What are good resources for teaching reading and writing to a 3 year old?


The child absorbs his native language, and even another language during the period of the Absorbent Mind.  Dr. Montessori found that between the ages of 18months and 3 years of age was the most sensitive period for Language development.  There is an explosion of words, between the ages of one and two years which when they reach two becomes thoughts and sentences. The child’s language moves from simple to complex, showing tenses and moods and he begins to organise language.

We must always teach our children how to pronounce words correctly and speak clearly. Your child needs to see you reading for pleasure, for instructions and for safety, and so on. Visiting a library from a young age helps to bring forth the love of books.  We need to teach children the respect for books and how to turn the pages and develop an interest in the spoken language and the written language.

Your child’s fine muscles in their fingers must be trained for a correct pencil grip.

This is why we do Practical Life activities and Sensorial Education. As it develops and refines the senses and the movements and understanding that are to prepare a strong foundation for all their future intellectual development. “ Hand and Brain work together.”

In Montessori education children are taught sandpaper letters, generally from age 3 or younger depending on the child’s development. These are the letters of the alphabet cut out in the finest sandpaper mounted on a strong backing the vowels are in blue and the consonants on a pale pink. The children are taught letters phonetically, which means they learn what sound the letter makes rather then saying what the letter is. The letters are taught using a three period lesson, two letters are taught at one time.

The first period is: Sitting next to your child put the first letter which maybe p in front of them, you trace the letter with two fingers and say, “p, (as in the sound “p”) this is p, p this is p”. Ask your child to trace the letters with two fingers; he can do this several times.  Place the p down by your side and then bring out another letter, for instance “o” and doing the same steps as before go through sounding and feeling “o”.

The second period: In this section you put the two letters on the table in front of your child, and say “ point to o”, then ask him to ”feel p, pick up o, show me o”. When you have finished take the letters off the table.

The third period: Bring out the letters one by one, saying “What is this?” they should say “o”, put the “o” off the table and place the other letter on the table, and say “what is this?” they should say “p”.

If they make a mistake you can go back to the second period or show it at another time. All the letters are taught in this way, feeling the sandpaper letters they are getting a muscle memory of the shape of the letter. Learning the alphabet by using phonetics helps them to build words and to read words. When they have learnt the entire alphabet they then go onto the moveable alphabet.

The moveable alphabet is a large box with 26 compartments, one for each letter of the alphabet. The box contains stiff cutout letters. The vowel in blue, and the consonants in red. First the children start off with what is called the Pink Box which is a box with 5 objects that are spelt with 3 phonetic letters, such as hat, pan, dog.  They place the moveable alphabet box on the floor then put the small hat just under the box, you ask your child what can they hear when you say hat, they might say “h” ( as in the sound h), they then look for the ‘h’ in the alphabet tray and place it next to the hat, you then ask them what else can the hear when you say hat, they may say ‘t’, they find the ‘t’ and then place it near the ‘p’ they will next find ‘a’. The word is spelt out next to the hat, they will say h-a-t, hat. They do this with the remaining objects. When they have mastered the pink boxes they can then move onto the blue boxes that have phonetic words that have more then three letters. There are quite a few different activities that help them to build onto their words and they are given these as they progress in each level.

With writing, children first learn to do the metal insets, these are ten geometrical shapes in metal. The frames are in one colour and the inset shapes are in another. They need squares of paper that perfectly fit the frames and some coloured pencils. This activity helps children to prepare for handwriting. This helps them to gain control of a pencil, and it is fun.

At first the child uses the frame and places it on the paper covering it perfectly, they then trace the inside shape with their pencil, this takes strength and control. When they have drawn it you then take the frame away so they can see what they have drawn. Next ask you child to get a different coloured pencil and draw fine straight lines parallel from one side to the other. The grip used on a pencil is the thumb and middle finger hold the pencil firmly and the index finger lowered to a resting position on top. When your child has become proficient at this they can then start to hold the inset by the middle knob and trace around this. This activity is harder as they have to keep the inset steady with their less dominant hand while the dominant hand draws around it. Your child can make many designs from the insets and they really enjoy doing it and seeing what they can make.

When you child is ready for writing, they use the sandpaper letters, first you ask your child to feel the letter a few times and then write it on a piece of paper, they feel it again and write it.

When your child is writing confidently they may be introduced to lined paper, with blue and red guidelines, they can then practice their letters.


“The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence”

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  • Rebecca Grugan
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