While I certainly strive to expose my children to a rich sampling of experiences, lessons, and information, when it comes to the basics, I have to admit that we are somewhat behind. Little Smith is only a few months away from his fourth birthday, and he can't write any letters, can only recognize a couple, can't write or recognize numbers, all skills that I know many children his age have mastered. I have to accept most of the responsibility, I really haven't stressed all the fundamental targets. But whenever I have attempted to tackle letters or writing, he also hasn't expressed much interest.
His preschool program, which is based on the Reggio Emilia approach, is very much child-driven... meaning all kinds of projects are available to him, but they work to develop the areas in which he is naturally motivated. He loves building, he spends hours constructing elaborate tracks and tunnels and towers. He makes the most exquisite free and fluid watercolors. He studies birds and trees, assembles marble mazes, rides the pretend bus with his friends. Basically, I'm saying he's awesome! But so far his attention for drawing specific shapes or learning his abc's is very limited.
Armed with back-to-school energy, I decided to take inspiration from something I had seen on Pinterest (finally, I almost never follow-through on all those 'pins') and use Little Smith's interest in nature and collecting as the launching point for some alphabet exposure. We started with a lengthy rock collecting expedition through our neighborhood. I tried to steer him towards smaller rocks, but once you've developed a relationship with a rock, it can be tough to cast it aside. I was grateful we brought the stroller and could store our treasures in the basket, because this was a heavy load.
Next I actually put the rocks through the dishwasher. I wouldn't have bothered if we lived in a more rural area, but a lot of these came from driveways, roadsides, and streams of questionable water quality. I just wanted a fresh start for their new life. Little Smith helped me sort, and we studied the shapes of each letter and tried to find a rock that seemed like a good soul-mate. We talked a little about color, and then I took over.
Since he isn't yet up to drawing or painting letters, he set his paints free on the cast-off rocks while I lettered our alphabet. I used acrylic paint, and tried to go for lighter shades (I added white to each one) just so the coverage would be better and the letters would be more visible.
And here is the cool part, he is taking an interest; arranging the stones in a basket and pulling out a handful at a time, asking questions, and learning some of those letters! I'm actually comfortable with giving him the space to let all of these skills come at his own pace, but I also feel excited that I was able to reposition an idea and stir some new inquiry. I think the physicality of the rocks is helpful to the way that he thinks. It was a fun little project, give it a try!