We’ve heard from many of you that you’d love some ideas for being with your 4-5 year olds during this crazy time. I so hear you — although my youngest is now 9 years old, I can still remember the exhaustion of keeping my pre-K kid busy until it was his bedtime. Honestly, when, a few years ago, some of the Dynamo Girl partner schools asked us to start running classes for Pre-K girls, we did it with major trepidation. While kids that age appear to be just miniature versions of their 1st grade friends who we could coach with our eyes closed, in reality, we needed to write a whole new playbook for our 4 year old Dynamos (and definitely needed eyes wide open at all times!)
Here are some lessons we learned coaching this age group:
- At this age, kids have not built up a lot of physical endurance so keep activities and games short. Don’t freak out if they’re only interested in playing for 10 minutes. 10 minutes is a great accomplishment!
- Keep your explanations short and simple. They are not familiar with many of the activities you might introduce (they’re only 4!) so they may ask a lot of questions and that is OK. Don’t forget to bring lots of excitement to your explanations – they will feed off your enthusiasm.
- Developmentally, they are just learning motor skills and so it is normal for them to be a little clumsy. They may fall often and bump into each other. This is totally normal and they just need a lot of positive and upbeat encouragement to keep going.
- At this stage in their development, kids this age can kick and throw but have trouble catching, can only balance for a very short periods of time (5 seconds or less). They are able to run, jump and skip but may not be able to do more advanced movements and may tire very suddenly. Be patient with them!
- Encouragement and excitement is key to this age group. They respond well to lots of positive reinforcement. They love it when they have permission to be silly so encourage lots of laughing and funny ideas.
- When teaching sports skills, break them down into parts. For example, when teaching soccer, start with kicking only and then once they have been able to practice, move on to trapping. If trapping goes well then proceed to passing. If they are grasping all three, then they can move on to doing both kicking and passing together.
- Allow them to be creative and contribute ideas – they will constantly amaze you with just how innovative and thoughtful they can be!
- If they seem extra tired, it is ok to stop and do a seated activity- an art project, a quick game that doesn’t involve too much movement works well. Something that works well is to just ask a few funny questions: their favorite food or favorite color or favorite place to visit etc. and then encourage them to come up with their own categories to ask you. This is a very simple way to keep them engaged and to feel like they have some power and expertise.
Fun Dynamo Clubhouse games and activities for this age group:
Dynamo Balloon Races: This is a relay race using balloons (or a stuffed animal or a pair of socks or a pillow). Although it’s a “race” there doesn’t have to be a winner or loser – just encourage them to finish and cheer each other on. If you have one child at home, have them race against the clock while timing them. Some options are:
- Balloon between their legs – pick a starting line and an end line. Place a balloon gently between the legs near the upper thighs. The goal is to get to the opposite end of the space without the balloon falling out or popping.
- Balloon on top of head – place a balloon on top of the head and see how far they can run without it falling off. Mark their personal record with an object on the floor and see if they can beat their personal record next time.
- Balloon across the space with your mouth (only works with a balloon!) – start with holding the balloon in one hand and on the “go” signal, they will start blowing on the balloon to keep it in the air. See how far they can get the balloon to travel just by blowing on it.
- Balloon with just one hand – start at one end of the space holding a balloon in the palm of one hand. No other part of the hand can touch the balloon and see how far your kid can go without it falling off her hand.
Moving Musical “Chairs”: Instead of using chairs for this, you can have some kind of spots on the floor – like paper plates or pieces of colored paper, anything that is safe to stand on. When the music starts, everyone (even if it’s just you and your kid) start dancing/moving around the space. When the music stops, everyone finds a spot. Every round, a spot is taken away and then all the players have to fit on the spots that are left. The rule is that at least one body part has to be on a spot – an elbow, a hand, a toe, a nose, anything! At the end there should be one spot left on which everyone has to try to fit. This game encourages sharing, teamwork and cooperation and gets everyone moving and dancing!
Poly spot activity: This can be done with anything you have on hand instead of a polyspot (pieces of paper, a pillow, etc) This activity is done like a contest – there is one person calling out a specific movement and the other people competing or being timed to see how fast they can complete the movement. It starts with simple movements and progresses to more challenging things. So the first one can be, “stand on the polyspot,” then, “put one toe on the polyspot,” then your hand, your nose, your ear, your elbow, etc. The first person in each round to get there the fastest wins a point. You can also do this without it being a contest and just get really silly.
Links to creative activities that don’t require adult supervision:
Mo Willems Drawing Lessons online
Podcasts for Younger Listeners
Read Aloud Stories