Teaching conference on Friday of this week will be all about “stuff 4 year olds do”. Enjoy this (annotated) primer on a day in the life of a preschooler!
6 am: Wake up, bright and early. Dress myself (for the most part), brush my teeth, and use the potty all without help (though supervision is advised). Some kids at this age will sleep in, but many are early birds. Parents can try one of many available light up alarm clocks as a way to encourage staying in bed for an extra few minutes.
6:30 am: Pick from one of 2-3 specific, preferred meals for breakfast and begin a day long marathon of non-stop talking, story-telling, and question asking. Preschoolers are social eaters, unlikely to sit still and eat on their own, they often need an adult or other kids to be sitting and eating at the same time to be successful. Oh and they talk, and talk, and talk.
8 am: Head off to preschool in my forward facing car seat until the maximum height and weight allowed by the car seat manufacturer (usually ages 5-6). Not all children have access to preschool at this age, but whenever possible it should be recommended as a way to support healthy social development and school readiness.
9 am – noon: Play like crazy, painting, building, make believe, swinging, sliding, running, and did I mention, TALKING. Children this age have boundless energy, often needing help with limit setting and redirection to more restful, quiet activities (and bathroom breaks) before becoming overwhelmed.
Noon: Lunch – a selection of various snacks that will, on any given day, be either eaten ravenously or returned in disgust without any rhyme or reason.
1 pm: Nap. Not all preschoolers take naps, but many, if not most, still need at least some quiet time. Encourage parents to mandate quiet time periods into the day, even if a child chooses not to nap, it is hard to get adequate amounts of sleep during the night alone.
5 pm: Return home, recount the days events to whomever will listen. Children at this age often blur fantasy and reality, filling stories with a mix of facts and “untruths” making a clear picture of the days events quite difficult to discern.
6 pm: Dinner, see breakfast re: social eating.
7-8 pm: Bath and bedtime. 4 year olds are fascinated with learning about their bodies and exploring gender differences. Many are fixated on “potty talk” and bath time often becomes prime question and answer time regarding the various differences in people’s bodies.
Bedtime can continue to be a struggle at this age. Consistency is key. As kids become more verbal and thoughtful, they also start to come up with more creative excuses, or curtain calls: “I have to pee”, “I need a drink of water”, “I think I want to become a vegetarian and I am feeling guilty about eating that hot-dog for dinner”, etc. Check out Dr. Craig Canapari’s website for some great advise.
Selected References for Conference:
Planned Parenthood: talking to preschoolers about gender
The Atlantic re: pediatricians and gender dysphoric kids
Human Rights Campaign: Supporting and Caring for Transgender Children