Important 4 Year Old Milestones

Are you wondering if your 4-year-old is developing appropriately? Or maybe you’re just curious about what you’ll see your little one accomplish. How your child goes about his or her everyday life will clue you into the 4 year old milestones that have been reached and the ones that are still to come.

Developmental milestones give you important clues about a child’s developmental health. All this presents itself in their playing, learning, speaking, acting, and moving around on a regular basis. You’ll be able to tell if your child is meeting the expectations by keeping track and noticing where they might be right on target, advanced or delayed. If there are delays, it’s best to get them the support needed as early as possible.

The 4 year old milestones include:

Social and Emotional Milestones

Important 4 Year Old Milestones

These 4 year old milestones include a combination of areas such as your child’s social interactions, emotional awareness, and self-regulation. The way that children relate to those around them, including adults and peers, gives insight to their ability to understand turn taking, helping others, playing together, and cooperative activities. The ability to recognize their own feelings and the feelings of those around them speaks to the level of emotional awareness a child may have. Self-regulation refers to a child’s ability to express themselves appropriately, such as calming themselves down when upset or even overly excited. In a 4 year old this typically looks like:

  • Enjoys doing new things
  • Plays “mom” and “dad”
  • Is more and more creative with make-believe play
  • Would rather play with other children than by himself/herself
  • Cooperates with other children
  • Often can’t tell what’s real and what’s make-believe
  • Talks about what he/she likes and what he/she is interested in
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Language/Communication Milestones

Important 4 Year Old Milestones

From infancy, children’s brains begin to absorb language. Their first signs of communication include when a child learns that a cry will bring food or comfort. This is just the beginning. There is a natural progression that takes place in their language development and eventually, children are able to master understanding what others say as well as what it is they want to say. Delays in language or communication development can be attributed to hearing loss or a speech-language disorder. Some things to look for in your child include:

  • Knows some basic rules of grammar, such as correctly using “he” and “she”
  • Sings a song or says a poem from memory such as the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or the “Wheels on the Bus”
  • Tells stories
  • Can say first and last name
Read More: 5 effective beginning reading strategies for preschoolers

Movement/Physical Development Milestones

Important 4 Year Old Milestones

As children grow, they persevere in the area of movement. They try their hardest to achieve balance, fine-motor skills, and gross-motor skills. Fine-motor skills refer to the movements involving smaller muscles, such as the ones in the hands and wrists. Gross-motor skills are referring to the movements relating to larger muscle groups, such as the arms, legs, and torso. This category has to do with the development of the muscles children will need to use to successfully engage in physical activities. Some factors that impact physical development are nutrition, brain development, the central nervous system, muscles, bones, and experiences offered. Your 4 year old would generally be able to do the following:

  • Hops and stands on one foot up to 2 seconds
  • Catches a bounced ball most of the time
  • Pours, cuts with supervision, and mashes own food
Read More: Play to increase your child’s upper body strength

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving) Milestones

Important 4 Year Old Milestones

Cognitive development is a crucial part of a child’s growth. It relates to how a child’s brain develops. This includes their learning, thinking, exploration and problem-solving skills. It also directly impacts their social/emotional, language/communication, and physical development. From infancy, children begin actively taking in all sorts of information and learning so many new things. They are continually discovering new things about themselves, the people around them, and the world around them. Children are generally eager to learn so the earliest years are pivotal for shaping their cognitive intake, better preparing them for when formal schooling begins. In a 4 year old, they would be able to:

  • Name some colors and some numbers
  • Understand the idea of counting
  • Start to understand time
  • Remember parts of a story
  • Understand the idea of “same” and “different”
  • Draw a person with 2 to 4 body parts
  • Use scissors
  • Start to copy some capital letters
  • Play board or card games
  • Tell you what he/she thinks is going to happen next in a book
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Recognizing any delays early on increases the effectiveness of interventions than if they are addressed later on in childhood. Along with keeping an eye out for these milestone clues about your child’s development, you’ll want to remain aware of the following so that you can act early if your child:

  • Can’t jump in place
  • Has trouble scribbling
  • Shows no interest in interactive games or make-believe
  • Ignores other children or doesn’t respond to people outside the family
  • Resists dressing, sleeping, and using the toilet
  • Can’t retell a favorite story
  • Doesn’t follow 3-part commands
  • Doesn’t understand “same” and “different”
  • Doesn’t use “me” and “you” correctly
  • Speaks unclearly
  • Loses skills he/she once had

Tips and Activities

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has wonderful resources for tracking these 4 year old milestones, including their Milestone Tracker mobile app. You can also find the paper version on their website, which is a great tool to print and carry with you to your child’s next doctor’s appointment. Grab yourself a checklist for your child’s current age group and do a quick assessment. They’ve even got suggested tips and activities you can do with your child to help right from home.

Some tips to help your child along the journey of reaching their 4 year old milestones are to:

  • Play make-believe with your child
  • Suggest your child pretend play an upcoming event that might make him/her nervous
  • Give your child simple choices whenever you can
  • Encourage your child to use words, share toys, and take turns playing games of one another’s choice
  • Give your child toys to build imagination
  • Use good grammar when speaking to your child
  • During play dates, let your child solve his/her own problems with friends
  • When you read with your child, ask him/her to tell you what happened in the story as you go
Important 4 Year Old Milestones

Children develop at their own pace so it’s important to remember that these 4 year old milestones just serve as a guide for what to expect as your child continues growing. Ultimately, you as parents know your children the best. If you feel that there is a concern, don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s pediatrician to discuss it early.


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Important 4 Year Old Milestones

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Phoebe Montas
Phoebe Montas
Phoebe is an elementary school educator of nine years and boy-mom of two from New York City. She can be found reading, writing, laughing up a storm with good friends, or watching things that make her ugly cry in her down time. You'll get to check out the writing side first hand right here with Daily Mom.

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