What should a 4 year old know? This sort of question is common for parents with children of all ages, but especially in the lead up to school.
All children develop at their own pace and they all learn in different ways. It’s important that we focus not just on academic skills but more so on life skills, particularly in the Early Years age bracket.
So these are some of the important things that children should know:
- They should know they are loved all of the time, even when we get upset with them.
- They should know that playing is just as important, if not more important, than learning to spell their name or count to 20.
- They should know that it’s important to use their imagination and that their creativity is valued, as this is how we build innovative people.
- They should know it’s ok to make mistakes as this is how we all learn to be better and do better.
- They should know their own interests and that it is important that they follow them. If they aren’t interested in learning numbers or letters that is perfectly ok, they will learn them through exploring their interests, because dinosaurs have interesting names to spell and building blocks are great for counting.
- They should know that they have the ability to make choices and that knowing your own mind is a positive trait to have.
- They should know that asking questions, even if it is a million a day, is always a good thing. If we don’t learn to question then we don’t learn at all.
- They should know that they are safe and that they can trust their instincts and feelings when they feel uncomfortable or like something is not right, regardless of who might be involved in the situation.
- They should know how to laugh, how to be silly and not take things so seriously
- They should know that they are amazing, creative, compassionate, talented and capable human beings
But more important, here’s what parents need to know:
- That every child learns to walk, talk, read and write in their own time frame and in their own way, and that this does not necessarily have any effect on how successful they will be with any of those things.
- That the single biggest predictor of high academic accomplishment is reading to children. Not tracing books, not worksheets, not fancy schools, not electronic devices or expensive toys, but parents taking the time every day or night to sit and read them wonderful books.
- That being happy does not equate to being the smartest or most accomplished child in the class. We can get so caught up in trying to give our children “advantages” that what they end up with is lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.
- That our children deserve to be surrounded by books, nature, art supplies and the freedom to explore them. We could get rid of 90 percent of the expensive toys we’ve bought, and our children would not be disadvantaged or even miss them after a couple of days. There are some things are important– building toys like LEGO and blocks, creative toys like all types of art materials, musical instruments (real ones and multicultural ones), dress-up clothes and books, books, books.
- That our children really just need us to spend time with them, doing real things together, simple things, like cooking the dinner or washing the dishes, eating meals together without distractions, and just talking and playing.
With all of this said, if there are areas where it seems your child could use some support it’s not a sign of failure for either you or your child, you may both have just not happened upon it yet. Children will learn whatever they’re exposed to, so if you work whatever concept your concerned about into life and play they will naturally pick it up. Count to the number of cups when you’re mixing a cake and they’ll pick up numbers, sing songs while you’re cleaning and read books and they will learn letters and words. If it happens naturally, with much more fun and much less pressure it will become learning for life instead of just learning for the moment.