Ryan, like most four-year-olds, is a creature of habit and routine. But his routines tend to be location-specific. Certain activities are associated with specific places; he can not perform the activity elsewhere, and he can not do other things in that spot. For example, if he's sitting on his potty in our hall bathroom, he insists I must open the vanity cabinet, and he must pretend that two bottles of shampoo are a violin and bow, while scripting a certain animated sequence from Elmo's World. He does not do the-violin-and-her-bow anywhere else, and that is the only game he will initiate there.
When you remove him from his usual environment, many of his daily routines go out the window. We just spent a long weekend visiting my snowbird in-laws in Florida, and Ryan adapted beautifully, surprising us at every turn. He's been avoiding drinking milk here at home, but he chugged almost a pint of milk on the plane on the way down (well, however much of it he didn't pour on himself), and glass after glass over the weekend. At home he will nap maybe one hour a month; this weekend he took a two-hour nap two days in a row. He never once begged to play computer games. He didn't lean his head on the back of the toilet while peeing (yeah, I know...). He stayed at the table in restaurants. And on the trip home, instead of passing out by 8pm like he usually does, he stayed wide freaking awake until we stumbled through the door at 12:30am.
It's not like a change of environment changes everything - he was still reluctant to play with two wild five-year-olds at the playground, he still spit food all over the place, he still had his share of tantrums - but it definitely gets him out of certain patterns for a little while.
And don't worry, coming home put everything back to normal. He bounced into our bedroom promptly at 6:15am and demanded to "play a game of Dora pwease."
Which leads me to a tangentially-related tip from the home front: When stuck in a parenting rut, change the reward structure. While Ryan has gotten very good at keeping his pants dry all day (and sometimes all night), he whole poop thing has remained elusive. So I took away his favorite thing in the whole world - playing PBS Kids and Nick Jr computer games - and limited them to being a reward for pooping in the potty. There has been much crying because of this change, but his pants have stayed clean as a result.
So now, during the times he wishes he was playing his beloved games, he just scripts them instead. We'll be playing outside, and he'll recite, "Click on the green button to start." Or he'll riff on it: "Click on Mommy..."