My 3 Yr Old Daughter Doesn't Want to Learn

Updated on April 24, 2008
S.C. asks from Birmingham, AL
16 answers

I have a 4 yr old and a 3 yr old daughter. My oldest daughter always wanted to set down and learn. She is very smart, she writes, knows all that she should for kindergarten and some for 1st grade. I know I can not compare them, but even simple things like setting down to do flash cards, playing go fish, reading book on letters or numbers, is a very difficult task with my second daughter. She knows her numbers, shapes, colors, the basic stuff. I am very patient with her, and we do thing on her time, so I know it is not because she feels pressured. I have read every article I can find on the internet, but nothing seems to work. I was wondering if anyone else has had this problem, and if they can give me anyother suggestions that could help. Her father is upset with me for not working with her more, but there is only so many songs you can sing, and so many things you can count before she is tired of singing or counting. She is a very bright girl, she just doesn't want to learn.

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answers from Charlotte on

The responses you have already gotten are great! I just wanted to add one thing that worked with my son. He is almost 4 now and never wants to sit still for any kind of lesson on anything. We bought some CD's to play while we were in the car that teach letters and their sounds and numbers and shapes and other things like that put to music. We just listened to these in the car every time we went somewhere and within a week he was seeing objects that were in the songs like trees, and saying "T is for tree". He was learning without it being forced. Also, there is a website that he loves,, it has games and reading excercises and he can do it by himself. That's the part he loves the most. I hope this helps you out some.



answers from Spartanburg on

It might be good to look into a 2 or 3 day preschool program. maybe if she is around other children doing the same thing she will be inspired to do more. I think it sounds like you are doing a great job, some kids just don't want to learn as readily as others and that doesn't mean that she will do poorly in school. Keep up the good work she will come around.

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answers from Richmond on

S., please, don't worry. She is only 3. All children learn at their own pace, with different learning styles and different interests at different ages. While your daughter may be smart, she may be smart enough not to sit and learn but rather learn by exploration and manipulation of her environment, which is completely natural at this age and a very important element of her cognitive and physical development. To actually ask a 3 year old to sit down and do flashcards and perform structured academic type activities is unrealistic. Also, keep in mind that should she learn what you want her learn now it may put her out of sync with the rest of the children when it comes time for pre-school and kindergarten. By that time she may be far too advanced in some areas and can not learn with the others; a very important process for her developmentally. This will not only create boredom for her, but also could be a recipe for behavioral problems. Please, this is not something to stress about. I have worked with children in all fields for over 20 years and am currently a mental health counselor for children and adolescents, I can tell you from experience that forcing her to learn at this young age could be harming her more than helping her. Your doing a great job being so concerned, but give her time, enroll her in preschool and if you see problems then i.e. she is not learning with the rest of the kids, can not focus or follow along, etc. then you may want to evaluate the situation further, until then... happy parenting.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Asheville on

Hi S.,
Wow! It sounds like you are doing so much with your girls, and I applaud you for it. But please, please, please remember that your daughter is 3 years old, practically still a baby, and needs to play more than anything. Once she gets to school she will have 12 years of learning, then college. I am realizing the gravity of this right now, my son just started kindergarten. I really enjoyed the preschool years with him, watching him play and explore the world around him. My younger child is turning 2 and I just feel like it's such a gift to get to spend this time with him, before all the pressures of the real world set in. Enjoy your girls!

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answers from Tuscaloosa on

I'm going to read the responses because my two year old boy is the same way. He will not learn his numbers, shapes, colors. It is like he is mocking me. I sit down with him and go over things and make it fun and he just shakes his head and says "No Mommy" and runs off and plays. He is a RASCAL!!!

My husband is also a very busy Engineer at a cement company and works very long hours. We are originally from Texas so I have no family here!

I Feel your pain! In fact I just IM'd my hubby to come home for the 4th time tonight, so he will probably be home around 8! He goes in to work around 6:30 in the morning and works till around 7 or 8!




answers from Birmingham on

It sounds like you are already doing an excellent job of teaching her. If you are not planning to home school, I wouldn't pursue trying to teach her all of these things right now. With your background in child development you probably already know she is advanced. If she already knows everything she needs for kindergarten what will be left to learn when she gets there? It just ensures that she will be bored. Instead of excellerating her, help her with homework, be a volunteer at her school, participate in her education in other ways.

I think she would enjoy preschool. As others have mentioned, she is learning volumes by exploring her world, interacting with other children her age, and being in a loving home environment.

Blessings to you,



answers from Raleigh on

Hi! Don't worry, your daughters both sound very smart. I think the best way to teach children is through play. for numbers you can put a "price" on her toys and then play store. Ask her to find something with the number 1 on it, and so on. for shapes when she is playing point out the different shapes. For words I love labels! Label everything! The computer, TV, chairs, tables, lamp, fridge, stove.... everything!! My daughter recognized words REAL early from this. Just make it fun. And of course, READ to her! :)



answers from Hickory on

Your daughter is doing great. She is way ahead of where my daughter was at that age. She has just recently learned her numbers (recognition) and she is still stuck at 9. She learned her colors when she was about 3. So I think she is doing well. She maybe a little more active than your other daughter? I wouldn't worry about it much. Are you going to homeschool? If you are, even less to worry about, she will learn as she goes and she will also learn things from her sister without you even knowing sometimes! Good luck!



answers from Tuscaloosa on

It sound as if your 3 yr old is a little above average for her age group, as well. So don't sweat it. Also, she may be more gifted in Athletics, Music, Art, etc. She is learning just not as much book knowledge as you would like. Let her be who she is.

And this may be out of line, and tell me if it is, but tell your husband to take some time off and do one-on-one himself.

Young children would rather have the personal time rather than the extra bike or play station. When they are teenagers then he can be a workaholic.



answers from Greensboro on

Hi Shellie:

As you stated they are individual. Everyone learns at their own pace and their own time. She's 3 and has 2 more yrs before she gets to school. My suggestion is continue but relax a bit.



answers from Myrtle Beach on

Hi there, My daughter, now 4, was the same way,so no worries. And it's sad that her dad would even be upset with you after all the hard work you do. I am a stay at home mom too with only one child and i know how tough it is but to have two must be a challenge. Anyway, I bought all the workbooks at wal-mart i could find, anything from preschool to kindergarten basics to mazes and the hidden picture workbooks. And yes we still had to find the exact time of day to "learn" but i would find myself leaving the books on the table where she could see them and when she noticed them we'd sit down and we would use crayons and bright colored markers to do the pages. After a while we were doing it every day. And something else i would do to keep our daddy happy would be to teach her how to spell a new word every day or so, even if it was GO or NO. Anyway, hope this kinda helps. Take care. jen swimm



answers from Spartanburg on

It sounds to me like you daughter is very smart, and that it may not be the case that she "doesn't want to learn", but rather that she doesn't want to learn what you want her to when you want her to the way that you want her to. That's not a bad thing, and that's not to say that you're doing anything wrong. But try changing your approach with her a little bit.

Instead of looking at flash cards for her to learn her letters, look at the "WalMart" sign on the building next time you're walking in there and ask her what the first letter is. Or make little "labels" for her things in her room and tape them up so she can see them (and you can read them to her as she's using that thing) every day, like "books", "crayons", "blocks", "doll", "door", "window", "wall", etc. To me it sounds like she is just active, and not interested in sitting down to learn things (like my daughter), so if you can get her to learn while she is being active, you may have more success.

Also, if she enjoys TV, let her watch "Seseme Street" every day. I try not to let my daughter watch too much TV, but she does watch that and I found that she knew certain letters before I ever taught them to her. When I asked her where she learned it, she said "Sesame Street."

And finally, if you have a computer, try getting some educational preschool games for her to play. My Mom and Dad used to each have their own computer, but when my Dad died she kept the newer one and gave the old one to my daughter, and bought her a few games. They have actually taught my daughter reading skills and math skills that I have never sat down and gone over with her. And my daughter has no idea she's learning, she just thinks she's playing a game.

And the final thought, on writing, instead of trying to sit her down and have her practice writing a certain letter over and over (I have yet to get mine to do that), ask her if she wants to write a note or card for Daddy or Grandma or someone else that's special to her. Ask her what she would like to write (like "I love you" or "Happy Birthday" or whatever), then write it (and her name) for her on one paper and ask her to copy it onto her "special card paper". Let her draw a picture on it or stick stickers on it, and then mail it (even if you're mailing it to your own address for Daddy). Kids get a kick out of the mail system and love to send and receive things, so this will be a fun game to her.

I hope these ideas help a little. Just remember that not all kids learn the same way, so just find moments throughout your day, even if it's only seconds at a time, to teach her the way that she learns.



answers from Montgomery on


You sound like me. I have 3 girls. My oldest is a perfectionist and has been since she was small. She wrote her Thank you notes for her 4th birthday and very neatly. Her handwriting is still better than mine. She new all her colors, shapes, letters, numbers and sounds by the time she was almost 4. She was reading before kindergarten. She is now 10 and is high school level and beyond. The downside, she was bored in public school and a private school with an advanced curriculum. I had to quit work and homeschool. My middle child (2 years difference) is just as smart, but learns differently. She does great with written work, unless we are playing she cannot do oral math. Here is the wrench in my girls. My youngest is 4 (5 in Feb.). She is smart, but is more active than the others. She will play and sing etc. Since I homeschool I allow her to guide her workbook activities. She will tell me when she wants to do 'school'. She knows her colors, how to spell and write her name. She can identify some letters and numbers. She knows more sounds to letters than she can identify. I was really worried about her development. However, I have found I need to relax. She rode a bike at 2 and has incredible upper body strength. She is more advanced in her physical development than her sisters are now. I know she will learn. I just had to relax and realize that she is different from her sisters and will excel in different areas. I believe she knows more than she wants me know. We have sat down to read a book and she will tell me letters and sounds I didn't think she knew. However, if we were to review, she would act like she had know idea what I was talking about. Everyone has given you some wonderful advice and great ideas. Mine is, just relax, it will come, also be careful about comparing.

Take care.



answers from Hickory on

No, you are right to say you cannot compare the two. Siblings can be very different and when you are used to one that wants to learn the next one can be a challange. Children learn in very different ways. Some like to learn by listening, some by doing, some by seeing. It can be hard to find out how your child learns best but it takes trial and error opportunties. They need lots of room to explore and grow. There is a lot of controversy over child care. Children learn from other children and in child care will take part in acitivities that build on developmental skills. Children are learning without realizing. You provide the opportunities for your child to explore and learn and they will. You'll eventually see how much they have learned and just did not share it with you. :-)



answers from Richmond on

First thing is first, pray on it, God is able work things aut when you least expect it.
I have two children as well, My daughter is 6 and my son is 2. My daughter is very smart, she learned her numbers, shapes, colors, ABCs and sounds when she was only 2. She also knew her address, phone number, my full name, how to spell her name and what state she lived in. I use to record her ssying all the things she knew. I taught her how to read at 4, she was reading simple words, like cat, bat, an so on. She is now in the first grade and don't want to learn, she refuses to do her work.
Now my son who is 2, does not want to learn his ABCs or how to use the potty for that matter.
I do understand what you are talking about, maybe it is a second syndrome, or maybe she does know the stuff and just does not want you to know. have you ever tried asking her why she does not want to do it.
When I was teaching my daughter I made everything either a song or game, it tuck in her mind a lot easier.
Good Luck!!



answers from Charlotte on

We have five children and all are different. So many people told me when I was pregnant with #2 that they will be total opposites! It is so true! Our oldest places 3 grades higher for his reading level while #2 is in the top of his class. We are proud of both, our other 3 children have not started school yet but they show differences also. Our 3 yr old twins, one can color real well while the other can't. We accept them as God presented them and try to help them in their way of learning, ie visual, touching.. With your love and patience (of trying different things) your daughter will find something that will take her interest completely. Good Luck!

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