Four is a great age:
For sitting on laps!
For snuggling together!
For telling stories! Rhymes! Silly stories and silly poetry!
For exploring nature together!
For practicing gross motor skills! Running, climbing, walking foot over foot up and down steps, standing on one foot, skipping on one foot, running or standing jumping, jumping off of things with feet together, hopping on one foot, riding a bicycle with training wheels, catching a ball, sliding down a slide, digging in the dirt or sand, lifting, tugging and pulling! Stirring. crawling, crab crawling, playing wheelbarrow
For practicing fine motor skills! Buttoning, unbuttoning, lacing shoes, stringing beads, pouring and carrying water, drawing, coloring, painting, modeling
For doll play, dressing up, building
For encouraging creativity!
For sensory input! Rolling down hills, kneading bread dough, sand play, making mud puddles, playing outside in the rain,
For close supervision – many four-year-olds are destructive in their own environments just through innocently exploring and not having a great idea of the consequences of their own actions. And why should they be able to predict the consequences of their own actions at this young age? That is your job!
For snuggly co-sleeping – but also can be a great age to try sleeping in their own bed around four-and-a-half or so.
Having a quiet time each day – four-year-olds need this as they play and run so hard all day long!
Four is not a great age for:
“Field Trips” – This is an area where people will disagree with me. Four-year-olds love “new” and going “new” and “special” places. However, in my experience with many different four-year-olds over the past ten or twelve years, most four-year-olds are interested for about 10 minutes in whatever you are looking at, and then the importance of the tiger at the zoo or the shark at the aquarium and the pink shoes of the child next to them and that child down the row who is eating something registers about the same on the scale of awe and education. And then they are hungry and need to use the bathroom and are ready to play. They could be just as happy with a field trip to somewhere within your own neighborhood that is “new” and “special”.
Expecting a child to do things alone without you being right there to direct or supervise. Some four-year-olds do a great job at this –they can get up and go to the bathroom alone and get dressed, (and I would say for the most part this is the quiet, mature, less physical little girls who are first born) and some four-year-olds really cannot do much unless you are physically present because they just sort of forget what they are supposed to be doing or find something more interesting along the way!
Leaving a four-year-old with younger children without close supervision
Playing well with others (in general – again always exceptions) – Friendships are important at this age, they love to play with other children generally, but still need your help. Do not tell two four-year-olds to “work it out”! Help them!
Answering things in a scientific, logical way – if they ask you a question about the world, they are not looking for the ADULT, DRY, LOGICAL explanation (unless this is the way you have always talked to them and they play all those verbal games with you!).
Dragging them on endless errands.
Expect them to cooperate while you are on the phone!
Don’t expect them to stay dry through the night – girls might, but perhaps not!
Sitting through a whole meal without becoming restless!
Pushing academics! The Gesell Institute in their book “Your Four Year Old” says on page 81, “Especially, do not feel that you must teach your preschooler to read.” Waldorf Education begins reading around the age of six and a half or seven, and many countries around the world also do this.
Ways to connect to your Four-Year-Old:
Listen to them!
Be silly with them! Play! Have fun!
If you have a very active four-year-old, try to enjoy it rather than feel as if you are suffering along and waiting for them to “calm down”.
Leave your lectures and guilt trips behind!
Let your child know you love and appreciate them for who they are! Active or not, shy or not, able to fall asleep well or not – be warm and loving!
Set loving boundaries in a gentle way – an out-of-bounds four-year-old is really going to feel more secure if you do this!
Avoid moral judgments of your child – just because they love potty talk now does not mean they will love potty talk when they are 15!
Structure your environment so you are not always saying “no”
Show them how to do things, have special times to show them how to use art supplies nicely, how to create a card for Grandma