How I Teach My Toddler, or Why I Hate ABC Mouse

Last week I wrote about my son having a tablet, which we got for him in the hopes that it would help him develop his expressive language skills, but it also brought up educational questions. This week I would like to talk a little about how I do teach him, and why I hate ABC Mouse by extension.

Here in the States, children’s TV programming is inundated with ads for this educational app. When we go to a mall I do my best to avoid these hawks. I mean, salespeople. Really, though, they see you have a kid and they swoop right in and use their car salesperson skills to try to talk you into it.

I didn’t buy it. Literally and figuratively. We had talked about, had considered educational apps for our son. I watched him and he just never focused on a game for more than 5 minutes. I didn’t see this little gray mouse working.

But we decided to give it a try. Meaning, I checked it out. For one, we hate that it focuses more on sight reading than phonics. My husband and I both learned to read phonetically, so, no brainer, so will our kids. I also hated those lesson plans with their avalanche of coloring pages, repetitive games, and tracing pages that had to be completed before the child could move on. I saw my son getting bored very quickly with 10000000 pages just on the letter A just so he could move on to the numbers 1-10 and then the colors, followed by B… Nope. He knew all that, but those were the lessons for his age!

I even handed the tablet over to him so he could try it. 30 seconds on A was all I could coax out of him. Peak boredom set in at 10 seconds. I spent the next 20 seconds trying to encourage him. He blew raspberries at me instead.

Okay, that mouse had to go. Xena, I have a treat for you! (She doesn’t actually catch or eat any rodents)

I don’t have a background in education, but I do in psychology and child development and have worked with kids off and on for over 10 years. I was convinced I could teach him myself.

Now, my son will be 4 this summer and is not currently in preschool. But he’s a smart cookie, so I just plan to teach him the basics to prepare him for Kindergarten.

Yes, my toddler has a tablet. No, we don’t do any educational lessons on the tablet or use any educational apps.

I’m starting off simple, a subject a day. We do one of the following each day over a six day period, not including the weekends: letters, numbers, reading, science, history, and art. Sometimes he’s not really interested, so we do a minute or two. Sometimes he really wants to learn so we go as long as he is willing to. And absolutely none of it is done with a device.

For letters and numbers, we work on recognition and counting higher than 10. I try to do this incidentally as we play. I see a letter and ask him what it is. We sing songs and I throw in the ABCs. We look at a clock and count to 12. So far he recognizes all the letters with a little time, his song sadly leaves out N, and he can count to 16.

Reading is sort of easy. He’s not always interested, but I can usually talk him into 1 book while he runs around the living room. But I ask questions and he answers usually correctly, so it’s a work in progress.

Science and history for a toddler are a little trickier, but can be fun. He goes to Tinkergarten classes, which are outside and have a good science lesson once a week. Otherwise he loves space these days and identifying his sister’s body parts. History is usually telling him where he was born, where mom and dad and their families came from, and learning about the globe.

Art days are my favorite. We paint, draw, color, or bake. It’s fun and we usually wait until his sister naps, so it’s really just mom and son time.

I love teaching him what I can. I love having control over what he learns and being able to go at his pace and working with his interests. I don’t have lesson plans. I don’t use apps. The tablet is off. The toys are out. It’s fun. I hope he learns education is fun.

Mostly, I love not being at the mercy of an app.



14 thoughts on “How I Teach My Toddler, or Why I Hate ABC Mouse”

    • Thanks so much for sharing! There are better ways to teach a child and, honestly, how many toddlers have the attention span to learn with an app that has preprogrammed games and activities?

      • I downloaded it just to see what it was like … bonkers it’s completely bonkers. All I could see was frustration, hit the wrong button blah blah.. bam no interest. My greatest success with daughter has been one on one no distractions.

      • It is, isn’t it? I also find my son does better one on one. After all, I can tailor what he learns and work with his energy level. Apps are really limiting and really annoying. Maybe some kids thrive with them, but I know mine don’t! Besides, engagement is crucial to learning. How engaging can an app really be?

  • Oh my gosh. I tried ABC Mouse with my oldest when she was little. From what I gather from your post, it hasn’t changed at all. My kids are really liking Khan Academy and Duolingo. I make them do math on Khan and then they can pick their own subjects after that. Gabriel is studying US History and Carmen is studying Art History. I’m really pushing the Duolingo so they can speak when we go to Spain next year. ABC Mouse was a total fail for us. 🤷🏻‍♀️

    • Oh wow, sounds like they’re doing much better without ABC Mouse! My husband loves Khan Academy. He tries it on our son sometimes, but a 3 year old doesn’t really have that kind of attention span. I’m going to have to look into Duolingo since I wish I were bilingual but will settle with knowing as many languages as I and my family can handle.

  • Age is a huge factor! My struggling Kinders did well on ABC mouse but I agree wholeheartedly; apps should not and can not be a replacement for one on one, definitely more supplemental/reinforcement!

    • Very true! I do think it would work better for a child in school. For a 3 year old, it’s just way too much and I couldn’t imagine putting him in front of a device when I can teach him much better myself. Besides, he’s smart and will get out of the app on his own. Why struggle teaching with an app when going for a walk and talking about the trees is so much more fun and engaging?

  • I absolutely love this! I agree with everything! I’m so sick of parents turning to iPads/phones/tablets are everything! We have a family iPad. She has apps on there, but everytime she gets a dose of it a crazy monster takes over. The hubby and I have officially banned it. Honestly, it’s time to bring back learning in books.

    Have you looked into Usborne Books? My daughter loves them so much because they’re fun. I love them because she’s learning and doesn’t even know it! If you want to leave more about the books, I’m a consultant and can help you find the perfect books for your son and you. :). If not, no pressure. 🙂

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