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Old 09-07-2010, 06:13 PM   #1
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Help! How to Get a 3 Year Old to Listen During Structured Activities

I'm a stay at home mom, so my 3 year old (just turned 3) doesn't have a lot of experience with structured activities. I'm a big believer in free play at this age. However, I'm a former teacher and realize how important it's going to be for him to be able to follow directions and do what everyone else is doing in a school setting, etc.

So, we've started taking him to some activities in our area we think will help him develop these skills.

He doesn't listen well during this structured time He's a good boy, in general. We're very, very consistent with him. But, he's also very strong willed. If he doesn't feel like doing it, he throws a fit. You never know if he'll be 100% into it and following along with the teacher (this happens sometimes, lol), or if he'll be stubborn and want to do what he wants to do, when he wants to do it (he does NOT get his way when this happens -- ever).

What would you do with a stubborn/strong willed child in this situation? I know he's only just turned 3 and they aren't necessarily ready for a lot of structured time (it's only 1-2 hours a day we do things like this...), but it seems like the other kids follow along so well It's embarrassing for all the other kids to be having such a great time and for mine to be screaming and trying to get to other activities in the room!


Tips?

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Old 09-07-2010, 06:34 PM   #2
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Re: Help! How to Get a 3 Year Old to Listen During Structured Activities

I know it's really hard to feel like your kid is the only one not cooperating but give him time. Find activities he wants to do and make sure he clearly understands what expectations you have for him. Keep the time short to begin with, maybe 15 or 20 minutes and then stay longer and longer as he can tolerate more. Try not to lose your cool and get really flustered. I know that is so hard. Definitely tailor the activities towards things you know he is capable of and slowly stretch that more and more. It just takes time but I think you are doing the right thing in introducing this now. It gets harder and harder the longer you wait. It is especially important if you plan to put him in preschool or regular school later on (even homeschooling he will be required to sit and follow instructions)
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Old 09-07-2010, 08:27 PM   #3
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Re: Help! How to Get a 3 Year Old to Listen During Structured Activities

Thank you! That really helps
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Old 09-07-2010, 08:32 PM   #4
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Re: Help! How to Get a 3 Year Old to Listen During Structured Activities

1-2hrs a day is a long time for a just-turned-3yo to do anything, even if it's not structured. It's common at that age to not want to play with other kids (but rather, beside them independently), and for them to not want to participate in activities.

I tried putting my son in gymnastics shortly after he turned 3. To ME, it looked fun. He was enrolled with 2 friends, but when the time came, he would have nothing of it. He didn't want to walk in a line, play the games they wanted, or do what the class was doing. He had a complete meltdown and I withdrew him from the class. But I'd take him to the same place during their "open gym" time when he could run wild and do what he wanted, and he had a blast.

Fast forward to now, he will be 4 in December. He started Waldorf preschool this fall, and I chose it specifically because it isn't rigidly structured, and kids aren't forced to do the same activities as the other kids. They might be doing crafts, but if he wants to play by himself in a corner, that's totally okay. In the end, he will come together with the rest of his peers, and do well in a more structured environment as he gets older.

So what I'm trying to say, is not to worry about your son. He sounds totally normal, and maybe try asking him what he would like to do for activities, and follow his lead
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Old 09-07-2010, 08:38 PM   #5
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Re: Help! How to Get a 3 Year Old to Listen During Structured Activities

DD's OT has us pick a task--can be sorting beads, gluing 5 glitters, whatever. But she has to come, do the task, finish the task, and clean up. We started with small, short tasks, then gradually made them longer. As soon as we went outside, all the good concentration went out the window, so we had to do the same thing out there...throw the ball 5 times, bounce the ball 10 times, etc. and work up to longer concentration phases. It got a lot better. The best thing for group situations was preschool, though. She absolutely loves preschool and listens really well there, even if she won't always do it at home.
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Old 09-07-2010, 08:42 PM   #6
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Re: Help! How to Get a 3 Year Old to Listen During Structured Activities

Thanks, Raelynn! It helps to know that it's likely the age.

luvsviola -- oooohhh, I really like that. That's something we could do at home to prepare him for these activities when we're out and about. Thanks!
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Old 09-07-2010, 08:55 PM   #7
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Re: Help! How to Get a 3 Year Old to Listen During Structured Activities

I feel you on this one, Mama! My oldest was/is VERY strong willed and it was difficult for us to do many structured activities at that age. I'll never forget the time I took him to story time- and the librarian knew his name within 3 minutes- never a good thing in an entire room full of kiddos. I'm a former teacher as well and it really got to me that MY kid was the one who couldn't follow along with the others. His 2's and 3's were a very difficult stage for us.
For us, I steered clear of structured activities outside of preschool (2 days a week) for a long time. Partly because I was embarrased and partly because I knew that DS would be frustrated by having to do things someone elses way. As I look back, I'm glad we went that route. DS was able to mature in his own environment in his own time. It went against my learned instinct of being a teacher, which was push him to learn the expected behaviors now, but I really felt in my Mama heart that he wasn't ready.
Good news though- DS is almost 5, and while still a very independent child, with consistency and understanding of "why" some things need to flow like they do, he's now great in groups of kids and usually pretty good at following directions. He's incredibly bright and creative in his own way. There is light at the end of this tunnel!!
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Old 09-08-2010, 12:11 AM   #8
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Re: Help! How to Get a 3 Year Old to Listen During Structured Activities

He is too young for structured activities. Period.
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Old 09-08-2010, 05:34 AM   #9
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Re: Help! How to Get a 3 Year Old to Listen During Structured Activities

Quote:
Originally Posted by delphinium View Post
He is too young for structured activities. Period.
He has to be able to do things tailored to his age group. Yesterday, we went to the environmental center for an activity for ages 1-5. They sat and touched turtle shells, listened to directions for what they were doing that day, etc. Then, they got to color. Then, they went out to the bay and tried to catch fish in nets (this was mostly a free-for-all).

I think he should be able to sit and pay attention for the 10 minutes when the teacher was talking to them. He shouldn't be throwing a fit changing gears to do the three different things that went on during that hour. That's what we're working toward
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Old 09-08-2010, 07:05 AM   #10
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Re: Help! How to Get a 3 Year Old to Listen During Structured Activities

hang in there OP and do what you feel is best for him. I agree with you that some age appropriate structure is completely reasonable. Thats what I do for my kids and daycare kids and it is something that I feel they are capable of. We take my 1 year old and 2 year old out to eat, to gymnastics, church nursery and the like with little to no issues and both of these children are very challenging kids in their own way. I think you have a great plan in slowly adding these things into his life. I hate to hijack a thread but if children under four should not be doing any structured activities, how do you help them behave appropriately in public at all? Where can you go but at home (if thats what you allow at home)? I'd rather help teach my girls and be able to go out and about than stay at home all the time because they don't know what to do in a structured environment. I guess thats just me.
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