Q:

How can I motivate my 2-year-old daughter so that she will be ready to enter school? -- Anxious

A:

Relax, you don't have to do anything to motivate young children to learn how to do things. They are born eager to acquire new skills, from rolling over to walking and talking. Of course, even if 2-year-olds want to put on their shoes, chances are they won't be successful. However, you can kill their desire to learn this task and other developmental tasks if you take full responsibility for getting every job done and won't even let them help.

As babies grow into toddlers and then preschoolers, parents need to pull back a bit so children remain motivated to keep learning to do more and more for themselves. And parents need to encourage their young children's efforts when they begin learning how to fasten buttons and pull up zippers so they will remain self-motivated to keep learning to do more and more for themselves. At the same time, you have to be careful with your daughter's desire to learn to read, write and work with numbers, to be sure that these activities remain fun for her and don't become academic ventures. Most 2- and 3-year-olds are quite satisfied to "pretend read" books; it is not likely that they need or would enjoy formal phonics instructions.

Besides learning to do things, your daughter has intense curiosity about her world. She has an inner drive to explore, interact with and make sense of her environment. Build on this drive by giving her numerous opportunities -- using magnifying glasses, studying ants, watching the tide come in and observing the sunset. Turning on the TV or computer is a very poor substitute for real-life experiences. It can lead to boredom.