Our Wednesday started with a wiggle, an itch to run, an inability to sit still, and a frustrated mom.
That sentence pretty much sums up my almost four year old boy, Grayson, and our relationship. He's incredibly smart, yet lacks the focus and discipline to sit down and participate in most activities. It's especially hard when his older sister wants to do something quietly, like reading a book, and he's zooming all over the house like a race car! I appreciate his enthusiasm and wild passion for enjoying life; however, I know that when he starts school this may become an issue.
Now that my oldest is off to kindergarten, and it's just me and the boy at home during the day, it has opened up a whole new world of activities for just us to engage in! I think the most important thing involved in teaching a child is just to know them. As a parent, we know better than anyone else our child's strengths (imagination, energy), weaknesses (concentration, self-control), and interests (action toys/stories). Identifying descriptive words that fit your own children can be really helpful in tailoring activities and lessons that will work for them. Go ahead, try it!
How To: Hands-On Storytelling
Knowing how Grayson ticks, I came up with the idea for hands on storytelling, because I thought it would give him something to do while I read.
At first, I would just give him a toy that related to whatever we were reading about and have him act out parts of the story, but over the past few months, this has grown in to an even more engaging activity as we've developed it. I now usually begin by giving him 2-3 objects, one of them is always a sensory or engineering material. Today we used clay and popsicle sticks. Other ideas include sand, paper clips, legos, pillows, or rocks.
It's really quick and easy to grab a couple building materials and a toy, so this activity happens quite a bit at our house. I used to read books aloud while he just played with the toy, but now, it has become much more; now I make up stories of my own! Depending on what he's interested in at the moment, I'll find a toy that fits and develop a scenario. Today's went something like this…
Me: Grayson, I've just spotted an ogre! He's really hungry and he wants to eat this brave knight! You have to help him! What should we do?
Me: Great idea! Let's build a house for him, ready to follow directions?
I then proceeded to give him directions for building a cube. I used phrases like "Roll six balls out of the white clay" or "Attach two balls to the ends of a blue popsicle stick." This way we were able to work on counting and color recognition as well. Then, I had him attach the bottom together making a square, now we were learning shapes, which eventually evolved into geometry as he built a cube - go engineering skills! Let's not forget, he's also sitting still and actively following directions!
He was then very excited to knock the house down when the ogre attacked it! I don't know many boys who don't enjoy destruction! This activity is also wonderful for helping kids think about cause and effect, as well as problem solving. If a hungry ogre is coming towards you and he just destroyed your house, what do you do next? If you're an imaginative, four year old boy, you capture him.
Gray used his fine motor skills to roll out a rope, and then chained the monster up! It didn't last long, however, he broke free and eventually had to be attacked by popsicle stick birds which he imagined and built himself! Giant spiders came into existence next, and an epic battle was waged during the battle of the white table. It was close, but mutant clay army eventually pulled ahead in numbers and was able to swarm over the ogre, defeating him once and for all!
Little boys are so much fun! I know I never had this much imagination as a kid, so his rambunctious spirit is something I want to cherish and help channel rather than trying to squelch it in the name of orderly instruction.
I'm often reminded of the Albert Einstein quote, "Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." No one may ever use the label 'studious' for my boy, but that doesn't mean he isn't gifted in his own way. It's our job as parents to bring out the talents in our children and help them learn to focus them. I think Gray and I are well on our way.