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I’m worried my daughter won’t be ready for kindergarten
Q: My 4-year-old daughter seems to be behind in learning the things that she needs to know by kindergarten. When I try to read to her, she doesn’t pay attention. When I try to get her to spell or write her name she cries. She seems interested in doing activities on the computer. I would like to know the best course of action. She’s the second child of four. Her older sister is very bright and constantly wanting to be challenged.
A: My guess is that she is resisting being pushed into doing and learning things she is not yet ready to do and learn. There are many factors that could be causing your daughter to resist your teaching efforts. You may have unconsciously compared her to her bright older sister, and one way she can avoid unfavorable comparisons is to resist doing the kinds of things that elicit praise for her sister. So perhaps the most important thing you can do is to lighten up with her. If you are going to read to her—and I think we should read to our young children every day—make sure you let her choose the book most of the time. And don’t make it an ongoing test by asking such questions as “What is that word?” or “Show me the word ‘and.’”

Look for signs of interest from her before trying to teach her how to print her name or the letters of the alphabet. She does not need to know these things before starting kindergarten; those are skills that are developed during the kindergarten year. And, since she enjoys the computer, let her have time on it. But be careful not to criticize her if she doesn’t finish an activity or do exactly what the software expects her to do.

Finally, find some time just to play with her. Young children learn more through play than they do from formal teaching sessions. She will love having you do that, and so will you.