How can I use my son's love of dinosaurs to improve his performance in school? Is he watching too much TV?
My son is 6 years old. He is in kindergarten. He is behind all of the other children in his class. He goes to a private school. He has always attended a daycare, where most of the other children started going to pre-school when they were 4 or 5. He has a very short attention span. He cannot grasp letter recognition or phonics. I have tried everything, and his teacher tries to spend extra time with him. He just can't seem to grasp the idea. He is very smart and very artistic. He can tell you the name of almost every dinosaur that ever roamed the lands, and all there is to know about them. Same with sharks, and he loves to draw. I think he has become too attached to the tv, though. Can this hinder a child's ability to learn? Too much tv. Should I take the TV away? I don't want him to think that learning is a punishment. I want him to enjoy it. Does anyone have any ideas to use his love and fascination for dinosaurs to help him learn and want to learn? I want him to look forward to "learning time" just as much as he enjoys watching the TV. Thank you to anyone who can lend me a hand.
Obviously you are very aware of your child's strengths and weaknesses. It may be time for a professional evaluation, though, since he seems to be struggling to gain fundamental academic skills. The results could help you further identify very specific strengths that could be used in school to help in work on weaker areas. Check with your school to identify how to get a complete individual assessment.
Young children often develop a love of dinosaurs. If you have a computer and are connected to the Internet, there may be web sites where your son could learn more about dinosaurs with your help, which should help him see that learning can be enjoyable and that there are many ways to learn.
Many professional organizations recommend limiting children's time watching television because this takes away from time doing other developmentally appropriate activities such as playing outside and creative activities. I recommend that you have your son choose no more than 2 hours of television per day. In the time created, he could be looking at age-appropriate books with the help of an adult or working on his artistic activities.
Your son sounds like he has great potential and now is definitely the time to make sure he is progressing well in the foundations of academics.
Jeanne H. Brockmyer, Ph. D.
education.com expert clinical child psychologist
I sounds like you can use your son's interests to your advantage by seeking out dinosaur themed books, as well as discussing things such as archeaology and geology. Try helping your child get excited about learning by using his interests, and reminding him that, although school is hard now, it is the best way to learn the skills he will need to become whatever he dreams of being (whether it be an explorer, etc.) Sometimes too much intensive academics can stifle a child's natural interest in learning.
I knew a father of a ten year old once who had a similar problem. His son didn't want to read anything except comic books. Instead of simply taking them away, the father went out of his way to find educational graphic novels - basically comic book like texts - and he migrated his child to these. After a while he then moved him to fantasy books. By then his son was fully hooked and would actually use his allowance to buy more books. Reading became much easier and suddenly true text books weren't so hard any more. I'd recommend this path for you but skewed towards dinosaurs. On the TV issue, check out this article: "Can TV Teach Your Kid to Read" http://www.education.com/magazine/article/Ed_Can_TV_Teach_Read/.
Since your son loves dinosaurs so much, why not using the first letters of the dinosaurs and sharks to teach him letter recognition and phonics. You could also use his passion as a tool for incentives. You also mentioned that he has a short attention span. You should time him on how long can he attend to an activity and from there you would got an idea on how often you should give him breaks in between when doing school work with him. Then you could slowly increase his breaks e.g., from every 5 minutes to every 7-10 minutes.