Our 4 year old daughter's preschool gives out little homework books to help the kids start to learn letters and numbers on their own time. They work in these books weekly at school, but participation is largely optional. Our daughter is very active and has some trouble focusing, so she rarely participates in this activity at school. She will be starting pre-K next month, so we would like to start building good learning habits by using the homework books we get from school as practice.

Unfortunately, she is not a willing participant and puts up a big fight whenever we try to get her to do any work. She mostly just stares blankly or flops around in her chair. When she does write, she mostly scribbles or plays dumb about what she is supposed to be doing. I would say she just isn't ready for what we are asking, but on her own, she is actually quite good at identifying and drawing letters and numbers.

I can't really blame her for not wanting to work, because practicing letters and numbers is boring compared to playing, but we are not asking for more than 10 minutes per day. We have tried to briber her with rewards if she completes her work, and have tried giving time outs when she refuses to cooperate. We want to create good work habits early, not poison her against school before she even starts. What are some ways we can motivate our daughter to do her work? Should we avoid negative consequences at this point and only focus on positive reinforcement?

  • 2
    Wow 4 seems so young for home work... I really dislike they pressure schools (or whomever makes the guidelines the schools are supposed to follow) put on younger and younger children. Homework in preschool feels like a nursery or babysitter assigning homework to me... Preschool is supposed to be about social skills.
    – user7678
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 19:44
  • 1
    I agree with you, and I honestly don't care if she can competently read or write at this point, but what bothers me is that she won't even try. She pushes back for the sake of it, not because she doesn't know how to do what we are asking.
    – woemler
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 19:50
  • Perhaps make your own "homework" book--do the same tasks but with your non-dominant hand.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 7:10

3 Answers 3


According to research, homework for preschoolers is an educational trend without any real benefits to the child.

Of course, that doesn't mean her school will be responsive to that point of view. However, given that, I wouldn't push her too hard, there's some evidence that can be counterproductive.


IMO 4 years old is far too young to consider homework. When I was in grammar school, homework was work not completed in class (and there was plenty of time given).

Rather than treating these packets as homework, try incorporating it as part of your one on one time activities. Make a game of writing the letters and give her time to instruct you as well. Teaching back engages the brain far better than repetition. This will help the concepts to stick as well as reduce the boredom factor.

Addendum: If the homework packets don't get done, don't worry as long as you're spending that time working together each day. Better habits will form from that time together than sitting with pencil in hand because she is told to.


I agree that 4 is very young.

My oldest is very interested in writing and reading. He didn't get homework, and I don't think you need to practice 'doing homework'. Personally I think it is time to do it later.

If you want to practice letters though, incorporate them in something fun that shows WHY you write them. My son really loved signing his name on birthday cards and artwork. He wrote and decorated a 'happy birthday' sign for grandma and grandpa (I wrote 'grandma' on a piece of paper he could copy) when we video called grandparents for their birthday.

I don't think there is anything wrong with practicing letters and numbers at age 4, if the kids are interested. But I think it needs to be FUN. I would worry that forcing kids to do homework will make them dislike it.

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