4 Year Old Pre-school

Updated on September 10, 2009
A.F. asks from Orinda, CA
19 answers

My 4 1/2 year old son just moved in to a pre-K class. He has been in this school for over a year now and is well ajusted to his surroundings. This morning when I went into his class I noticed they had begun to write their letters in upper case and lower case. When I found my sons writing I noticed his was very sloppy actually the worst in the class. I spoke to the teacher and she said it was just the first week and not to worry. My concern is he is a very busy boy, who won't sit for long periods of time. He is not interested in art and often is the class clown. How much should we expect from our little ones.

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answers from San Francisco on

I definitely wouldn't worry yet. My son (also 4 and in pre-K)is in the same boat. He only recognizes upper case letters and can only write a few. Many kids don't go to preschool and all this should be taught in Kinder.



answers from Sacramento on

Listen to the teacher!! Ask her what you can do at home to reinforce what he is learning in school. Also, if you know the kindergarten he is going to next year, find out what the beginning of the year expectations are. Sounds to me as though he is right on track and you should not worry.

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answers from San Francisco on

From what I understand from the teachers I know, your Preschool is right. Most boys don't really have the muscles in their hands to hold a pencil, much less the patience to sit and draw until 5 or 6. (This is why there is so much pressure to hold little boys back until they can sit, calmly.)

With my son, we got around this and kept him on par with the little girls in the neighborhood using Handwriting Without Tears curriculum. You can google it. Basically, this curriculum gives you a number of other media to use with your son that will help him learn letters in a structure that he is ready for now. The writing will come when he gets the patience.

I'd also suggest two books - Why Gender Matters and Raising Cain - both of these touch on some of the fundamental differences between girls and boys and things you might think about in your decision making around the education of your son.

Most of all - rest assured, your son is on track.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Modesto on

OMGosh A., I thought I was reading something that I may have wrote. My son is the same way. First I want to say, don't panic it will get better. However it may take a little extra time on your part. With my son, we worked with him at home. We instructed the Pre-K teacher that if there was anything he wouldn't do in class, schoolwork wise, that it was to be sent home for homework. I then let my son know everyday that he should do his work in class otherwise he would have to do it at home, no playtime until it was finished. It worked really well. Also don't stress over the artwork, there will be plenty of art to do in elementary school. I think I was more upset about not having artwork to put on my refrigerator than he was not wanting to do it.
Lastly, my son is in Kindergarten now and still has issues doing schoolwork in class. They do get it for homework, so the routine hasn't changed yet. So don't be too hard on him, just let him know that schoolwork is important and that he does a great job no matter what.
Oh, and the sloppiness improves tremendously the more they practice. Good luck!



answers from San Francisco on

I agree with Erin M. and W.H.



answers from Phoenix on

Really, don't worry!

My son is a *great* reader but writing? nooo!
He learned to write in Kindergarten, and his handwriting did not improve much, if at all, all through 1st grade. But just before school started this year, he had a growth spurt while on vacation and when we got home, I noticed his handwriting had improved. Now he has better handwriting (as in the letters are more evenly sized, consistent, etc.) and it's like magic! I didn't have to do a thing! He just had to grow!

I'm not saying to totally ignore his messiness, but do NOT worry that he is the "worst" handwriter in class. (He's probably the best at something else like throwing a ball.) Just encourage him to, say, make his d's a little taller so they dont look like a's or to keep his r's together so they dont look like v's, but dont pester him to improve his handwriting (or he'll *really* hate handwriting. Besides, he probably knows his handwriting is not as good as another's.)



answers from Redding on

There are a couple of things that helped our son. A 1st grade teacher/neighbor suggested to us when our son was 4 to do a fun activity called 'letter of the week.' Every week you introduce one letter. So, for the first week you would write out the upper and lower case Aa. She also suggested cutting out pictures of things that start with that letter and showing him the letter used in the word. Pics of an airplane, apple etc.

We also bought those rubber cylinder type things that you can buy at Longs, Target, Staples etc that go around the writing end of a pencil. It helps them grab the pencil better since their hands are so little.

Good luck.



answers from Modesto on

Hi Amber,

I think you asked a really good question. I, as a mom, have to admit that I used to have MORE of a tendency to expect more from my boys.....when I realized how "high" my expectations were.....I had to eased up. I really didn't want my boys "afraid of failing me".....

This is why they have pre-school....so young students AND parents can enter into "real school" with an idea of what to expect.

Boys don't have time to write perfectly.... :o) But your son will eventually, when he has a teacher that asks him too, anyway. For now, I would just let him learn his letters and how to write them. The rest will come in time.

I believe that "routine" and "mom expectations" begin to develop in their Kindergarten year.....but are mastered by 2nd or 3rd grade.....It takes time to develop a good school/homework routine, but it's worth it!

For now, Amber, I would just let him go to pre-school and figure it all out :O) He will be just fine. Let your worrying begin next year at the "big school" :O)

~N. :O)



answers from Boise on

As a homeschool mom to three kids, including a boy in the middle, This is TOO EARLY for them to start letter formation with him.

It is much better to wait until a child is ready, than to try to push a child who is physically and mentally not ready or their brains are not mature enough.

I found that my boy was 6 months behind my two girls in being ready to learn to write, and I would say he is more intelligent than the girls. He would get very fustrated, throw his pencil and cry. I stopped formal writing and returned to it 6 months later - what a difference! He started formal letter writing (cursive which has less strokes than manuscript) around 5 and a half or 6.

Starting certain lessons too early in the public schools is a great way for them to convince parents that their child has learning disabilities or "focusing " problems, and then the kids end up on drugs. From the description of your son- He is most likely very bright. My husband who has a very high IQ was the class clown and always getting into trouble, and didn't like art. My husband's greatest strength is math, but scores high on everything.

Ps...as far as writing curriculum goes, someone suggested Handwriting Without Tears. I guess if you HAD to make sure he was writing by a certain time, you could use this program. However, I think it is inferior. I have seen other homeschool moms use this program with 6-8 yr old boys. The Child has a square box, and the letter is suppose to "fit" inside the box. From my experience watching these other boys, their handwriting was still very sloppy. All they cared about was fiting it into the box- not on proper or careful letter formation.
This is a fact: The first way you train your brain to do something will be the way your brain will automatically want to keep doing it.
A far superior writing program is called CURSIVE FIRST. You wouldn't believe how beautiful a first grader's handwriting can be until you use this program. The public schools will probably hate it because it teaches cursive first (goes against their curriculum procedure.)Cursive taught first is the tried and true method the schools used to use 100 years ago. While 2nd and third graders are spending an hour everyday practicing cursive as a backup penmanship, Cursive First kids are already writing in cursive as their first and foremost penmanship, and spending their extra time they don't have to do penmanship lessons on other lessons. Kids that are taught cursive first don't keep mixing manuscript in with their cursive, and they don't mix caps in with lowercase. (Caps arn't taught until all the lower case has been mastered, since 95 % of the letters written on a regular basis will be in lower case).Believe it or not, manuscript writing is picked up without "FORMAL" training, because books and such are in manuscript print. My 2 kids who started cursive first rarely or never print, but they can if they want to. I never formally taught it. My first daughter, who learned manuscript first- prints all the time and it's a fight to get her to do cursive. Her penmanship is more sloppy that the other two. (my 8 yr old son has the most beautiful handwriting in the house).



answers from Salinas on

How much should you expect academically from a 4 year old? The answer is not much. I purposely kept both my girls out of "pre-K" so they could have more time to play, make friends and enjoy preschool the way it should be. They are now both great students in 2nd & 6th grade. Four year olds shouldn't be sitting still for long periods or being formally taught to read or write at all! This is the time for stories, crafts, songs and being a kid. Do a little research, there is no correlation between early formal academic instruction and educational success later. You may even consider putting him in a less academic setting especially if he's showing signs of not being ready. You do not want to set the stage for him to become turned off of school before he even starts. It's also important he learn the skills necessary for later success that are developmentally appropriate. Stuff like sharing, being a good friend and being respectful of others. Those things will serve him far better in later life than whether or not he can write at four! Good luck!



answers from San Francisco on

I' not sure I understand your dilemma. Is it that he seems to have fun in class, or that his handwriting on the first week of trying is poor?

If your concern is the hand writing, I think that if you expect his handwriting to be perfect in the first week, then you expect way too much. Children's fingers need to be used constantly to get their writing skills going. so any fine motor exercises can help with that.

If it is his attention span, then you need to speak to the teacher. He is 4 after all. Class attentiveness to some extent also is dependent on how the teacher handles the class, and maybe his fun time is Ok with the teacher. In kindergarten, children are expected to START to develop more attention.



answers from Fresno on

He is only 4 and is just beginning to learn so what we should expect from our kids is the best of their ability and nothing more. So long as they are trying, doing all their work and turning it in thats really all that is important. He will do fine.



answers from Yuba City on

Hi A.. I didn't read all the responses but I will tell you my experience. I put my son in preschool because socially he wasn't hardly ready to even be in public. The preschool teacher was a behavior specialist and it was at a state college. The program there didn't include any type of writing at first or math..it was all about social skills. He had sooo much fun there. Near the end the teacher told me he was ready for the big K so the summer before K they had a program for the kids to get ready for K. My son then started writing his name and counting more. I think it really depends on your area's expectations. In K in the school he's enrolled in, they just had their first homework to write their name as many times as they could on the back of a paper...but in his cousins class a couple towns away they are expected to already be reading books themselves. Check out the schools around your area and see what they expect them to know by K. My son is doing well in this environment but I really think it depends on the child. Girls are sooo much more advanced! You know your child the best, just follow what you feel is right. This preschool may be too advanced.? I knew what to expect from my son so I chose not to enroll him in a preschool that had too many academical expectations. Good luck!



answers from Salinas on

Please don't be quick to assume that something is wrong. My daughter was and is the same way. She is now in 2nd grade. I have had teachers tell me she is ADD, ADHD, and slow. After a series of tests none of the teachers were right. You know your son better than anyone else talk to him. Praise him for the work he does and put it up on display in the house. He will want it look nice if family and friend comment on how nice it is. Remind him that as long as it is the best he can do that is all you can ask of him. Try having him teach you the letters.(play the part of the student well my daughter loved teaching me and laughing when I would mess up) after a good laugh she would tell me to "try try again" It shows that learning can be fun and that no one is perfect. He will get it, all kids are different and learn at there own pace just be patient.



answers from Stockton on

do NOT compare your kid to another! They are all different and I don't care if it's not politcally correct - most girls figure out how to color and write before boys do.
2 of my friends have daughters that are 3 months younger than my son and were writing their names and coloring and drawing pictures you could actually decipher way before my son. My son's drawings of people still look like bugs and he often writes his name backwards.
My son just started kindergarten - he'll be 5 in October and he gets Time Out for not sitting still almost every day.
He enjoys the science and music and story time but they make the kids do pages and pages of coloring daily,he gets bored. I volunteer once a week and see first hand that my son is better at some things, average and some things and needs to work on other stuff. Just like all the other kids - the boy who writes & draws the best in class is painfully shy - never talks and doesn't play during recess - heartbreaking! So, do I want a little artist - or a happy outgoing boy who makes friends easily?
If you can, volunteer in the classroom - work with other kids to see what I mean. Your son has plenty of time before kindergarten. My son had an assessment with his teacher before the schoolyear started so she knew what his strengths and weaknesses are. Kinderagarten teachers are trained to start the kids off at square one if needed and work their way up - the more advanced kids get extra projects with a teacher's helper so they don't get bored.
Another perk of volunteering is that the teacher gives me pointers on things we can do at home to improve his coordination and fine motor skills like exercises and cutting play-dough with scissors.
Kids should have fun and make friends at this age - the rest will come in time!



answers from Bakersfield on

You should expect your boy to be just that- a little boy. Boys have loads of energy and on average have a very hard time sitting for long periods. They need to run, scream, make jokes, etc. And boys, on average, also have not so great handwriting. If they do, they are usually a more artistic boy, or musical. For some reason, art and music go hand in hand with great handwriting. Who knew. SOmetimes, though, it doesn't mean anything. Also, another reason not to worry- he's 4.5. Coloring and writing are NEW. When he gets into Kindergarten they will work with him more. I suggest, if you are concerned, to get some handwriting worksheets, and maybe spend 10 minutes a day on them with him. Let him know it's important that he learn to sit still for 10-15 minutes and work on this. Reward him for his good behavior. The same will happen when he starts math and compucat like stuff. He will need to sit down and work on it at home. But boys need to release their energy, and sitting all day can cause them to go stir crazy and encourage bad behavior. Their just needs to be balance. ANd your son may also have a skill set that is more social, more public, and more energetic. The trick is to find his niche and feed his gifts in a positive manner. If he is not so good at handwriting, help him to understand that it is ok- as long as he puts in the effort.
Lastly, busy boys are NORMAL and should not be forced to sit for hours at a time. Little boys need to run around. Something in their genetic makeup- testosterone and all that. BUt I have rarely met a little boy who did not need to run wild and make jokes at some point.
Hope this helps- but after all that just said, I really honestly think you have nothing to worry about. He seems perfect in every way!
-E. M



answers from San Francisco on

making a child sitting and writing - at 4 years of age - is considered very early, although is commonly done. What works best is to get a child interested in words and letter, let him scribble a lot, to help develop his motor skills, and he will show us what is the right time for HIM to write his name: effortlessly, instantly, and the learning is permanent.
pressing a child to do that before all those skills are achieved will make the child HATE writing, feeling he will never be good at that. So the best thing to do is relax, encourage, get him to be interested in it , and take your time.
Help your child by communicating to him you trust that he ca learn,and he will.

D. Orr



answers from Sacramento on

The responses you've already received are right on. I would just suggest that you look closely at the handwriting of some of our more 'distinguished' adults and see how much difference there is in the way they write. Some have very neat writing, but some have such sloppy handwriting that it is almost impossible to read. (Think about the old joke about the prescriptions made out by doctors). While you want to encourage your boy to do his best, you also need to realize that his handwriting may never be what we might refer to as 'stellar'. Help him improve, but at the same time accept him for who he is.



answers from San Francisco on

Greetings A.: I am the mother of 5 and a grandmother to several cuties. I want you to know that you are very wise to ask the question that you did.
At 4 1/2 a child is going through many changes from little guy, to becomeing a big guy. He has a lot that he is changing emotionally and physically. I bet he has alot of interests as well that he is good at. But he may not be ready to dothe penmenship part.
We have always kept lined paper and pencils regular and colored with us where ever we went so that our young children could pratice their writting skills. I have used the etch a sketch as well since it is a fun way to do things. There are those predone work books you can pick up just about everywhere as well. This helps get the children in the proper habits. I know that we attend alot extra of church things becasue of my involvement and my sons would sit and draw and write while I did my things. Just make it a fun thing not a pressure thing and you will see the results that you desire. The teacher will also have lots of papers he can bring home and pratice.
I have a son with a disability, he has yet to understand that penmenship is important--- but he uses a lap top with several programs that helps him. So just know there is that as back up. He may make a great doctor someday--- out of all of our doctors only one has penmenship that I can clearly read.
Good Luck, in your adventure of parenthood. It is a ride that will never be dull and is alwways exciteing. Nana G

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