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Will my bright 4-year-old be challenged enough in preschool?
Q: My daughter is turning 4 soon. Since she was 18 months old, everyone has been telling me how intelligent she is for her age. I want her to continue to excel in her learning but am not sure where she should be placed in preschool. She loves to be with 6- and 7-year-olds and truly acts like them. To be honest, she knows a lot more than they do in many areas. I’m afraid that in preschool, she’s going to be bored with her age group and already know most of what is taught there. Do you know where I could have her tested, and what do you recommend for her social behaviour? I do not want to slow down her development but, at the same time, I don't want her to act like the "big kids."
Wendy Lancaster
A: Wendy, you have a problem that falls under the category of “good problems.” These are a lot easier to cope with than “bad problems.” It does sound as though your daughter is unusually bright, and you will probably continue to have these questions as she ages and goes from one developmental stage and one school to another. Testing is probably not necessary but it might provide you with some helpful guidance. Most loving parents tend to over-estimate their children’s brightness, so test results sometimes just make us mad and defensive. However, if you really feel the need for this, ask your pediatrician or family physician. I am sure there is a facility available in your area.

As for her social behaviour, it is every bit as important as her intellectual and academic prowess. In a quality preschool, the staff would take note of your daughter’s unusual talents and arrange a program that provides her with some of the cognitive enrichment she appears to be ready for. They would also note any gaps in her development. For example, it is possible that she prefers 6- to 7- year-olds because she doesn’t get along well with 3- to 4-year-olds. Good early-childhood teachers would immediately recognize that and arrange activities that would be beneficial to your daughter.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education