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!

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

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!

Be the First to Share


    • Instrument Contest

      Instrument Contest
    • Make it Glow Contest

      Make it Glow Contest
    • STEM Contest

      STEM Contest

    25 Discussions


    I did this outside with chalk and it worked really well. We did colors, numbers and shapes as well - I made them all in a square and she just went in circles. We drew it going up and down the steps, too. Thanks for the idea!

    1 reply

    My son would love this! He's a little firecracker, so any excuse to jump in the apartment is welcome. He can say his letters, so we'll give this a shot.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Our nearly 3 year old loves computer games. We're putting his name as his password on the login so he has to type it to play - building up a few letters at a time.


    9 years ago on Introduction

     I should ask my parents what they did with me. I could print my name when I was 2. They figured something out...


    10 years ago on Introduction

    hmmm could you laminate it to keep it around? (or is it too big?) and then if you want to do the individual letters just do construction paper or something?? I did this with my son who will be 3 soon and he learned how to spell his name in one day and write it himself in a week! so it's totally possible!!!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Nice! I am here looking for lesson plans for an upcoming teacher residency program interview. This isn't quite what I'm looking for but i love it all the same! It reminds me of when my niece was 3 and could read. All it took for her to learn was reading to her ALL the time! she LOVED being read to and my sister would snuggle up with her and read with her finger so she could follow along. It amazed me because it was so simple. If you don't mind dedicating a lot of time to it. I really like what was said in the first step NEVER push your child and make them think it is their idea. All you have to do is to read YOURSELF in front of your kids and seem to really enjoy your self. they will want to do it to! And if they want to read with you all the time you have to be ready for that! BTW my niece is 10 now and just won her second school spelling B! Also my other niece (her sister) didn't have as much interest in reading but i believe this could be due to a different dynamic in the home by then... Divorce, and older sib, mom having less time etc.


    My daughter is responding very well to the "Your Baby Can Read" program. I'm blown away by the fact that she can recognize 30+ words "magnadoodled" in my hand writing. I would really recommend it. It's quite expensive, but worth it. It is also available at many public libraries. I have made PDF flash cards from video screen captures. Anyone who is interested can contact me directly.

    1 reply

    good day to interested in your "your baby can read" PDF..i have a special child who is 8 yrs.old now, and she can't hardly read.would you mind sending to me your PDF flash card?thank you very much and God Bless You..

    Joan Patrie

    10 years ago on Step 11

    I cherish the memory of a similar game with my son when he was this age - except we made his letters out of modelling dough (in multiple colours of course!) This is a wonderful project to do with your two-year-old. Don't forget to take pictures


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Thats a good trick !, hope i can remember thin in a few decades :P


    10 years ago on Introduction

    My son was about a month shy of three when we were going to France on holiday. He could read quite well by that point and without any guidance astounded us by secretly teaching himself how to count from 1 to 10 in French by reading his sister's magazine which had English phonetic spellings of the numbers. We achieved this by several methods. The main one is constant reading. Every day and every night. Also, fridge magnets of letters and a black-board in the living room for quick and easy access. If you can represent everything you do both verbally and graphically while you do it then it'll just be picked up. He was the only person in his primary 1 class to obtain his national reading certificate too! Plus, he was able to work out fractions (e.g. adding 1/2 + 1/8 etc, rationalising different fractions), and percentages from about the age of 7 (e.g. two out of 5 of the olympic rings are your favourite colours, what's this as a percentage). Sadly, he's awful at fastening his shoe laces, getting dressed on his own, anything related to sport... But, there's no real trick apart from reward, constant exposure and having the correct attitude. We're real believers in there's no "I can't". It doesn't work with all personality types however, as our daughter steadfastly refused to learn in this fashion.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Well my son it's almost 3 and can say and recognize the complete alphabet and the numbers up to 100, and i don't think he is smarter than anyones , but we have been playing a lot with numbers (that are everywhere) and he also recognizes the names of all the other children in his class(the told us really surprised) , it's as you say in the instructable a matter of playing he/she will learn without noticing and you will enjoy it a lot , playing with your son/daughter it's always wonderful (although really tiring , they can't stop) and if you see him/her learning it's twice the pleasure. Another funny thing is that he speaks with me and my wife in basque but with my mother in spanish (she can't speak basque) and no one told him to do so but he realized alone and when we are with my mother he speaks in spanish. They are smarter than we think. Really good instructable i do recommend it to everyone.

    Lithium Rain

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent instructable! I can join the others in saying I know from first hand experience that small children can be taught to write, spell and read their own name (well, obviously, you proved it!).


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Ahh.. so all the cries of "Can we do the jumping now?" from the youngest class in primary school make sense now. This looks like a great way to engage your child with recognition of letters- fortunately you had the foresight to give your daughter a name that works well in synthetic phonics :) I think little Jean-Claude would be missing a trick there... Out of interest, who was the "crazy-cool" educator? Anyone related to the Montessori method, or something similar? I was very very very lucky to go to a Montessori in the UK run by someone who trained in the States and sincerely hope I can find something similar for any chilluns I might one day have.