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Your Child at 4 Years


How your child plays, learns, speaks, acts and moves offers important clues about your child’s development. Developmental milestones are the things most children can do by a certain age. Check the milestones your child has reached by his or her 4th birthday and talk with your child’s doctor at every visit about the milestones your child has reached and what to expect next.


What Most Children Do at This Age:

Social / Emotional

  • play small buttonEnjoys doing new things
  • Plays “Mom” and “Dad”
  • play small buttonIs more and more creative with make-believe play
  • play small buttonWould rather play with other children than by himself
  • Cooperates with other children
  • play small buttonOften can’t tell what’s real and what’s make-believe
  • play small buttonTalks about what she likes and what she is interested in

Language / Communication

  • play small buttonKnows some basic rules of grammar, such as correctly using “he” and “she”
  • play small buttonSings a song or says a poem from memory such as the “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or the “Wheels on the Bus”
  • play small buttonTells stories
  • Can say first and last name

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • play small button
    play small buttonNames some colors and some numbers
  • play small buttonUnderstands the idea of counting
  • play small buttonStarts to understand time
  • play small buttonRemembers parts of a story
  • play small buttonUnderstands the idea of “same” and “different”
  • Draws a person with 2 to 4 body parts
  • Uses scissors
  • play small buttonStarts to copy some capital letters
  • Plays board or card games
  • play small buttonTells you what he thinks is going to happen next in a book

Movement / Physical Development

  • 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



Act Early by Talking to Your Child’s Doctor 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 once had

Tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any of these signs of possible developmental delay for this age. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/concerned or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).


Help Your Child Learn and Grow 

What You Can Do for Your 4-Year-Old

You can help your child learn and grow. Talk, read, sing and play together every day. Below are some activities to enjoy with your 4-year-old child today.


  • Play make-believe with your child. Let her be the leader and copy what she is doing.
  • Suggest your child pretend play an upcoming event that might make him nervous, like going to preschool or staying overnight at a grandparent’s house.
  • Give your child simple choices whenever you can. Let your child choose what to wear, play or eat for a snack. Limit choices to 2 or 3.
  • During play dates, let your child solve her own problems with friends, but be nearby to help out if needed.
  • 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, like dress-up clothes, kitchen sets and blocks.
  • Use good grammar when speaking to your child. Instead of “Mommy wants you to come here,” say, “I want you to come here.”
  • Use words like “first,” “second” and “finally” when talking about everyday activities. This will help your child learn about sequence of events.
  • Take time to answer your child’s “why” questions. If you don’t know the answer, say “I don’t know,” or help your child find the answer in a book, on the Internet or from another adult.
  • When you read with your child, ask him to tell you what happened in the story as you go.
  • Say colors in books, pictures and things at home. Count common items, like the number of snack crackers, stairs or toy trains.
  • Teach your child to play outdoor games like tag, follow the leader and duck, duck, goose.
  • Play your child’s favorite music and dance with your child. Take turns copying each other’s moves.


Learn the Signs. Act Early.

Learn the Signs. Act Early.

For more resources and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention call 1.800.CDC-INFO (232-4636). 

Or Visit the CDC's Website

Content provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” program. The milestone checklist is not a substitute for a standardized, validated developmental screening tool.

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