Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Activities for Four Year-Olds

We had a tough week last week with two kids with high fevers and the third (the four year-old) pinging off the walls. I had a cold for a day, and the weather has been gloomy the last few days. With my six year-old sick and my four year-old not, I've been doing more with him and have had a chance to think about what I want his "preschool year" to look like.

My goal for him is to keep him busy and happy. My experience is that 4 year-old behavior can be very difficult to live with – why is this not written about more? I don’t find the twos to be very terrible at all, but four – yikes!! Mine are willful and easily frustrated, take a sudden dislike to doing things for themselves that they can do perfectly well (both of mine have suddenly wanted me to put on their shoes, a skill which they were proud of half a year before). Mine has quite a temper, and often hits when he gets frustrated. He cries easily, and holds onto his hurt feelings for awhile. And he seems not to hear me asking for different behavior so that we can fix a situation that is going rapidly downhill, so suddenly a small problem becomes a big incident (obviously, this is a parenting issue also). He seems uncomfortable in his own skin sometimes – being four is hard for him, too, I think. So keeping him busy and proud of his abilities and accomplishments is an important part of improving his behavior.

I’d certainly like to play to his strengths and interests, which are different than his big brother’s. I think nature study will be a hit with him, and I’m not at all confident that it’s going to work as the science component of my six-year old’s homeschooling. He also is interested in animals, so the book lists from Sonlight, Winter Promise, and other places that focus on animals in the early years suddenly make sense for him, when they didn’t click for my oldest. I expect he’ll listen to some of the Ambleside readings I’m doing with my oldest – in fact, he might enjoy the Burgess and Herriot readings more than his big brother.

However, I have no interest in giving him busy work, even if I could persuade him to do it (which I doubt that I could). I certainly think that learning numbers and letters and beginning phonics is appropriate, but I hope to unschool them for this year at least, and have so far had some luck with that. Last week he found an old cell phone that will charge, but doesn’t have a service plan, and has been busy dialing numbers on that and working on connecting the name of the number with the shape of the numeral. We call daddy occasionally, and he has to dial lots of numbers for that (11 digits plus a three digit extension). Changing channels is another way for him to associate written numbers with their values – that is, if he can get the remote away from his big brother! I have another trick to teach number/letter recognition – I give them passwords on the computer. His is two letters right now, so I think he’ll know those fairly well, and I’ll change it in a month or so. I will look for opportunities to teach letters and letter sounds, but I am unlikely to look for formal preschool lessons in those areas. (I hesitate to say I won’t, because I recently reread some of my early thoughts on homeschooling, and I am not in 100% agreement with them now, so I want to leave wiggle room for my plans to change!)

So I’d like to strew materials around to engage him. Almost by chance we had a few good days recently with things that showed up, and things he asked for. They included:
 uncommon materials for free play: big boxes, plastic shelf liner 12' (this was a clear plastic sheet, 12’x12”
 tubes & marbles or balls (what fits & doesn't)
 painting with marbles
 cutting out shapes & patterns
But I’m looking for other twaddle-free ideas to strew or offer to him.

Here are some of my other ideas for activities this year:
 letter of the week ideas: i.e. posting one Jan Brett drawing a week
 write child's story (he tells it, I type or write it)
 preschool art (ideas from Maryanne Kohl’s book)
 talk about stories "I wonder . ..." what happens next, what a character felt, etc.
 observation & description of art, nature, life, etc.
 eric carle collage
 FIAR ideas (Five in a Row books, by Jane Claire Lambert)
 thematic reading (age appropriate books on a topic they're interested in) bugs, dinos, animals. See booklists from Paula’s homeschool site, Sonlight, Ambleside Online, Winter Promise, Five in a Row, and others
 cooking
 potholder weaving
 listen to music, classical, children’s, other
 numbers in context: how many forks do we need for the family, party, there are five of us, but two don’t want dessert
 Letters in context: today we looked at some in the car while we were waiting for Grandma – E is for Empty, F for Full, C for Cold, H for Hot.
 sewing: small change purse with fold over top, other
 lacing cards
 beading
 sorting: beads, money, buttons, etc.
 play with change: talk about 1,5,10, 25, etc
 look for & reproduce patterns
 notice shapes
 simple graphs

I’m sure that’s not all. I haven’t finished looking at the resources I have in the house, so I’m sure I’ll come up with more.

Additional ideas in comments are very welcome!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your insight. It is nice to read about where I am potentially headed with my ds and it gives me a better approach with a 4 yo boy I am nannying. Good luck with your boys.


Woodpecker said...

I agree that there is a sudden black hole as far as books to help with older toddlers goes. My daughter will be 4 in a month and it gets more intense and emotional daily. It's nice to know I'm not alone with wondering why 2 is supposed to be such a big deal! I found one book to help a lot with negotiating - aimed at age 1-4 it is useful even in coaching myself out of of sticky emotional situations !): "The Happiest Toddler on the Block: by Harvey Karp, M.D. As for activities, just to share some ideas, I've had sucess with making a "mixture" (dry ingredients like rice, baking soda, cornmeal, popcorn, in different containers to mix up in a bowl on a mat on the floor), building things with empty kleenex boxes (easier to maneuvre than small blocks), making a "tent" with an old sheet, and counting coloured blocks with the reward of writing the correct number on the hand in washable coloured marker. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your information and research. It gave me some great ideas for my own son and small childcare service.


The Alie G Show said...

Thanks for the help, I have a 4 year old niece I baby sit all the time and I run out of things to keep her occupied very quickly since she is very active and likes to get things done quickly. Tomorrow I will try typing up her story: that one was my favorite, such a great way to expand a Childs imagination!


The Alie G Show said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kate said...

Your list of activities is great and really inspiring too, thanks! I am having a tough time with my four-year-old and his ability to focus on much these days. So glad to have found your blog!

Anonymous said...

The list that you have provided at the end is an excellent guide and has heaps of external resources that I have never even been aware of (Sonlight, Jan Brett etc). Thank you for sharing your rich knowledge and the obvious dedication you have to keeping your child stimulated in the right way (and helping others to do so). It's very valuable.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing with us your fantastic idea's I will get started on them staright away!!!

Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing the information and your experience. I have a 4 year old and 1 year old boy. Four year old one is difficult to manage, he has his ideas, thoughts,.... sometimes he leaves me with the feeling that I am dealing with an adult however your experience and information by adding some routine into it,,,, made the positive change.