The actress, who lost custody of her daughter to her ex Wladamir Klitschko in 2018, says her 9-year-old is into horses and already speaks five languages: 'She's a genius!'
Hayden Panettiere is one proud parent — and for good reason.
"Kaya speaks five languages," the Nashville actress, 34, tells PEOPLE. "English, Russian, Ukrainian, German, and she's now getting on with her French...she's a genius!"
"I think language is one thing we do poorly in the US," she continues. "By the time we start teaching them languages, their brain is already too formed. But when they're babies and young, they're like a sponge. You can teach them anything." She adds, "She doesn't appreciate it now, but I keep telling her she will!"
When Kaya was three, Panettiere agreed that her daughter should live with her Ukrainian ex while she was in the midst of a struggle with opioids and alcohol. However, in 2018, she revealed on Red Table Talk that she didn't realize it would be permanently.
"I was gonna go work on myself and I was gonna get better," Panettiere told Jada Pinkett Smith. "And when I got better that things could change and she could come to me and I could have my time with her. But that didn't happen."
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On the show, Panettiere noted that she thought her daughter Kaya was only on a visit with her father in Ukraine at the time — but later learned her toddler would be staying for good.
"She was almost 3 and it wasn't fully my decision," Panettiere said on the show, of relinquishing custody to Klitschko. "In fact, I didn't even know it was happening until she was already over there."
Since her daughter moved to Europe, Panettiere has gotten sober and made a return to acting. She's also about to embark on a three-night engagement with the speaking series "Intimate Conversation with Hayden Panettiere," and stays in regular contact with her child — who she says is obsessed with horses.
"I believe it's nature over nurture," she says. "I have horseback riding in my genetics — my great-uncle once won the Kentucky Derby. I got a video of her the other day watching Racing Stripes, which is a movie she watches on repeat, and she was sitting on this toy hippo and kind of racing the hippo and going crazy — I thought its ears were going to rip off!"
The actress also says her daughter loves swimming, which she attributes to her own love of being in water.
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