Four-year-olds are often full of energy and love to move around, using their bodies to run, jump and climb. This is also a time when they are learning many new skills that they will need when they go to school, such as counting, letter recognition, colors and shapes. There are many activities that combine the two areas of development so that preschoolers are learning new concepts while also improving motor skills.
The classic playground game of hopscotch is a fun and versatile way to allow children to practice many cognitive and motor skills. Draw up to 10 boxes connected to each other on the ground and write the numbers 1 to 10 in each box. Have a child toss a small pebble or a bean bag onto the game board. Then he or she must hop or jump with one foot in each box until reaching the box in which the pebble landed. Encourage children to call out the number in the box after picking it up. This will help with number recognition and rote counting to 10. Four-year-olds are also just learning to hop on one foot, so this will help practice that skill. To vary this game, fill the boxes in the hopscotch grid with shapes or letters and ask children to name them as they hop onto each one.
Beach Ball Toss
Four-year-olds usually have developed the ability to throw and catch a large ball. Write several letters on different sections of the ball, then ask the child to catch the ball as it is tossed to him. Encourage him to catch the ball in his hands, without trapping it against his body. Before he moves his hands from the ball, ask him to say the name of the letter that is on the section his right hand is touching, then the child can toss the ball back. This game can help develop letter recognition and knowing his right from his left, as well as the physical skills of throwing and catching.
By 4 years old, children should be able to climb stairs while alternating feet, or using just one foot on each stair. Ask the child to count the steps as she climbs, to add a learning component to this skill. If you have a short staircase, ask your child to start counting with a number you give her. For instance, ask her to start at four, and she will recite “4, 5, 6, 7” as she climbs. Vary the number she begins with each time. Once the child has mastered counting, encourage her to call out the letters in her name as she climbs to practice spelling.
Bean Bag Toss
Many motor skills that young preschoolers have developed are being refined by the time they are four years old. For instance, as they get more practice with throwing, children are then more able to aim at a target as they throw. Practice color recognition and sorting with a bean bag toss game. Set up several laundry baskets or large buckets and label each one with a color. Provide the child with a variety of colored bean bags or even balled up socks. Ask the child to toss the bean bags into the basket labeled with each color. He will be working on matching and sorting as well as motor planning as he aims and tosses.