What A Four Year Old Can Learn


Last year I realized that it was a bit of a misnomer to call this list “goals,” as I wasn’t really focused on trying to get her to accomplish them.  It was more just keeping track of what she was learning. Moving forward to get something done is a pretty inherent aspect of the word “goal.”  So, instead, I’ve been focusing more on my own goals and learning more about how to facilitate a natural way of learning.

The baby was six months when my daughter turned 4, so we were not structured much at all early on.  Fortunately, I had put together the letter of the week activities before having the baby, so every once and awhile we were doing that.  By the time the four year old was a 4 1/2 year old, the baby was one and I had started to do more for her and more for the baby.  It’s interesting to look back at the goals I had for my one year old daughter for tot school, as I definitely do things a little bit differently with this second one.  I realized also, that he’s at a different place than my daughter was at the same time, so I had to make a different set of expectations for him (coming soon 🙂 ).

In looking at my goals for my first, I can see elements of the school system still with me, like the calendar I was doing.  When I got pregnant and sick, I put it away because I wasn’t doing it with her anymore.  Then, just a couple months ago I thought, since she was 4 1/2, she’d probably love to do it.  But, she didn’t.  She would remember once in awhile.  I would rarely remember.  Then I realized that it was so school-like.  We don’t have a blank month and add dates to it!  We have a calendar with all the dates to look at.  So, I got her one to color, like this, but it was at the dollar store, so much cheaper!  We write down the things we’re doing during the month, and she can see how days work.  And she’s getting it. By the time she turned five, she was crossing off days, sometimes a little late, but she was doing it herself and remembering herself.

 Each Week

  1. Go somewhere at least once, hopefully more than once.
  2. Read at least a couple books each day
  3. Be outside for at least 3 hours each day (because I read this book).  It used to be 2 hours, but my son definitely needs more time outside.
  4. No more than 2 hours total of screen time each day (watching my own screen time use when I’m around her, as well.)
  5. One planned week a month to do planned activities (at least).
  6. Make sure she has plenty of free play — not planned or in any way guided by me.
  7. (when the baby was 15 months) Start using nap time for “mom and daughter time” — just reading or doing chores.  Sometimes what she wanted, and sometimes what I wanted.

I still have my personal goals as a parent (and former teacher).

  1. Work on making sure I don’t control too much of her learning.  As a classroom teacher, I’m in complete control of what everyone is doing, and it’s all geared toward a learning objective.  And it has to be.  There are 35 kids in that room and anything less than that would lead to chaos.  But, with natural learning, learning is happening all the time.  The learning that occurs is not based on some timetable or idea I have, it’s what she’s doing in her brain.  I need to keep that in mind and make sure I’m not leading her in a direction she doesn’t want to or need to go.   I’m constantly surprised by what she knows, so I know it works.  I just need to make sure I get better and better at just providing opportunities for her to continue to surprise me.
  2. The first naturally leads to the second, make sure I have things that inspire learning strewn about, offering plenty of opportunities to explore.
  3. A new goal this year, based solely on reading and learning about TJEd, is working on my own education.  I’m trying to make more time for posting things here.  I’ve also started an adult’s classics book club with some friends.  I’ve always wanted to read more classics, but kept putting it off in favor of more fluffy books like romance novels. I love happy endings.  But, one of the key components of TJEd is “you, not them.” That if I want to “inspire, not require” my kids to be learners and love it, I have to be doing it too.
  4. Maintain my love and skill in planning activities for kids, which is more of the “you, not them” stuff. I started a kid’s classic book club as well.  It’s been a lot of fun to plan, read and participate in it.
  5. Try to instill a love of work in myself (and her.) Family work — helping clean once a day and helping with some meal prep

The following list of items are things she learned, since I had no idea what would happen this year, I am posting this now that she’s five. I kept our planned activities and themes simple this year due to the new baby.  (See posts for them here.)

I’m going to reiterate something from my post last year, because I think seeing a list like this does make one want to start checking things off and comparing.  But, kids are so different, and they reach developmental milestones at different times, so these lists are purely for data nerds like me.  I like looking at lists like this to see what she’s learned that I haven’t even thought of or noticed.

I don’t think it’s necessary to push any skill or specific knowledge.  She’ll learn, because she wants to or when it’s necessary for her to do so, not because I push it on her.  I think that is something that rings true for every person, regardless of age. So, her interests lead the way.  Any activity I post was done or not done according to her time table.  I offered an activity, and sometimes she was all ready to go (and may have even wanted more), other times she finished half and wanted to do the rest later, and other times she didn’t want to do it at all.  All of those scenarios were fine with me.

In talking with a person online about this, they were very against the idea of planning anything, I realized that for some people natural learning isn’t planned at all.  For me, I see it as an extension of her interests.  I think all people do this.  If you have a child who likes animals, you’d plan a visit to the zoo.  If you have a child who likes trains, you’d buy them some.  If your child likes to color, you provide crayons and paper.  I feel that what I do is the same thing.  She’s interested in doing planned activities…even the worksheets.  So I plan activities based on what I think she’ll enjoy, and we do them (or we don’t).

Of course, her time frame of things will be different than every other kid, since they are all so (annoyingly…wonderfully) unpredictable. 😉  Click here to go to Learning: Age 5.

 Life Skills

  1. Dressing: She dresses herself.  Only needs help with laces and some buttons. She can do the first step of tying her shoe. She’s definitely getting her own style and is working on understanding what goes with what.  She likes clothes and seems to like all clothes – the hand me downs that are gender neutral or even “boy” (you know, space pajamas :/ ), are as oohed and ahhed over as much as the beautiful dresses. 🙂
  2. Hair: She’s still working on brushing her hair well, but she’s much better and can even put bows in her hair. Sometimes the bows even look good without tweaking. 😉
  3. Goes to the bathroom by herself.
  4. Family Work: she takes out the compost, waters plants, helps clean, puts silverware away, helps unload groceries and puts toilet paper away.
  5. Getting her own snacks: She can get most things that are simple: cucumbers, tomatoes, pb and j sandwich, cereal, carrots – she peels the skin off and eats it, etc.
  6. Help more with cooking and baking: this fell to the wayside with second kid coming, but trying to get back on this.  She definitely is more adventurous with food when she helps make it.
  7. Knows left from right
  8. Know some more safety rules (i.e. fire, earthquake, 911, etc.) (We did do some fire safety rules for F week, and we have had her practice calling her dad on my cell phone just in case there’s an emergency. She almost knows our phone number and address, needs a little help to start and then she remembers.)
  9. The Baby Is the Lesson: She has gotten very good at keeping him entertained.  She has also had to learn about how babies need us and can’t always understand or control themselves like four year olds can. She’s learned a lot about giving of herself.What Your Four Year Old Can Learn
  10. Get better at controlling emotions (give her tools and words to do so): We are talking a lot about this.  Some tools we’ve been trying to instill: breathing, talk [not yell or cry], take a break from something.  She’s had to learn a lot about sharing this year.  Sharing time with me, sharing her things with her brother.
  11. Play independently:  She has no problem doing this inside, but has rarely done this outside.  Now that she has a brother who plays with her (near her).  She stays out a bit more.
  12. Initiative: Plans a lot more of her own activities.  Follows through on her ideas more often.
  13. People Skills: My parents moved next door right at the beginning of this year.  She’s learned a lot about being different around different people to follow their rules, and so much housekeeping! Baking bread from starter, gardening, cleaning, etc.  She’s also learning to wait for the pause in the conversation before talking. We’ve also been discussing how repeating something over and over can be annoying to the listener.
  14. Friendship skills: She’s learning about taking turns, moderating, compromise, and not getting too upset when kids don’t want to do what she wants to do.
  15. Self-Expression: She’s good at letting us know what she’s thinking.  She’s also starting to think for herself around friends, choosing to play somewhere else rather than play something she wasn’t comfortable with.

 Motor Skills

  1. She can catch and throw a ball well
  2. Knows how to dribble a ball
  3. Learned how to ride a bike (These are the best things ever for learning!)
  4. Kicks a ball far and pretty close to where she wants it to go
  5. Cut on lines, cut out things, staple things, tape things together
  6. Is crazy good with Lego, building things on her own (they may not look completely right, but she’s experimenting!)
  7. Can climb poles, up a doorway, goes forward and backward on the monkey bars.
  8. Can write letters and numbers
  9. Can balance on one foot
  10. Can do somersaults and almost a cartwheel
  11. Can cut food.  Can peel food. Cooked her own soup, after cutting all the vegetables.
  12. Colors inside the lines more often.
  13. Learning to ride a horse.
  14. Runs well and can walk backward

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Intellectual Development

  1. She can read. (Reading “program” : read books all the time,. We have books all over, a reading rich environment, including very early readers. I did the letter of the week with her.  And she did about 3-6 weeks (not consecutively) of the Reading Eggs program.  She also plays on Starfall.)
  2. Knows how to spell her name and a number of other words.  She also attempts to spell words she’s not sure of. And is content to ask how to spell words she wants to write.
  3. Knows her numbers 1-beyond 100
  4. Recognize numbers up to 100 (usually).
  5. Can read a clock – we have one similar to this, that has the minutes numbers.
  6. Knows the days of the weeks, but still isn’t fully aware of what day it is.
  7. Knows the months in order, but is unaware of how they really work
    (knows her birthday and age)
  8. Writes letters and numbers, still writes things backward like b and d, 3 and 2. 
  9. Keeps journals – daily (which she does not do daily), art, science, math, poetry, writing
  10. Draws more realistic pictures of people (all parts).
  11. Math: Can add and subtract (can do lower end numbers, addition better than subtraction), starting to know how to add fractions, drawing lines and shapes well, knows long/short and that inches are a measurement, does patterns, learning her coins more, knows odd and even numbers  (Math “program”: We try to have a math rich environment — access to math activities, pointing out math in life, using scholarly math language.  Ask addition and subtraction when they naturally make sense (i.e. more food, sharing food, etc.).  Helps with baking. Puts together her money for buying her farmer’s market treats and puts together her tithes and offerings.
  12. Chapter Books: We started reading chapter books aloud when she was 3 1/2.  She loves them. (And started reading some classics too!)

 

Learning: Ages 3-4

Learning: Age 5

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