At a Glance
Four-year-olds typically get much taller and more coordinated this year.
Many kids begin to express themselves in longer and more complicated sentences.
Four-year-olds might start tattling and acting a little bossy.
If you think your 4-year-old is hard to keep up with, it’s probably because kids develop lots of new skills very quickly this year. You may not be completely sure what to expect at this age, especially if this is new to you.
Check out these developmental milestones to get a better idea of typical 4-year-old skills. But know that all kids develop at their own rate. If your child isn’t doing all of these exciting things, don’t worry.
If you’re spending more on groceries and clothing lately, it’s probably because your 4-year-old is growing fast. Kids can put on close to 5 pounds and grow 4 inches this year. Their eyesight continues to get better, too, which means their coordination improves.
Alternate feet on the stairs
Jump with two feet
Use door handles
Control big muscle movements more easily—they may be able to start, stop, turn, and go around obstacles while running
Log roll, do somersaults, skip, and trot
Throw and bounce a ball
Jump over objects and climb playground ladders
Pedal and steer a tricycle or bike
At-home connection: From playgrounds to pedal cars, explore fun activities that can help build gross motor skills.
Get dressed with minimal help (zippers, snaps, and buttons may still be a little hard)
Draw or copy basic shapes and crosses (this is a milestone known as “being able to cross the midline”)
Write some letters or make separated, distinct marks that look like letters
Draw wavy lines across the page that look like lines of text to make “lists” or write greeting cards
Put together a simple puzzle
Begin to use scissors purposefully
Stack a tower at least 10 blocks high
String beads or O-shaped cereal to make necklaces
Pinch and shape clay or play-dough into recognizable objects
At-home connection: Watch ways to teach your child self-care routines (and build fine motor skills at the same time).
This year, kids’ ability to think and learn reaches beyond the basics of the world around them. They start thinking about and understanding things they can’t see or touch. You might notice that your child starts to “have an idea” more often than you’d seen before. Most 4-year-olds are developing skills to:
Start sorting things by attributes like size, shape, and color
Compare and contrast by things like height, size, or gender
Begin to understand the difference between real and make-believe, but may still confuse them
Understand that pictures and symbols stand for real things
Recognize shapes in the real world
Count to at least 20 and point to and count items in a group
Explore relationships between ideas, using words like if and when to express them
Start thinking in logical steps, which means seeing the “how-tos” and consequences of things
Get abstract ideas like “bigger,” “less,” “later,” “ago,” and “soon”
Put things in order, like from biggest to smallest, shortest to tallest
Stick with an activity for 10 to 15 minutes
At-home connection: Uno, Zingo, and Hi Ho Cherry-O: Check out board games to help build reading and math skills.
You’re likely to see—and hear—and explosion of language this year. By the end of this year, kids may have a vocabulary of more than 1,000 words they understand, use, or both. They may start using complicated sentences that combine more than one thought. And they start asking who, what, why, when, and where questions—and may even answer some.
By the end of this year, most kids:
Sing silly songs, make up goofy words, and start rhyming
Follow simple, unrelated directions (“Go find your shoes and pick up that toy.”)
Change speech patterns depending on who is involved in a conversation, like speaking in short sentences to a younger sibling
Pronounce most sounds correctly, but still have trouble with s, w, and r sounds
Ask for the definition of unfamiliar words
Make up stories and talk about what they’re thinking
Argue, even though the argument might not be logical
At-home connection: “Umm… uh… that thing.” Learn why young kids might have trouble finding the right word.
Social and Emotional Milestones
Your child may be starting to develop a unique, recognizable personality. Kids this age are more able to get along with peers and work out things that bother them through play. Most kids can also:
Start to show and express a wider range of emotion
Share, cooperate, be helpful, and take turns
Start tattling and acting a little bossy
Enjoy telling silly jokes and find other things funny
Begin telling small lies to get out of trouble, even though they know it’s wrong
Do or say things they shouldn’t to see what the reaction will be
Have imaginary friends and play the same imaginary games over and over
Start playing with other kids and separate from parents and caregivers more easily
May still have tantrums because of changes in routine or not getting what they want
At-home connection: Worried about your child’s temper? Take a look at how to tame tantrums.
Remember: Kids develop at different paces. They may gain some skills later than other kids or have some skills that are advanced for their age.
But if your 4-year-old hasn’t met many of these milestones, talk with your health-care provider. You can work together to discover whether there are skills that need extra help. Take a look forward at developmental milestones for kindergartners.
Four-year-olds might argue a lot and have many new words to use when arguing.
This year, kids often become more independent physically and in friendships.
Talk to your health-care provider if you have concerns about your child’s progress.