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Full of derring do - By RUTH LIEW

Life is one big adventure for four-year-olds.
TURNING four is a happy time for many children. Four-year-olds like telling silly jokes. They are imaginative and can make up many stories with unbelievable plots and incredible feats.Four-year-olds are well-known for using “colourful” language. They do not use profanity like some adults would, to hurt. They like to laugh out loud when they say words like “stupid” or “bum bum”. They are just curious to observe the reactions of people when they say certain taboo words.

Four-year-olds like to try new things and show off what they can do. They can sometimes be “daredevils” when it comes to trying out dangerous tricks or jumping down from a height. They need close supervision during playtime. Parents and caregivers must constantly remind them to be mindful of safety when they are playing.
Children this age are keen to participate in daily routines. Let them join in the food preparation and cleaning-up at home. Show them how to wring a cloth or grate a carrot for salads and popiahs.Four-year-olds take great pride in their small achievements. They want to be useful and helpful. Praise them for their efforts. When they feel encouraged, they will be motivated to do what is right. At this stage of development, they are working on being able to show initiative rather than wait to be told what to do.

This is also a good time to introduce multi-cultural activities and gender awareness to your child. Many four-year-olds are interested in knowing the difference between boys and girls. They also want to know why other people do things differently from them.

Choose books with themes that are free of gender and disability biases. Talk to your child about how other children in the world live, learn and play. Take your child to cultural plays and performances.Make it a point to get picture books that depict children with disabilities. Your child will enjoy hearing the interesting jobs that men and women do. Children this age love to ask, “Why?” “How?” and “What?”

Nature walks and making observations of nature are probably among the activities that four-year-olds enjoy immensely.Children don’t really need large garden plots to grow vegetables and flowering plants. You can get a small garden box for your child to work on. He will love watering the plants and measuring their growth.Adults who join children in pretend play often find themselves in a fix when four-year-olds show little regard for objective truth. I remember observing a four-year-old playing masak-masak (pretend cooking). She put all the plastic babies into the pan and laughingly said: “Look! I’m frying ‘babies’.”

In pretend play, children usually work out their strong emotions. Adults should just allow them to carry on rather than discipline them by saying: “Oh! You shouldn’t say such words.” Use positive words when talking to your child. You can steer them towards appropriate behaviour by suggesting: “Let’s try doing this and see what happens.” Or, “Tell me what I can do to help you in your work.”

Four-year-olds can relate to your messages easily. If you want them to act positively, try setting an example for them to follow.Encourage your child to do more physical exercises. Your energetic child will enjoy playing beanbag games that require balancing, tossing, jumping over, running to and fro, skipping and catching.Set up a simple obstacle course with chairs, pillows and coffee tables. Your child can crawl under, jump over and slide across.
I once used a bedsheet to make a tent for my children to crawl into. This is great fun for children in their early years. We used to snuggle together with torchlight and do shadow play.Be sensitive to your four-year-olds’ feelings during play. Children this age get frustrated easily and often harbour fears of the unknown. Sometimes they may not want to do the activities that you have spent much effort and time on. Do not force them to comply as this may trigger off a major temper tantrum.
Children learn through repetition. If your child enjoys certain activities, let him do it again. He may need several repeats before he finally does it well and feels satisfied with his efforts.

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