter for your child then have her repeat it back in a silly voice before jumping onto the letter).

*This is NOT the original poster that my daughter made. My daughter's first poster tore from use before I realized that we hadn't taken any pictures. This is my quickie poster!

Step 6: Bounce, Baby, Bounce

Spice it up a bit. There's so many ways you can have your tot walk up the poster, spelling her name!

Try bouncing on both feet to the next letter...

Step 7: Hip-hop Ya Don't Stop

...Or saying a letter then hopping on one foot to that letter. When she gets to the end have her walk back up to the beginning of her name, switch feet and do it again!

Step 8: Get Into Character

...Or have your child walk up her name, saying each letter in character--

We, of course, must ALWAYS spell our name while walking like a ballerina!

Be a pirate, monster, puppy, royalty, penguin, the British, a Jedi...the skies the limit!

Also, try various types of traveling:


Step 9: Extend the Fun AND Learning

When the poster gets all ratty, which it will--you're only using butcher paper after all--don't toss it just yet!

This is the perfect opportunity to have your tot practice her scissor handling and cutting skills.

Draw a line between the letters and have her cut on the! Can't you just see those small motor skills working?

Take a break after all that cutting to read your favorite ABC book before proceeding with your newly-constructed game.

Step 10: Your Name Is a Huge Puzzle to Me

Once your child has finished cutting away and you've lent a hand trimming up the pieces you've now made a word scramble puzzle!

With all the practice your tot did spelling her name, the next step is to extend the letter recognition by teaching her how to unscramble the letters in her name!

This will be WAYYYYY hard at first for most kids and you don't want your child to become frustrated, so don't push the puzzle. Instead, ease into it by simply practicing the letters with the child first:

Perhaps spread out all the letters in her name facing her and practice a name cheer as your child hands you each letter:

You say: "Gimme an "A"

She says: "A" (as she hands you a "d"--don't let this frustrate you...We're all learning here! In time an "A" will be an "A" and a "d" will be a backwards "b")

Step 11: By Gosh I Think She's Got It!

Then, one day, when you're about ready to toss the darn thing, your tot will totally surprise you!

Yippee and hooray!

Now off to school, I say, and don't delay!