Child Development And Milestones: Your 4-Year-Old

Child Development And Milestones: Your 4-Year-Old

Here's all you need to know about your four year old child's developmental milestones and red flags...

So, your child is now four! What an exciting age this is! He has just stepped out of toddlerdom and is raring to explore his world and try new things.

Notice his newfound confidence? Your little one is getting more independent and assertive by the day.

In fact, “I can do it myself!” is one phrase you are going to hear more often…

Let’s take a look at some common four-year-old child developmental milestones your little one will most likely achieve this year. Do remember though, that these are just guidelines. Every child is different and will do things at his or her own pace and time.

4-Year-Old Development and Milestones: Is Your Child on Track?

four year old development and milestones

Physical Development

Your 4-year-old must be playing a lot by now. That includes running, hopping, throwing and kicking balls, climbing — that’s one active child you have!

The little one is more and more impressed with his skills now, and he can’t wait to do all his “chores” himself.

Expect him to push you away with an “I know how to do it!” when you try to get him dressed or pop a morsel of food in his mouth. 

These are precious times indeed. Your child is slowly coming into his own. Encourage his confidence and give him more opportunities to hone his skills.

Girls at this age should be around 100.3 cm (39.5 inches) in height and around 15.9 kg (35 lbs) in weight. For boys, the average height is 102.3 cm (40.3 inches) and the average weight is 16.3 kg (36 lbs).

four year old development and milestones

You’ll see a huge improvement in motor skills as part of four-year-old child development.

Here are some skills your child should have by now:

  • Hops and stands on one foot for up to two seconds
  • Jumps in place
  • Walks up and down stairs without assistance
  • Throws a ball overhead or catches a large ball
  • Walks forward and backwards easily
  • Can peddle a tricycle
  • Grasps a crayon between thumb and fingers and scribbles
  • Can copy a cross, triangle, circle, square, and other shapes
  • Draws a person with a body
  • Stacks 10 or more blocks
  • Pours and mashes own food

Parenting Tips:

  • Allow plenty of playtime, including regular trips to parks and playgrounds.
  • Drawing, cutting, and stringing beads are activities that can strengthen those small muscles. Working with clay, and making shapes helps too.
  • Building blocks and Lego are a great way to develop his imagination and work his hand muscles.
  • Nothing is out of reach for the curious child. So make sure your home is safe by keeping pesticides, medicines, etc in locked cabinets.
  • Your child might want to brush his teeth by himself. But at this age, he might not be able to clean his teeth properly. Make sure you do some finishing up for him.
  • The little one might still be frustrated by buttons, zippers, and shoelaces. While these are great for his motor skills, you might want to give his confidence a boost by mixing things up a bit. He will definitely love those pants with elastic waistbands and Velcro shoes.
  • Your independence-loving child will love “making” his own breakfast. Let him pour out cereal and milk on his own. Try not to fuss over the mess.

When to Talk to Your Doctor: 

  • If your child cannot jump in place
  • If he screws up his eyes to look at some things or has trouble seeing some things, or the pupils in his eyes aren’t always looking in the same direction.
  • Cannot grasp a crayon between thumb and finger, and has trouble scribbling
  • Has trouble undressing, cannot brush his or her teeth, or wash and dry hands, without help
  • If your child loses skills he once had

Cognitive Development

Your child is able to understand the passage of time. He now knows that after night comes the morning, and after today comes tomorrow.

He is also able to comprehend routines. In fact, four-year-olds love the security and structure that rules and routines offer.

He can now count and loves identifying shapes and colours.

four year old development and milestones

Here are some key highlights when comes to the cognitive development of a 4-year-old child:

  • Understands the idea of counting; may count ten or more objects
  • Enjoys fantasy or pretend play
  • Correctly names some colours and shapes
  • Copies a triangle, circle, square, and other shapes
  • Can understand the concept of time and the order of daily activities, like breakfast in the morning, lunch in the afternoon, and dinner at night
  • Has a greater attention span
  • Follows three-part commands; for example, “Put your book away, brush your teeth, and go to bed”
  • Understands size relationships such as “big” and “little”

Parenting Tips:

  • Play the sorting game at home. Four-year-olds love to sort! Watch him have fun sorting by colour, shape or object. You now have someone to help you sort the laundry.
  • You can also help him make comparisons, like big and small, tall and short.
  • Try to stick to a daily routine as far as possible. And be vocal about it. For example, you could say something like, “After dinner at 7 o’clock, let’s read those books we borrowed from the library. We’ll go to sleep at 9 o’clock.”

When to Talk to Your Doctor: 

  • If your child does not follow three-part commands
  • Shows no interest in interactive games or pretend play
  • Is easily distracted and unable to focus on one task for more than five minutes

Social and Emotional Development

Your child is starting to enjoy his interaction with other children. You might be surprised to see him sharing and taking turns. Of course, there will still be demands and the occasional tantrum — but there will be a huge improvement in his social skills compared to, say, last year. 

As he grows older, he is now also able to empathise and understand others’ feelings better. And because he can talk a lot more, he is now able to express his own feelings verbally.

This is a good time to enroll your child in a class or kindergarten. He will enjoy learning new things. He will also learn to respect rules and socialise with other kids.

Here are some social and emotional milestones at this age:

  • Clings or cries less often when parents leave
  • Enjoys doing new things
  • Enjoys make-believe play
  • Would rather play with other children than by himself
  • Cooperates with other children
  • Talks about his likes and interests, and expresses emotions verbally
  • May not be able to distinguish between real and make-believe

Parenting Tips:

  • Help your child name his feelings: “I know you are sad about not being able to meet your friend today.” Empathise with his feelings no matter how trivial they may seem. He should feel comfortable about sharing his feelings with you. Give hugs.
  • Model empathetic behaviour. Children see, children do. Also, compliment him when he displays empathetic behaviour.
  • Meltdowns and tantrums are bound to happen, but be firm about your rules. Consistency helps a child know what to expect. It helps him to regulate his emotions better.

When to Talk to Your Doctor: 

  • If your child ignores other children or does not respond to people outside the family
  • Resists dressing, sleeping, and using the toilet
  • Is extremely afraid, shy, or aggressive
  • Gets extremely anxious when separated from a parent
  • Does not make eye contact or respond to other people
  • Often seems sad and unhappy

Speech and Language Development

four year old child development

Make reading an important component of four-year-old child development.

Your child is learning fast! He loves singing rhymes and listening to stories. Expect him to even make up a story or two!

Here is what most children can do by this age:

  • Speak clearly enough for strangers to understand
  • Use sentences of about five words
  • Can say full names
  • Can use “me” and “you” correctly
  • Sing a song or rhyme from memory
  • Recognises letters
  • Has a vocabulary of up to 1,500 words
  • Names familiar objects in books
  • Recognises some simple words upon sight

Parenting Tips:

  • Read, read, read! Your child is learning new words every day. The more you read books to your child and engage him in conversation, the more practice he has with language. Point to words as you read.

Also, help him think, by asking questions about what’s happening in the story. He might even surprise you with his version of what’s going to happen next!

  • Talk with your child throughout the day. Point out objects or sounds at home, at the supermarket, in the car, or anywhere you go. Ask him questions and respond to his answers.
  • Sing rhymes together. Pretend play and playing out scenarios with your child is another great way to promote vocabulary development.

When to Talk to Your Doctor: 

  • If your child does not speak clearly
  • Does not use “me” and “you” correctly
  • Is unable to say his full name

Health and Nutrition

Depending on their age, size, and activity level, your child’s daily nutritional needs should be about:

  • Boys: 1,573 Kcal/day
  • Girls: 1,467 Kcal/day 


four year old child development

4-year-old child development: Your little one is all grown up now!

Your child’s daily food intake should ideally consist of:

  • Carbohydrates and Fats

 4-6 ounces, half of which should be from whole-grain sources. 1 ounce equals 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or ½ cup of cooked rice, cooked pasta, or cooked cereal.

  • Protein

Your child needs 2-2.5 cups of milk/dairy every day for calcium. You can also substitute 1 cup of milk with 1 cup of yoghurt, 1½ ounces of natural cheese, or 2 ounces of processed cheese.

Meat and beans are great sources of protein for the growing child, and at this age, she would need 3-5 ounces of them daily. 1 ounce equals 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked dry beans or 1 egg.

  • Vitamins and Minerals

Fruits and vegetables are the primary sources of vitamins and minerals for your growing child. At this age, she needs 1-2 cups of fruits and 1.5-2.5 cups of vegetables every day.

  • Dairy group

Dairy is also an important source of nutrition for your little one. Your little one needs at least 2 cups of milk per day. This could also be 2 cups of yoghurt, 3 ounces of natural cheese, or 4 ounces of processed cheese.

As for your little one’s calorie intake, a healthy amount would be anywhere from 1400-1500 calories per day.

Parenting Tips:

  • Set a good example of healthy eating for your child. Be a role model.
  • Never force your child to eat a food he or she doesn’t like.
  • Have regular family meals.
  • Involve your children in making the food.
  • Plan regular meals and snacks, and give kids enough time to eat. Don’t expect children to lick their plates clean.
  • Limit fast food and low-nutrient, sugary snacks, such as chips and candy. But don’t completely ban them from your home, lest your child feels deprived.
  • The healthiest drinks are water and milk.
  • Plan a quiet time before meals and snacks. Kids eat better when they are relaxed.
  • Don’t use food as a reward.
  • Use child-sized plates, cups, forks, and spoons.
  • Turn off the TV — especially at mealtimes.
  • Teach table manners. Your child should now be able to hold his cutlery properly. You can start teaching other table manners, such as not talking with a full mouth, using a napkin, and not reaching across another person’s plate. 

Vaccinations and Common Illnesses

Although your 47 month old would have developed some immunity by now, he is still vulnerable to a variety of common illnesses. Keep an eye out for diseases like hand foot and mouth disease, stomachaches, headaches, the flu, sore throat, measles, rubella and sinus infections.  To keep these illnesses and potential diseases at bay, do ensure that your child has received vaccination for:

  • Diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (DTaP)
  • polio (IPV)
  • Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)
  • Chickenpox (Varicella)
  • Influenza (yearly flu shots) 

When to Talk to Your Doctor:

If your child is underweight or small for their age, consult a paediatrician to know if this is a normal phase he will outgrow, or if it’s signalling a deeper issue.

We hope this article on four-year-old child development is useful in keeping track of your little one’s milestones! 

Like we said, all children grow and develop at their own pace.  If you have any concerns regarding your little one’s growth, do not hesitate to consult your paediatrician. 

four year old development and milestones

Source: CDC, WebMD

Your child’s previous month: 47 months

Next month: Child development and milestones: Your 4-years-1-month-old

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