4 Year Old Doesn't Know Classmates Names

Updated on December 14, 2010
J.P. asks from Murrysville, PA
14 answers

My four year old son goes to preschool MWF for about two hours each day. He is midway through the year and doesn't know the names of any of his classmates. He doesn't remember his teachers names either. By the end of the year last year, he knew his teachers names and still remebers them. But, he never remembered the names of his classmates. Four of his current classmates were in his class last year, and he doesn't know who they are either. I am freaked out by this. He can remember names of people, so I don't know why he has no interest in doing so at school. I have heard other kids calling him by his name, so it's not a group issue. Today we got his class composite, and I'm going to try to work with him to learn the names. I'm not sure it will help, though. He seems to know a few of the names of kids in his class, but can't place them to a face. Is this totally off, has anyone experienced this? Yes, I am worried about his social interactions with peers. He loves his cousins and playing with them, but has no interest in developing friendships with "strangers that he doesn't know". These are his words to describe the kids at school.

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So What Happened?

Thank you eveyone for your responses! I just wanted to update that I offered my son candy for each persons name he could remember in class. I know that may be wrong, but I was so freaked out and willing to try anything. Within a week, he knew half the class and the teachers names. He would point to people on the class picture and tell me who they were. What can I say, the kid loves candy! He had an evaluation for speech and is struggling with many of his sounds. I worry that may play a role in his communication with peers, as well as attempting to use names. I'm going to get him into speech therapy so he can feel more confident communicating with kids.

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answers from Cincinnati on

LOL I'm taking my finals this week--so the semester is over--and I don't know anyone's names outside of my professors.

Maybe he's just not a name person. When a person introduces themselves to me, I say oh nice to meet you--and I have no idea what that person's name is after that. I don't even pay attention. But I do remember that person by, their dark hair and big ears, for example. It's just a different way of learning.

Or who knows, maybe I should start taking social classes too lol.

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answers from Detroit on

The first week of 1st grade for my 6 yr old I only knew the kids in his class as Blue shirt guy... Red shirt guy... etc.... Then on day 2 it was Yellow shirt guy, who was Blue shirt guy yesterday.... etc...

He's 6 and it took him a week to get all the names down....

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answers from Houston on

Its probably because he's confused with Cayden, Camden, Cameron and Candice...I know I would be confused. OR, Aiden, Branden, Clayton or the like. Greyson is probably doubled in there.
Too many "like" sounding names. There probably isnt a Fred in the bunch.

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answers from Allentown on

I agree with you that it is odd. Especially to refer to his classmates as "strangers he doesn't know." Talk to his teacher and she should be able to give you some insight on his social skills within the class (and whether or not he refers to their names.) At this age some children are still involved in parallel play (playing next to each other but not WITH each other) where others are involved in a more interactive play style (playing together...ex: "you be the mommy and I will be the baby", etc. I think girls tend to be more interactive at this age. It could just mean he in not at that stage yet, but I think a chat with the teacher will give you some more info.

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answers from Denver on

As alarming as it seems, I don't think you have any issues. My son turns 5 in January and doesn't seem to care what anyone's names are. When I find out he is playing more with one or two kids in the class then I make sure I find out their names from the teacher and tell him who they are. I truly think some kids just do not understand the importance of a name yet. Once I tell him their names and ask him about them for a couple of days he remembers just fine.

I wouldn't put a lot of stock in this. Four years old is such a carefree fun time for them. They are just out there enjoying themselves and sometimes names are just not in the forefront of their minds. Push him along a bit but don't make it a federal case. I would worry about it more if he was in 3rd grade or something like that.

Good luck.

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answers from Allentown on

Hmm, sounds a bit off to me. My daughter is 5 and knows the names of all of her preschool class(16 kids). My son just turned 3 and knows the names of all but one kid in his class, because he has an unusual name that I think is difficult for my son to say(There are 8 kids in the class). Both kids knew the names of their teachers by the second day and my son was still 2 at the start of the year. So to me it sounds a bit off. My daughter attends pre-school 4 days a week and my son 2 days a week. I would think by age 4 he should be able to remember names, and have interest in getting to know kids by their name, but like I said I am only going by my own kids abilities, and I don't know if this is the norm or not. I would mention it to the ped., or have him evaluated to be sure there is nothing else going on.


answers from San Francisco on

It is possible to teacher and other children in the class don't put a lot od stock in games, activities and classroom customs that involve using the children's names. I wouldn't worry too much about it. It will become clearer over time if this is a memory issue or just a vocab glitch for this particular environment. Do his social skills seem ok otherwise? I think it's fine to ask his teacher about it too. I would also note that 2 hours 3 days a week isn't really a ton of time to be part of that specific community.



answers from San Diego on

Yeah, that sounds a little unusual. I'd talk to his teacher about this. Find out if/how he is playing with the other children in his class.



answers from La Crosse on

My 5 year old son in kindergarten was the same way. We would go to his school programs, and someone would say "hi" and call him by name. I would ask who it was, and he would tell me he didn't know their name. It freaked me out and I asked the teachers if he was a social pariah or lacking in some mental skills. His teacher's assured me that he didn't usually play with the same kid every day...he jumped around the class and played with everyone...and that he did know many of their names. He didn't have a best freind or even a favorite activity so he didn't buddy up the way most kids would. No worries...he is just being a boy!



answers from Minneapolis on

I'd get a check up to see if he has a processing glitch. Considering his age, he's probably not able to articulate what is really going on here. Your pediatrician can refer someone to you. It's a long-shot and I'm not a medical expert, but I have recently learned about a real disorder that affects some people called "Face Blindness." It's a type of visual processing disorder that makes it impossible for people to remember faces. It's called "prosopagnosia."

There is no treatment for this, but there are therapies to help these people to adapt to their condition and live a normal life.

Here are some links:







answers from Seattle on

My 8yo is the same way. He has to be seriously coached with names, and then, even when he knows them, very rarely uses them.

He's a very visual kinesthetic learner, he'll hear a name 100 times, but even when he KNOWS a name he thinks of people as what they look like and their actions... down to minute detail.

He's also always been Mr. Popular. Names are rarely used in social situations except for "greetings". My son avoids name greetings. "OMG You're HERE! Yes! Lets go do _________!" He's so thrilled by people that whole groups of them light up when he comes in a room because he makes each of them feel special. He's also frequently the "director" of games of multiple people. "Okay! You, you, and you.... to the trees, set up the fort... you you and you... your scouts. This group needs to collect ammunition (pinecones). Have you got your assignments? Go! Go! Go!"

Don't get me wrong... he can LEARN names, and when he does he doesn't forget... he just has to be prodded into it, and the prodding can take weeks.

Like Beth's son... he would rather describe people. K was a riot because he he had a litany of "Blonde girl in the pink shirt first, in the grey shirt the day after, in the lacy skirt yesterday, who laughs really excited, and ties her own shoes"



answers from Pittsburgh on

Something sounds amiss and needs to be addressed with the pediatrician so they can refer you to whomever you need to see. I can understand not forging close friendships. He is still a little young for that. It is his lack of recall that alarms me, especially since he went to the same preschool last year. I hope it turns out to be nothing but it is definitely something you want to have checked sooner than later.



answers from New York on

My son is 4.5 and knows several of his classmates from last year that are still in his class but not every other kid in the class. His school has a lot of pictures in the classroom so I even got to know a lot of the kids by name by the end of the year. I started asking him about specific friends by name. My mom said I did not talk about classmates by name even in elementery school although I knew who was who. If he gets along with the other kids in school and has a few friends he is probably doing okay.


answers from Pittsburgh on

My son is almost 5, and in the same kind of preschool situation you describe.

It took him a longer time to learn the names of the kids in the class than I thought normal, too. My son's good friend (a friend of the family) who is also in his class, a little girl, knew all the names by like the second day, and shortly thereafter, she recognized them all in writing... some kids are just more adept at this... and it means more to some kids than others.

My son now does know the kids names. But it took a good while. I would be a little concerned, for one, about how this might affect him socially, if he's not able to speak to the kids by name. But I wouldn't worry too much about it at this age. If he's doing fine developmentally/academically, and seems ok socially, then I'd just watch and see that things keep progressing positively. If there are other problems developmentally/academically (age appropriate, of course), or other obvious social issues, then it might be worth a mention to the pediatrician.

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