10 best toys for 4-year olds

The twins have turned 4-years old. They do not go to a formal environment of pre-school / day-care yet. They continue to be in their comfort environment of home and do what a 4-year old should be doing – play, play and play. Accordingly, we require lots of toys and props to keep them occupied throughout the day. So, what would these toys be?

I felt that I should make a list of 10 best toys for 4-years old, without breaking the bank, basis our experience. So, here goes. (O +ve and B +ve see smart-phones in the house but they are not fond of it as such. They have not been introduced to any apps on a digital screen for the purpose of either fun or learning).

Mud / Sand

O +ve and B +ve love splashing in the mud. Since they were young and learning to crawl, mud/sand has been their best friend. Be it in terms of developing gross motor skills or fine motor skills for a child or just throwing around, nothing beats the feel of mud/sand.

New houses keep getting constructed in the colony of their maternal grandparents and each visit to their house brings forth an occasion to have fun with mud/sand. One of the favourite destinations for Dirty Feet, their mother’s enterprise, is Potter’s Galli and all the potters in the village now know the liking of the girls for the mud.

It is a pity that the opportunity for the girls to revel in mud/sand come few and far in between nearer to our house. Their mother did propose to our apartment secretary to make a mud-pit on the terrace. However, the idea was shot down.

Water

At times, handling twins turn out to be a handful. The kids are in an irritable mode and are throwing tantrums around. Or just that you want the children to be on their own for some time.

Enter the tubs when the children knew only to sit. Enter the buckets when the children know how to stand.

Leave them alone with a bucket half-full of water and even after hours together, they will have to be dragged out of the water. If they are backed up by paper boats, food colours, flower petals, toy animals; nothing better than that.

Packaging material

In the ear of Amazon and Flipkart, a lot of packaging material come into the house. The bubble wraps, brown paper bags, carton boxes, plastic sheets, thermocol sheets – all have a role to play.

The girls love jumping on the bubble wraps. Brown paper bags of Amazon Now plays a stellar role in playing feed the shark, feed the bunny, join the dots, draw the family, free-hand sketching – what-all and what-not. The carton-boxes basis their size becomes a cave, a slide, a see-saw, a boat etc. The plastic sheets are used to cut and make shapes and for drying the fryums they make. The thermocol sheets are used for shredding them apart, use as a sledge, as a bed for their toys.

The girls follow the principle that whatever enters the house can be used. We are actually quite popular in the apartment for people to hand over their packaging material to us otherwise thrown out as trash.

Doh

O +ve and B +ve love playing with flour in any form. They are becoming adept at making roti as well, as they continue their doh fantasy into the kitchen. They like playing with play-doh just that it was turning out to be an expensive affair. So, their mother makes play-doh at home almost on a weekly basis with maida, food colours, salt and water. Not just through the moulds, you name anything and the girls will try to visualize it through their play-doh.

Nature-based collection

The girls have a fascination for collecting twigs, dried leaves, fallen leaves, seed-pods, insects, petals, stones – anything and everything that can be found in the park, on the road – anywhere. The easiest way to engage them is to hand them their nature bags and ask to go for a nature hunt. The only issue has been with the stray dogs that do not trust the two little girls going about their task diligently.

Books

The books are kept in book racks that the girls can easily reach up to. They do not have any dedicated time to have the books read to them, it is impromptu. Once read to them, they like repeating the stories to the most unsuspected listener that they can get themselves to hear to.

 Colours

Be it the regular crayons and colour pencils, or the water colours or the rangoli powder colours, or the gerua or the food colours, it is sure to transform any time of the day to a veritable riot of rainbow colours.

House-hold material

We encourage the girls to play with whatever they can lay their hands on – spoons, bowls, straws, screwdrivers, spanners, keys, locks etc. This also ensures that they think that the house is a big play-area and we are in a state of perpetual mess, never to find what we want at a given point of time. Just adds another dimension to our already crazy lives.

Blocks

The girls do have their collection of Lego blocks. It helps to have some kind of formal structures thrown into their other-wise unstructured growing up.

Open Spaces

This is the most important toy for our daughters. Nothing else to do but just run, hop, skip and jump.

A 4-year old has to be a 4-year old.  We believe that above are the 10 best toys for our 4-year old twin daughters.

What’s your say?

What should the parents of a 4-years old know – Part 2

This is the second part of “what should the parents of a 4-years old know”. For the first part, please click here.

Reward / Conditionality:

Being a stay-at-home parent has meant that I am never in a hurry. As the girls do not go to any formal environment, it has meant that they are also never in a hurry. In the case of any issue / any disagreement holding us up, we keep discussing it for whatever time possible, which is all the time. For that matter, even when we are outside the house.

We have consciously avoided getting the girls to act on a conditional basis. I promise that the focus will always be on the task and nothing else, though the task may not fructify at all, number of times.

Keep talking / explaining to the child:

As none of us is in hurry to do any task / go anywhere, we tend to discuss a lot. The girls keep on asking questions and I keep on giving answers to the best of my and Google’s capabilities. Though, this means that when we actually need to get ready / finish the task in a hurry, we are invariably late.

As a parent, I would want to encourage my child’s curiosity and if that means non-stop chattering and getting late for the task on hand, so be it. At least till the time, we can afford to.

Work on my own short-comings:

This is another tough one for me. I used to be a person with a short temper. I have realized that whenever I make the environment around not me not so pleasant, it has a direct impact on the girls. Of course, it is not a great discovery. For all the gyaan given to me, I had never heeded. Now, when I have seen the consequences on my daughters, I do not need any other further excuse not to change.

I realize that if there is anything that can bring about a positive change in one’s own self, it is being with a child.

Play, play & play:

What should the 4-year old be doing? Play, play & play.

Expectations:

It is a tough one. Well, let us be honest. After all the above inputs, what is the expected output? The child may not sing a nursery rhyme when you ask her to. S/he may not be at her best behaviour when you want her to. The child may want just a single pony when you want her to put two.

The resultant action of what we are trying to do with our children means that we have to keep our expectations from them in check.

I suppose around 3-5 years is the age of a child when s/he is actually a child. I have no memories of my being 3-5 years old. The daughters will also not have memories either when they are grown-up. How does it matter that they learn their alphabets/numbers 3-6 months, maybe even more, here and there?

We live only once, the childhood also comes only once. We long for those carefree days. It is not going to return for us though, and we have decided to give it to our daughters to the extent possible.

The last thing I want to know as a parent for my 4-year olds – Be a child.

PS: The things are of course not as good/rosy as I have written above. I am also trying to grow up with my daughters and trying to see how it works out for us, as a family. As mentioned in the beginning, we are a work-in-progress.

What should the parents of a 4-years old know

The twins have turned 4-years old. They are excited to tell people that they are not three years anymore. Even if they are not asked about their age, they go around announcing proudly that they have changed a year.

They, as well as, we as parents get asked about what they know and how much they know. I was also thinking quite a lot about what they have learnt and what they have not. Suddenly, it occurred to me as to why the parents do not get asked about what they know, have started knowing / in the process of knowing / they think they should start knowing after raising kids for four years long; for that matter, any years long.

I suppose it is not just the child who grows and learns, it is we as parents who also grow and learn all along. And we need to ask ourselves as well. I have jotted down the ideas that I feel I have learnt as a parent of 4-year olds. However, for all practical purposes, it is a work-in-progress for me on almost all the ideas, if not all. I keep discussing these ideas with my wife and we, as parents, keep evolving and learning in our own ways.

Academics:

The girls do not go to pre-school / day-care / nursery; as yet. They are not going to go for another year. In the house, we do try to teach them. I have made the promise to myself that I am not going to get worked up about their academics till they turn five years, and not going to work them up either.

We have realized that they are normal children, have the capacity to learn and are learning at their own pace. And, they can continue doing so, for another year.

Comparison:

It is a tough one, as human beings we are wired to compare with the surroundings. As the girls have not been exposed to a formal learning environment, they might seem to lag behind the children of their age. It can also be looked upon as that they continue to enjoy their childhood perks, as they are supposed to be doing. It all depends on the perspective, of course.

I promise myself that I will put the theory in action that every child is unique and has the freedom to learn at their own pace. I shall not compare.

Adjectives:

For me, using an adjective amounts to labelling/branding of the child. The child is just growing up, there is no way to know if the current trait is going to continue or a new attribute is going to pop up at any point in time. Why put the child in the shackle of a word?

I feel that identifying the adjective for a child becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I promise that I shall not use any tags/ labels/adjectives for the child.

Food:

We have consciously kept our daughters away from soft-drinks and fast food; they have not yet tasted either of them. On my own, I would have kept them away from chocolates as well, but I suppose that is another story. Once they grow up, they will have what they want to. As a child, they are supposed to eat what is cooked on a daily basis and that is what they do.

One of the pleasant surprises of our parenting journey is that both the girls eat all the vegetables. Keeping all the fingers crossed.

For the second part of the article, please click here.