I've been trying to make more effort in working with Jackson on letters and numbers. His teacher hasn't shared any concerns and I don't really know what a 3.5 year old should be able to do anyway, so I'm just making things up as I go. Of course, I do have an education background so it's not completely random, but I'm no expert on early childhood education.
I don't know if it's all the UmiZoomi Jackson watched last year or if mathematical concepts just come naturally, but Jackson is pretty good at math. He's great at patterns, sorting, and shape recognition. Jackson used mega-blocks to cut out blocks of play-doh. He had all his figures laid out and he said, "These cubes are similar size." I had not used the term cube or similar, so I was surprised. I rolled the play-doh very flat and made an imprint of a square. I asked him if they were similar and he said, "Well, they're both green."
Yesterday I made up a quick counting and number recognition activity on the whiteboard. I drew a random number of objects, asked Jackson to count them out loud, then match the number. I don't know if he would have done as well if I put extra numbers out, but he was very successful with this activity.
While Jackson excels with math, he doesn't have a good grasp on letters or letter sounds. Again, I'm uncertain what is expected of him at this age. He can trace his name but not write it. He would not move the letters to correctly spell his name.
At his school they work on 1-2 letters a week. They are started with A and have progressed through the letter O. This might be fine for exposing a 3 year old to letters, but I know this is not the most effective way to teach letters and sounds when learning to read. For example, last week he worked on M and N. The sounds are so similar he couldn't consistently distinguish between the two sounds.
Another way I can sneak in lessons is through cooking. Jackson has really developed an interest in cooking. I even let him help me on the stove as long as his siblings are occupied. (I can't handle three toddlers in the kitchen in addition to supervising a 3 year old at the stove!) Jackson helps measure, pour, and set the timer.
Doing these activities makes me miss teaching and makes me consider teaching early childhood education. I like being able to have a better grasp on what Jackson is capable of, rather than get a false impression of his progress through cut and pasted worksheets. Thankfully I have plenty of ideas and resources I can utilize to continue working on math and reading.