Ask the Moms: When Do You Teach Your Child the ABC’s, Body Parts & More…

I think that most of the things that kids learn (especially at Lucas’ age of 11 months) is done through normal day to day activities and exploring.  Kids learn by watching other people, listening, eating, crawling, discovering. However, I’ll admit that the other day when I read somewhere that children around this age should know their body parts, I started to wonder. Am I suppose to be teaching him this stuff right now? I need to sing the ABC’s more often! I don’t follow or necessarily worry about developmental charts or information on google fetched websites, but it still got me thinking.  I sing Lucas the ABC’s while I change his diaper and I read to him quite a bit. We do signs (he does “milk” “more” and “all done” right now) and we talk all. day. long. But learning our body parts? I guess I totally forgot about that one!

So today I taught him where his head was.  He caught on rather quickly and now, if he wants to play along, I’ll say Lucas! Where is your head? And he’ll touch his head. So phew. I guess I’m not a bad mom after all.

Kidding of course.

I am curious though, at what point do you begin to actually teach your children things? Or do you? My husband and I are in a slight disagreement about the use of flash cards- what are your thoughts on them? I personally think it’s silly when we try to teach young children, babies really, how to read or spell or whatever. I mean, they’re just babies. Kids. They have the rest of their life to go to school and learn. This is just my opinion. I would really love to know your thoughts on this issue!


Just for fun, here’s a look back at some of my favorite Ask the Moms post:

Have a wonderful weekend!

Published by Samantha Mellen

Certified personal trainer & health coach helping women transform their lives through fitness, abundant mindset coaching and internal peace. Mom of two boys, living life in Alaska.

37 thoughts on “Ask the Moms: When Do You Teach Your Child the ABC’s, Body Parts & More…

  1. We have always talked about everything as we did things, which taught them a lot without formally teaching them. For instance, when getting them dressed, say “left arm”, “right arm”, “feet”, “socks”, etc.

    For the ABC's… along with learning the letters, I think it is also important to focus on the sounds of the letters. A great movie for this (when Lucas is a little older) is The Letter Factory.

    It's terrible – I forget how old my kids were when they learned certain things and I don't remember how they learned them :0(

    I agree, they have the rest of their lives to learn – let them have fun for now!

  2. I think learning comes naturally to kids, they're just so curious about everything. Ingrid liked songs so we sang the ABCs and she learned them. She liked head, shoulders, knees and toes so she learned some body parts. Pretty much what you said you do–read, talk, sign, etc. and they'll learn 🙂

  3. I didn't teach my daughter anything 🙂 Instead I marvel in the surprise of when she was able to hit those developmental milestones without any help from me!

    Her brother, with autism, was a different story. When he wasn't waving “bye-bye” at the correct age, I tried to teach him. When his words didn't come easily, I tried to teach him signs and words. Instead of learning to talk at 18 months, he instead learned his letters, numbers, colors, shapes and memorized songs, but still couldn't follow directions or tell me he wanted something. Now we realize we have to teach him everything in a different way 🙂

  4. i was so caught up with when amelya needed to know things so at her three year check when she didn't know her letters all i was freaking and asked the doctor when she needed to know them, he looked at me crazy and said…kindergarten. and i realized how society makes us think our kids have to be born genius. and that we pressure them too much. so i calmed down a bit after that and now she's doing kindergarten at four and a half. because she learned it by playing and being a kid. not because i was throwing crap at her. my main reason to homeschool was so that my kids won't feel pressured to know all this nonsense stuff so early, yet i was trying to do it. so now it's laxed and go with the flow. and i realize how much more so i am as well!!

  5. We went to Ethan's 12 month appointment a few weeks ago and the nurse ask if he knew where his nose was. Ummmmm, no. Should he? I'll start working on that soon!
    I agree that they have their whole life to learn but I'm going to try to teach him as we go along in our day. He'll pick it up, I'm sure!

  6. I SO agree with Amanda….there are so many pressures to teach our kids these things SO early. When I took my son to his one year appointment, he couldn't do any of the things they asked!! Does he say MaMa, does he wave byebye, etc.? No, but he says “Hot” when he sees the stove, and he gives high fives. I stressed out for a minute, but then I realized he didn't read the book on what he was supposed to know before he was born……

  7. They do the check at 12 months to see if they know body parts, but my little one didn't. We'd be telling her 'belly' and tickling her, as part of a game, and get your hands out of your hair, let's brush your hair, basically narrating things since she was a newborn, but by 15 month check up yesterday, when they are supposed to know a FEW, she has the gist of where most of her body parts are. She doesn't know any letters unless you count EIEI (she doesn't say o!) The things they asked that she can't do is correctly use a spoon (if its loaded she gets it to her mouth) and have a vocab of 7-20 words. Basically they are checking baselines and that's it. If you count animal sounds and tractor noises and baby sign, she has said and used correctly, 10 words. But every day? She might use mama and more and drink. More and drink are sign. She also uses please because we insist on politeness. Basically, you job as a parent is to play with your child, and teach them the basics of life. Brush your hair, brush your teeth, if it's an activity you do repeatedly, they understand where the body part is a LOT easier, know what I mean? I wouldnt say flashcards are of any use at that age, but sitting and reading a book and pointing out that a puppy is fluffy and has a tail IS very useful, see? Every kid learns things at a different pace and structure. If you're concerned, check with your doctor about the absolute MUST milestones for the age, and you will see that they are probably way past being met!

  8. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I was so ON TOP of teaching Logan things when he was a baby. He watched the LeapFrog Letter Factory often and could say his alphabet phonetically long before he said it the “right” way, and it was before he turned one.

    I haven't been nearly as on top of teaching Jordan things, and I feel guilty sometimes because he doesn't know the alphabet or whatever. And no, he doesn't know body parts or anything like that either, at least not on demand. He can sign “more” and “milk” and can say Mom and Uh-Oh and Da-Da and he will follow commands like “put the paci in your bed” or “give it to mommy” so I'm not too worried about his development.

  9. We learn things as we go. Like you just discovered, parts of the body is a fun games for infants, and she caught on really quickly. We sang ABC's all the time, in the car, whenever I thought of it and she's almost 2 and can just about sing them all the way through on her own. Same with numbers. She counts to 10 with no problem.
    If flashcards are fun for him, then do it! I used number flashcards with Maddie and she thinks it's the best thing ever! There are the kind that have the number on one side and objects on the other – she gets so excited to see what's on the back of the cards.

  10. I really think my daughter should thouroughly enjoy being young without me hammering her at such a young age about where things are on her body or what colors are. But, on another note I do realize I don't engage her in learning these things enough. Sometimes I feel like I need a how to book on raising a toddler/preschooler. We just take it one step at a time. Will she be smarter than other kids, who knows. But, i'm not going to push her.

  11. Or boys learn from our every day conversations. Things like “Put your arms in your shirt first, then your head”, “Would you like the blue spoon or the green one?”. I also choose books that help them learn on purpose- like a colours book and a number book one week then a rhyme book and a weather book the next. We also try to have kids music on part of each day- songs like head and shoulders and 5 little duckies.

    We don't try too hard though because I think they pick things up so quickly we don't need to!

  12. My daughter is 15 months, and knows some body parts – but I don't think she knew any at a year.

    (We liked to think she could find other people's facial features, but we kind of “helped” with that!)

    During December (13-14 months) she had about 3 colds – I think that's when she learned “nose” – from having hers wiped so often, and being allowed to “wipe” Mama's!

    (Then it was my turn to do hers.)

  13. We just learn as we play. “Put your arm in the sleeve” “I kissed your nose!” etc.

    I don't think flash cards are good for young children. However, I make a point of writing their name on their artwork, naming the letters, and labeling/titling them, also naming letters.

  14. I don't know how much driving you do, but my kids absorb tons of knowledge by listening to CD's in the car. No, not rote memorization stuff, but fun fun fun music. What matters is creating the pathways in the brain – connecting the brain synapses so their brain is wired for learning. Music is just one way we learn.

    We also learn by imitation, by trial and error, by observation, by a whole long list of ways…I think what's important is to develop a love of learning. The knowledge will come in time.

    Our preschool teacher says that at 3 and 4 their PLAY is WORK. They are figuring stuff out as they go about exploring the world around them. I don't think there is a flash card in the whole building.

    That being said, we use flashcards at home because my son LOVES them. He looks and them and studies them in his room at bedtime. He's like is father that way – hungry for facts. My daughter on the other hand isn't as interested in learning that way so we don't use them with her unless she wanders over when her brother is looking at them.

    One way we are using flashcards in our home is during bath time. We have some great cards that teach kids how to tell time. We keep them in the bathroom so that they are handy and we can go through them while the kids play in the tub. We only do a few at a time, but over time it's amazing what they pick up.

    Can you tell I'm excited to have found your blog? You ask such great questions – I find myself subscribing to the comments so I can learn from your readers as well. Thanks!

  15. I have a very general answer. I believe kids learn best and most by living.

    “Let's pull the shirt over your head. See. This is your head.”

    “Are you eating your yummy broccoli? Broccoli is green!”

    “Let's count the stairs while we walk. One, two, three…”

    Flash cards? Nah! Learning? YES!

  16. The only issue I take with some of the comments here is that some people seem to be equating learning with not having fun. True, you shouldn't be sitting down and drilling your child with anatomy. At the same time, making a game out of learning will probably promote a love for learning throughout life. And THAT is definitely something worth teaching early on!

  17. Mama Bear,
    Is that what I should call you? 🙂

    Funny you mention that.. we have a classical music CD we play in the car and Lucas LOVES it. I am pretty sick of it because its been the same one for 11 months now, but he loves it! What CD's do you use? I would love some recommendations!

  18. Also, for those of you who are using flashcards- what brand/kind?

    and yes, learning should be fun! And I think it is and it will be as long as you aren't making your young child memorize flash cards or something.

  19. I take the philosophy of let them be little. I talk to my babies and toddlers all day. What am I saying, I have four children. I talk all day period. But I let them learn through experience and conversation but I don't do any “formal” teaching with flashcards, workbooks or anything until 4.

    Now, my second daughter had a desire to and she always had access to learning style workbooks and such but she just did them as she desired. When she was done we quit. She might do it for hours one day and then not touch it again for a week.

    At four I buy some preschool workbooks and encourage them to work in them during our homeschool time but nothing pressing or demanding. Then at 5 I start Kindergarten and then it becomes something they must do everyday and the learning begins for them in a structured way.

  20. I think once I realize my son is recognizing things (letters, body parts) I make a special effort to say “that's right! that is your ARM (or whatever).”

    We also read a lot of books and I def. consider that teaching!

  21. we did body parts around 12-16 months. started with big parts (head, arm, leg), then little parts (finger, knee, elbow)

    ABC's… didn't really teach, per se. just sang them alot. eventually, she started singing it herself. she's known her ABC's since she was about 24ish months. same with counting. i always counted alot of stuff. i counted when we changed clothes, counted when we walked up stairs. and eventually she started counting. at just over 24 months she was counting to 20 and i never really “taught” her. at 30 months, she knows a TON of songs… just by repetition. just keeping singing the ABC's. keep pointing out body parts and he'll catch on before you know it.

  22. Happy Friday Follow! I'm your newest follower! I look forward to coming back! I hope you like my blog too. Thank you in advance for visiting. WHOA – BODY PARTS? Maybe I came on the wrong day! I'll give this blog to my wife. Have a good weekend. LOL

  23. New Friday Follower!

    As far as flashcards go, my son (4) never got into them…he's more of a monkey see/monkey do kid. lol My daughter (2.5) on the other hand LOVES her cards & being able to recognize the letters/small words. (ex-her name, her brother's name, mom, dad, dog, cat, etc)

  24. Samantha- I love the Barenaked Ladies kids CD “Snacktime”. My kids love to sing the Pollywog song and Popcorn!

    Emerson is 15 months and counts to 3 and knows her eyes, ears and nose. She also knows where her socks go. Like most moms, I just say things to her as we do them and try to play games to get her involved.

    Aidan was saying and signing over 100 words at a year old- Emerson says about 10 words. Every kid is different! 🙂

  25. I don't do flash cards with my son, for the same reason that you said. I think we put too much pressure on our kids too young. I made up a song to teach my son body parts, we read a lot, including some fun ABC song books. We can't discount all that our kids learn through unstructured play! 🙂

  26. Gage is 20 months old now and he has counted to 9 in english, to 3 in chinese, he knows most of his body parts, he says some spanish words, he's starting to say a couple letters but we learn while playing. Around 11-12 months is when he really started picking things up.

    I don't force him to learn something but if I'm changing his diaper, I'll say something like, that's a blue diaper or count his cars with him.

    He has had an advantage listening his 3yo brother doing things though. I think that has helped alot. I don't think it's ever to early to start teaching them the small things.

  27. Teaching body parts is a constant challenge, because it seems like there are always more to teach. once they learn arms, there are elbows and hands, then fingers and shoulders, and palms and the list goes on.

    It's enough to make a person crazy.

    I guess we all just teach what we can and pray that they learn the rest through osmosis.

  28. I try to make it a point to teach my 20 month old daughter. I don't do it in a structured daily form, but I try to take a few minutes at random times through our day to work on a concept like shapes, colors, body parts, etc…
    I sing A,B,C s but I dont really try to teacher her the letters yet or the sounds they make.
    We have thick “brainy baby” flash cards for colors and shapes, and I use them for games. I'll lay some out on the table and say “get the triangles”, and she will try to get all the triangle shapes.
    It's all for fun though, and like another mom I read above, I marvel when she knows things I've never even tried to teach her. They catch on to things so quickly.

  29. I believe that the best teacher is life…That means everyday things like getting dressed, eating, singing, reading, and playing. Babies are sponges for knowledge. They are learning every second they are awake.

    My son is only 5 months old, but we play fun learning games like naming body parts as I dress him, saying the colors of toys, using the names of the animals that the toys represent. I also sing to him constantly…I turn almost everything into a song. I think music is a great teaching tool, but that doesn't mean you have to spend tons of money on it.

    I read somewhere (which I know can be dangerous) that flashcards are so rudimentary a learning tool that pigeons have been shown to learn how to recognize them. And as further defense to my stance: My mother never used flashcards for me, and I could read by the time I was 2 years old. (I could also write my name in cursive by that time.)

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