The Thrilling Threes and Young Fours Program
Our 3-4 year-old program has 15 to 18 children and four teachers.
The program for three and four year old children focuses on listening and social skills.
At the beginning of the school year Teachers introduce a variety of art materials so children become comfortable using various mediums. Many types of paint are offered including watercolor, tempera, glitter, foam, puffy, fluorescent etc. and also the tools used to paint with vary (small brushes, large brushes, toothbrushes, gadgets, sponges, flowers, branches, etc.). Experiences with glue and glue sticks. are offered with collage materials such as fabric, yarn, colored paper, tissue, and natural materials gathered outside. As the year progresses, the complexity of the projects increases. In addition to creativity, children are working on fine motor skills as well as eye/hand co-ordination at the art table. The goal is for the experience to be open-ended with each child creating an individual piece. No adult made “models” are made and artwork is not expected to all look the same. Each child is an individual and so is their work. The process is what is important, not the product.
At the tables in the classroom one will find manipulatives and sensory materials. The manipulatives will include puzzles, Legos, alphabet blocks, magnet mazes, etc. Children are working on fine motor skills, sequencing, cause and effect, recognition of shapes and colors etc. Children are able to choose what materials to use and all materials offered are developmentally appropriate. The sensory materials can include; play dough, gak, shaving cream, flour, corn meal, water etc. As well as working on sensory awareness there are many science concepts explored. We experiment and make observations with teachers always available to extend the learning experience.
We read and sing every day. Stories are related to the current theme as well as ones that are relevant to the children’s lives (new baby, moving, self-esteem, emotions) as well as favorites. Books are always available to children on their bookshelf. We also use felt board stories, puppets, finger plays, musical instruments and dance to enjoy our group times together. This is also a wonderful time to listen to each other and practice or focusing skills and taking turns. In addition to reading books to children at circle and story times, it is our policy to read to children whenever a child brings a book to a teacher and asks.
Eating snack together is a very popular time. Healthy foods from at least 2 food groups are offered and water is offered to drink at snack and throughout the day. Children learn to serve themselves food and pour their own water. It is a great time to talk about healthy food and eating habits and to learn to take turns. There is lots of wonderful conversation that happens at this time. Teachers sit at each table, join in on the conversation, and support the children’s emerging skills.
Gross Motor Skills
These skills are developed when children run, climb, ride bikes, dig and use wheelbarrows. Children have fun playing in our outdoor “patio” area and our large sand yard. The Back Yard is also visited where there are many natural things to play with including; pine cones, rocks, sticks, leaves while we look for birds, butterflies, bugs and collect materials for our nature collages. On the climbing structure in our sand yard, the climbing bars are very popular. The children first learn to hang and drop and can progress to working their way across. Inside, gross motor skills are developed while dancing, doing parachute play, stretching and doing yoga.
Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills are developed while children use manipulative materials such as puzzles and Legos. The writing table (available daily) is a place where drawing and working on letters can improve fine motor skills. Assorted paper, envelopes, stencils, rulers, scissors are provided to stimulate interest and creativity. Crayons of all sizes and pencils (regular and colored) are provided. These work on the grip children need for writing. Research has shown that felt pens do not help develop the muscles in the hand needed for writing so they are only offered occasionally. The art table is another area where fine motor skills are used and developed.
Children are working on language development and social skills daily. Our program is set up so children have the opportunity to talk and play with each other and develop relationships. Children who need support with social problem solving skills are guided by teachers who use appropriate modeling and language. Through this process teachers help children find solutions. Teachers spend a lot of time talking and listening to children and will ask open ended questions to extend play to promote language development, positive social interactions and thinking skills in children.