Your Child at 4: Milestones

Four is a wild and woolly age for children. They learn to stand on one foot, sing songs, draw some shapes, and figure out how to get along with other kids. On the flip side, some are still potty training, many wet the bed at night, nightmares are normal, and they worry a lot about monsters.

With so much change, it can be hard to know what’s normal. Milestones can help. They tell you the kinds of skills children typically learn at a given age, which gives you a better sense of your child’s progress and lets you prepare for what’s coming next. As you look at all these new abilities, it also helps to know how to support your child’s development and steps you can take to keep your child safe.

Milestones at Age 4

These are the skills you can expect your kid to know at age 4 -- or soon after. Keep in mind that milestones are guidelines -- children reach them at their own pace. Some kids have these skills before age 4, some later. Still, if these milestones give you concerns that your little one might be falling behind, talk to your child’s doctor.

Language and Communication Skills

  • Answers simple questions
  • Knows some basic grammar rules and uses more and more words correctly
  • Says first and last name
  • Sings simple songs and knows poems or rhymes from memory
  • Speaks clearly and in sentences of four or more words
  • Tells stories

Movement and Physical Skills

  • Goes up and down stairs without help
  • Hops and stands on one foot for at least 2 seconds
  • Kicks a ball forward
  • Pours drinks, mashes own food, cuts food with parent’s guidance
  • Throws a ball overhand
  • Usually catches a bounced ball

Social and Emotional Skills

  • Can dress and undress without help
  • Cooperates with other kids
  • Gets more creative when playing make-believe
  • Likes doing new things
  • Likes playing with other kids more than playing alone
  • May confuse what’s real and what’s make-believe
  • Pretends to be Mommy or Daddy
  • Talks about likes and dislikes
  • Works through conflicts with others

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Thinking and Mental Skills

  • Copies and draws simple shapes, such as squares and circles
  • Draws a person with 2-4 body parts
  • Follows three-step commands, like “Find your backpack, grab your coat, and put on your boots”
  • Gets the idea of counting and knows some numbers
  • Knows some colors
  • Remembers parts of stories
  • Starts to copy capital letters
  • Starts to get the idea of time
  • Understands the ideas behind “same” and “different”
  • Uses scissors

How to Help Your Child

There’s a ton you can do every day to help your child learn and grow, such as:

  • Allow your child to make simple choices, like what to wear or what to play.
  • Give plenty of time for your kid to be active, and play games together like tag.
  • Let your child do some self-care on their own, like getting dressed, using the bathroom, and brushing teeth.
  • Practice counting and singing simple songs, like the ABCs.
  • Read to your child every day.
  • Set time to play with other kids -- let them work out conflicts on their own, but step in when needed.
  • Suggest activities like drawing and making art with paper, scissors, and glue.
  • Talk to your child -- patiently answer questions and help them express their feelings .
  • Teach your child how to make up after hurting someone’s feelings.

And when it comes to TVs, smart phones, computers, and tablets, doctors suggest that you:

  • Keep technology out of bedrooms.
  • Limit screen time to 1 hour a day of high-quality programs.
  • Talk about what you watch together and how it applies to the world.

How to Keep Your Child Safe

All these new skills are exciting. You need to let your child explore, but you also need a watchful eye, especially when it comes to common dangers likes falls, burns, poisons, and strangers.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Always wear helmets on bikes, tricycles, and other riding toys.
  • Check the height and weight limits of your child’s car seat -- when your child outgrows it, use a booster seat.
  • Don’t keep guns in your home. If you have a gun, keep it unloaded, locked away, and separate from bullets. And make sure children can’t get the key.
  • Let your child explore, but guard against falls, especially around playgrounds, doors, windows, and stairs.
  • Keep an eye out when playing near streets and driveways.
  • Use caution in the kitchen -- spills, splatters, and hot surfaces can all cause serious burns.
  • Watch your child at all times when in or around water -- and think about signing your kid up for swimming lessons.

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You’ll also find that your child can reach drawers, cabinets, and countertops that used to be considered safe. Make sure medicines, cleaning products, and even small household objects that can be swallowed -- like magnets and batteries -- can’t be seen or reached.

This is also the age to make sure your child knows what to do around strangers. Teach your child her full name, address, and phone number. Also, let your child know to ask only certain adults for help, like people with uniforms or name badges. And, tell your child:

  • No one can ask you to keep a secret from your parents.
  • No one can ask you to see or touch your private parts -- the parts that a bathing suit covers.
  • No one can ask you to look at, touch, or help with their private parts.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 06, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: “Important Milestones: Your Child by Four Years,” “Facts About Child Development.”

HealthyChildren.org: “Developmental Milestones: 3 to 4 Year Olds,” “Safety for Your Child: 2 to 4 Years.”

Help Me Grow: “4 Years,” “Encouraging Healthy Development -- 4 Years.”

University of California San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital: “Your 3- to 4-Year-Old.”

KidsHealth: “Medical Care and Your  4- to 5-Year-Old,” “Your Child’s Checkup: 4 Years.”

Mayo Clinic: “Child Development: Know What’s Ahead.”

Bright Futures: “Bright Futures Parent Handout: 4 Year Visit.”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use.”

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