Written by Kara Fleck, Simple Kids editor and Rockin’ Granola mama.
There’s a magical little creature who lives at our house. She’s very shy around strangers, but around her family she lights up the room and is sometimes the noisiest child in this large family of ours.
She makes up stories and plays games. She has a vivid imagination. She loves horses and the color purple and baby dolls. She dances and sings and also likes to sit quietly with a stack of picture books or a pile of paper and crayons. She wears twirly dresses and silky capes and also Batman pajamas and a pirate’s eye patch.
This magical creature’s name is Lucy and she’s my four year old daughter.
“Four is, indeed, highly versatile. What can he not do? He can be quiet or noisy, calm or assertive, cozy or imperious, suggestible or independent, social, athletic, artistic, literal, fanciful, cooperative, indifferent, inquisitive, forthright, humorous, dogmatic. He is many people in one.” – Your Four Year Old: Wild and Wonderful by Louise Bates Ames, PhD.
My four and a half year old’s four current favorite things
1. Being the “little mommy”
If she has seen me do it, Lucy copies it. I have a little mimic and we jokingly call her “little mama Lu.” Little mama pretends by reading books to her babies and by rocking, comforting, feeding, and caring for them. She makes grocery lists and cooks for them and takes them to the living room “library.” She even has a little cardboard computer that she sets up on a milk crate desk, where she writes her blog and does her budget, just like mama.
She has a little family of six children, her baby dolls, each one loved and adored and unique in her eyes. We recently compromised on the half a dozen trips she was making up and down the stairs each morning (and then repeats at night) transporting her little dolly family from her bedroom to the living room.
We decided that carefully pack all of her babies into a milk crate and allowing a grown up to carry them down stairs in the morning and back upstairs at night was better, and Lucy never forgets to remind us to “bring my babies for me, please.”
Her mothering extends past her babies to include her siblings, too. She’s capable of being very gentle and patient (especially for a four year old) with her toddler sister. She’s usually at my elbow when I pack the diaper bag, watching what I include and reminding me if I forget anything Amelia might need.
Recently my eleven year old reported that she woke up in the middle of the night to Lucy pulling up her blanket. When asked about it the next day, Lucy said, “I didn’t want her to be cold and she had no blankets. She might get a shiver.”
Which is not to say that she’s not sometimes stubborn or cross or that she doesn’t have days when she absolutely refuses to share anything and stomps and shouts. While she can be very sweet and caring, the pendulum can also swing the other way. But, thankfully, not quite as often or rapidly as at age three.
Lucy either LOVES something or she flat out HATES it. There isn’t a lot of middle ground and compromises are hard won.
And, while her mimicry is adorable when she’s at my side, copy-catting her older sister isn’t so appreciated. From a parenting standpoint, it can be tricky to navigate the needs of the eleven year old for privacy and personal space when the four year old wants to constantly be at her side, fascinated by all that her big sister says and does.
And, it didn’t take Lucy long at all to figure out that if she wants to annoy her older sister all she has to do is copy everything she says. (It also didn’t take Jillian very long to figure out to be silent and smile, thankfully.)
2. Cooking and baking
Whenever Christopher or I are in the kitchen, no matter the time of day or the meal, you can bet that Lucy is not far away. She’s very curious about cooking and food. She seems to be particularly interested in some of the ways we use food in social situations, too. More than once she has brought a smile to the lips of a visitor to our house by asking them if they want something to drink or eat and Lucy is always the first one to remind me that we need cocoa after every trip outside.
She does a lot of imitation and pretend play with her toy dishes and play food, but she really loves any chance to cook “for real.” From cracking eggs, to stirring, to adding ingredients, to tearing up lettuce and chopping up veggies with her safety knife, she is actually making a real contribution in the kitchen. The learning tower is a good aid in this and lets her get right up to the counter alongside us.
She enjoys any opportunity for using the real kitchen tools – the rolling pin and pizza wheel are her favorites (the latter with close adult supervision, of course).
She helps put away the groceries and has learned the names of many fruits and vegetables this way. Helping to put things away means that she knows where they are when it is time to use them as we prepare food, too.
Foods Lucy likes to help make:
- cinnamon rolls
- salads (lots of chopping, cutting, and tearing)
3. Being read to
There are some advantages to being one of the younger children in a large family: there is always someone to read to you, being one of them.
Lucy will bring us stacks of carefully chosen books and sit and read with us. More and more I’m also noticing that she will sit and recite the stories she has memorized and “read” to herself, too. Books and stories often become a jumping off point for pretend play.
She has an affinity for chain or circular stories where she can predict what happens next.
Lucy’s current favorite books:
4. Painting and crafting
Within the past two months or so it is as if someone has flipped a switch and Lucy’s creative drive is “on.” If it involves painting, cutting, glue, glitter, stickers, or pom poms this child is interested and eager to dive in!
Lucy likes to make crafts with a purpose and will usually tell me about its purpose as she’s crafting and then narrate a possible scenario for it’s use. Recently she made a “centerpiece for the table” from craft sticks glued to a paper plate in a careful and very purposeful manner. It might look random to an outside observer, but Lucy was serious about the placement of each stick.
Or sometimes she will draw or paint a picture “for the wall” or be cutting felt and declare it “for a doll blanket.” She’s very keen on her projects having a purpose. And we, of course, are happy to oblige.
Other things Lucy loves at age four and a half: playing outside (especially if we have snow!), knock knock jokes, taking walks, getting the mail, Wednesday mornings when the garbage trucks come, visiting the library, going grocery shopping with Daddy, going to the recycling center, eating cinnamon toast, and taking baths with lots of bubbles (as long as she doesn’t have to wash her hair).
“The typical Four-year-old is gloriously humorous. From a loud guffaw to a subtle, sly wink, he runs the gamut of humorous expression.” – Your Four Year Old: Wild and Wonderful
There’s not much better than a smiling, happy four year old – wouldn’t you agree?
Does a four year old live at your house? What are they interested in these days? What are some of the challenges of this age? Some of the joys?