Tag Archive | 4 year old

The Secret Is Out

I’m not good at keeping the “I have a fun surprise for you” type of secrets.  If I’m excited about something, it’s really hard for me to contain that excitement!  Thankfully, my children were able to hear a good amount of related conversation between The Brain and myself and not put it all together and figure out that we were making plans for a playset to be built in the back yard.

Today, however, they got to join in the excitement themselves.  The builder arrived half an hour early, which ended up making The Great Reveal even better.  When Drama Queen and Mr. BANG woke up and came downstairs, The Brain and I told them we had set up a scavenger hunt for them.  We explained that they would find one item that would be completely out of place.  That item itself would be a clue for a big surprise we had in store for them.

Almost immediately – before Mr. BANG even started looking – Drama Queen found this:

A swingset and slide made from Bendaroos, hidden under the love seat by the back windows of the house.

They started guessing that they were getting new dolls, or that there was a new playground in the playroom.  Not quite…

We led them to think about where a playset would be.  Once they finally guessed “in the back yard,” we pulled up the window shades.  There was Shane and his assistant, already in process of building a playset.  Perfection!

During the two hours of construction, the kids frequently watched out the window and once went outside to watch.  (They had a better view from the window!)


After the truck drove away to fulfill a dream for the next family, outside we ran.  Drama Queen immediately immersed herself in new Peter Pan games.


Mr. BANG tried out the glider horse for a few minutes…then spent the next 45 minutes digging in dirt.  When you’re three years old, pretty much nothing compares to God’s greatest toy: dirt!


The hard-to-keep surprise was definitely a hit.  And now my backyard looks the way I’ve envisioned since we moved in nearly two years ago!


*If you live in TN, GA, KY, or AL, and you’re looking for a great, wooden playset, I highly recommend Hop’s Fun Factory!


Leap Year Fun

When you are three and four years old, as my two children are, four years is pretty much an unimaginable amount of time.  While trying to help them understand the concept of Leap Year, I decided to do a fun project with them.  This was pretty much a spur-of-the-moment thing, so without any preparation, we spent the first part of our morning yesterday putting together a Leap Year time capsule.  We did some math (just using fingers) to figure out how old they will be four years from now when we open the time capsule.

I let them start decorating the box as I explained more about what it was for and how we would use it.  (I just grabbed an Amazon box that hadn’t been taken to the recycling center yet.)

We tried to think of things to put in the capsule that express who they are and what their interests are right now.  Mr. BANG immediately brought out his Cranky toy (the crane from Thomas and Friends), saying that that’s his favorite toy.  Once I reinforced that the things in the box would be put away for four years, he quickly put that back on the shelf.  However, Drama Queen brought out a single piece of wooden train track – perfect!  They have a huge bin of track pieces, so they’ll never miss that one.

We thought of some more things to put in that represent activities they enjoy:  stickers, a crayon, WikkiStix in the shape of a balloon (their favorite thing to make with WikkiStix, a little puzzle, etc.


Drama Queen helped me choose some recent photos of the two of them doing fun things, such as making Daddy’s birthday cake, meeting Daisy Duck in DisneyWorld, and Drama Queen dressed in her own self-made Peter Pan costume.  I just printed those off on my printer since I hadn’t planned ahead and ordered prints of them.

Mr. BANG got to work on making some artwork for the box.  He loves dot painting, so he chose a picture and started painting.  Drama Queen later made one of her own.


One activity Drama Queen loves repeating during school is to make booklets of her number writing.  She added one of those to the box as well.

As they worked on those things, I wrote out a list of things that would be interesting for them to reflect back on when they’re older.  I included items such as Favorite Thing to Do Outside, Favorite Thing to Do in School, and, of course, What I Want to Be When I Grow Up.  For the most part, I wrote down exactly what they answered, but there were a couple times that they said something random, so I put my observation of the real answer.  For example, when I asked Drama Queen about her favorite thing to play, she answered “truck driver.”  What?  She had driven a ride-on dump truck in my bathroom that morning…for about five minutes.  What she spends all day doing, though, is acting out Peter Pan, her latest obsession.  So I wrote down Peter Pan.  Also, I started out asking Drama Queen each question first, but quickly realized that Mr. BANG would parrot her answers.  (As he did with “truck driver.”) For the rest of the questions, I asked him first.

As we moved into our normal school lessons, I decided to take pictures of the children as they did their work.  I compiled those photos onto a couple pages and included them in the time capsule, along with a written out schedule of the day.


Once everything was in the box, they helped me tape on a note reminding us of when the box can be opened, then we stashed it away in Mr. BANG’s closet.  That may not be the best place for it as he gets older, but for right now his large, walk-in closet is used for family storage so it’s a perfect spot.

I realize that I’m posting this after Feb. 29, the special day of Leap Year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still do this project with your family.  The Leap YEAR is no where near over yet!  🙂

DIY: Green Boards

I’m actually a bit baffled by the subject of this post, the Montessori Green Boards.  I have two pages about them in my Language manual, and they are presented as an important exercise in developing beautiful handwriting.  When I was preparing to introduce Drama Queen to them recently, I assumed I would likely make them, but decided to check prices online first.  To my surprise, I haven’t been able to find them anywhere!  I checked several of the discount Montessori websites as well as Nienhuis, and haven’t found anything like the Green Boards described in my manual.  A search for the term “green board” only brought up personal-sized green chalk boards on which to practice writing letters.  Strange!  I considered skipping the Green Boards, thinking that they must not be very important if no one even sells them.  However, upon further reflection, I decided that I really like them and really thought Drama Queen would benefit from working with them.  So, I gathered materials to make my own green boards.

The Green Boards are an extension of the sandpaper letter lessons.  First, the teacher gives the child one-on-one lessons with three sandpaper letters at a time until the child is familiar with all the letters.  Then the child is able to play games with the letters, such as guessing which letter the teacher is tracing in the air, writing the letters in sand, or tracing a letter blindfolded, making the sound of it, and having a friend verify the correct sound.  The next step is for the child to work with the Green Boards, which contain several letters on each board.  The purpose of the Green Boards is to help children understand the relationships between the written letters – all the letters of a similar formation are grouped together on one Green Board.  This is how I grouped the letters (keep in mind that the letters are in cursive on the Green Boards):

c o a d g q

i u w t

n m v x y z

s r j p

e l b f h k

My Language manual’s description of the Green Boards is that they are similar to the sandpaper letters in terms of the size of the letter and the fact that the letters are made of sand, to be traced by the child.  Instead of on red boards (consonants) or blue boards (vowels), they are all on, wait for it… green boards.  I didn’t want to spend the time to cut sandpaper letters or even felt letters, as I did when I made the Sandpaper Numerals.  Instead, I wrote the letters in pencil (about half the size of the sandpaper letters).

I then used a black Sharpie to trace over the top and bottom lines and the middle dashed line.  This is the child’s first exposure to lines in letter writing.

I traced over the letters in glue, then sprinkled sand from the children’s sand table over the glue.

At first I was using Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue, but it wasn’t working well.  I ended up switching to plain old Elmer’s glue.  In this pic (which I couldn’t get to stay turned the right way), you can see the top with Elmer’s and the bottom with Aleene’s.

I made these with 12×12 green cardstock I already had on hand.  I didn’t have enough of one shade of green, so I used two different shades.  Also, I couldn’t fit all the letters on one strip, so I did some taping together once the glue dried.  (I also went back over the Aleene’s letters with the Elmer’s glue.)


I let them dry overnight, then they were ready for Drama Queen’s fingers the next day.  She initially was very excited about working with them, as she is with any new material.   I first introduced the “c” board.  I explained that all the letters on that board start the same way when writing them.  We went through the letters one at a time, with me tracing, then her tracing.  It was a good review for her.  Then we traced through the whole set quickly to really feel the similarity.

After the first board, I told her she could practice with that one more on her own, we could stop for the day and continue again the next, or we could continue right then to the next board.  To my surprise, she wanted to keep going through every board that day.  At one point, she proclaimed, “I never knew this would be so much fun!”

I put them back on the shelf after the lesson, but that evening I taped them to the closet door.  In that location, they can be an easy visual reference when she is writing, and they are low so that she can still trace them with her fingers at any point.


Wrapping the Block

Do your kids love any opportunity to wrap gifts?  Mine do.  Especially using tape.  Tape is SOOO exciting if you’re under 4 ft. tall!  So, I decided that since ’tis the season for gift-wrapping, I’d let them have some practice – and get to use tape.

I decided that wooden blocks would be ideal for wrapping practice, so I figured out exactly what size of wrapping paper would perfectly fit one block.

Then The Brain was kind enough to cut out a whole stack of wrapping paper rectangles that same size.  I gathered several blocks in a basket, then put the basket on our art shelf next to a tray with the papers and two tape dispensers.

Of course, in the morning they were very excited to find out what this new exciting-looking thing on the shelf was.  It actually was one of those “she’s getting it!!” moments:  I overheard Drama Queen tell Mr. BANG, “Remember not to touch it until Mommy shows us what to do with it.”  Woo-hoo!  🙂

In the lesson, I first carefully demonstrated how to pull a small amount of tape from the dispenser, push downward to cut the tape off, and stick the end of the tape onto the art table (former breakfast-in-bed tray).  I instructed them to cut off four pieces of tape to hang from the art table.  (This step has continued to be tricky for them.  I had to help Drama Queen for awhile, and still am helping Mr. BANG tear the tape.)


Next, I showed how to place the block in the center of the paper.  I used the pincer grip (thumb against index and middle fingers) of both hands to pick up the two left corners of the paper and fold them over the block.  While the left hand held the paper in place, the right hand grabbed a piece of tape and taped the paper onto the block.  As an adult, that step is unnecessary, but it makes a big difference to a child trying to get the hang of keeping the object in place and keeping the paper held down.

I showed the right side the same way – use pincer grasp of both hands to pull the right corners of the paper into place, and use a piece of tape to hold them together.

The ends are a bit trickier.  I modeled how to fold the top down, fold the sides into triangular shapes, then fold the bottom up and tape.

At that point, they were ready to place the wrapped present under the tree.  However, they usually wanted to “write” the name of the recipient on the present first.  Then they would run to place the present under the tree and come right back for the next one.


They loved this activity so much, they actually used up all our rectangle wooden blocks of that size.  I then got out soft blocks of the same size.  When they had wrapped all those, they started experimenting with two blocks that would combine to make the rectangle.  Then Drama Queen started experimenting with completely different shapes, such as the cylinder blocks.

It was clear that this activity was VERY successful!  That afternoon, we celebrated a “practice Christmas.”  We all sat by the Christmas tree and handed out presents to each other.  The kids were so funny, saying things such as, “(gasp) What is it?!”  and “This is just what I’ve been wanting!!”

They were eager to start the wrapping over again the next day.  I decided to add another step in the process, however.  It occurred to me that this could be wonderful cutting practice.  So instead of cutting the wrapping paper, I drew bold lines with a black Sharpie on the back of the wrapping paper.  They got to cut their own paper!  Again, this was a thrill to them.

Mr. BANG unfortunately got frustrated because he wasn’t able to cut his paper very well.  (He seems to be left-handed.  Left-handed-experienced people, do I need to buy him special scissors?)

Drama Queen is perfectly happy cutting paper for both of them, so the thrill of wrapping presents is on-going!

  My little tree-hugger