Curious And Fun
4-Year-Olds

Your 4-year-old is full of energy, talkative and curious. He’s eager to show you what he can do. You and he will both be excited by his accomplishments. He constantly tests his environment and will waffle between feelings of security and insecurity. He may also be a bossy little tyke who makes up stories. You will experience emotional highs and lows with this age and each day will be a new challenge for both of you.

Funny four year old boy

Each child is different and what one child does at 4 might be quite different from another. However there are some benchmarks that you will find your 4-year-old reaching this year.

4-year-old developmental milestones

Social skills for 4-year-olds

  • shows more independence — able to brush his teeth and get dressed by himself
  • demanding but also eagerly cooperative
  • may be rude, or even tell you to shut up — the more you emotionally react, the more he will misbehave
  • wants to be liked and to please his friends and perhaps has a best friend which could be of either sex
  • knows about everyday things like food, money and appliances and the concept of time
  • has little sense of ownership — possession means he views all things as his
  • has learned sympathy and sadness when someone or something is in pain — that is what he wants when he is in the same situation
  • has become aware of sexuality and has a natural curiosity about it
  • shows a high degree of interest in singing, dancing and acting
  • brims over with imaginative ideas
  • tries to distinguish the difference between fantasy and reality
  • may like telling "tall tales"

Motor skills for 4-year-olds

  • jumps up and touches line 3 inches above standing reach
  • hops forward on one foot
  • uses an overhand toss to hit a target from 5 feet
  • throws small ball underhand 10 feet
  • loves movement — climbing, swinging, somersaulting and skipping
  • enjoys writing, painting, modeling, cutting, pasting and building structures
  • draws a circle, square and sometimes triangle
  • hand-drawn pictures will contain all of the essential elements like eyes, nose and mouth — although they won't look like people to you

Language skills for 4-year-olds

  • can count to 10 or more
  • can name at least four colors
  • has a vocabulary of more than 1,000 words
  • puts together sentences of four or five words
  • asks the most questions of any age
  • enjoys using the four letter words he has heard and particularly enjoys the look on your face when he says them — don't overreact!

What is the best way to discipline your preschooler? Get tips here! >>

Parenting survival tips

Your 4-year-old is at an important learning stage. Let him set his own pace as you provide opportunities to encourage his enthusiasm and creativity. Take him to the zoo, museums, and don't forget the art gallery. There are many good books which illustrate the spatial concepts he needs to learn like over and under, and opposites like big and small. You can reinforce these concepts with everyday objects, like balls and cups.

"Encourage your child's relationships with his friends."

Encourage your child's relationships with his friends. However, you will find that with this exposure, he will realize there are other values and opinions besides yours.

Physical safety is still a big issue as motor skills have increased substantially but judgment is lacking. He will need to be reminded to wait and hold hands before crossing the street and although he probably loves water and wants to swim, never leave him unattended.

As he expresses his normal curiosity about sexuality, don't scold or punish. Answer his questions with short age-appropriate answers.

Get tips here on how to answer your preschooler's questions about sex. >>

Don't overreact to unpleasant behaviors. 'Time outs' are an effective form of punishment for this age. Usually it's recommended one minute per year, so try a four-minute time out.

Next page: Brain-boosting activities for 4-year-olds >>

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Comments on "Your 4-year-old: Development, behavior and parenting tips"

rini April 07, 2014 | 5:58 AM

my son is very stubborn he becomes very challenging sometimes I don't know what is the best way to manage the situation. I feel very bad the way I shout at him but nothing changes him

manasi thakur April 06, 2014 | 2:49 AM

my son is just 4, is very imaginative,great story teller and intellegent. but he was very impatiance. never stop anywhere always jump here and there, want to do he want, never take care of his belonings. he has also no interest in writing and painting. but a great interst IQ and spelling and teacher say his fundamental clear. but never listen to his teacher and always in his mood. is his behaviour is normal.please help me.

Mia April 05, 2014 | 7:06 AM

People are coming here for help. That don't know what to do in certain situations and have tried various things. And when im reading all I see is judgement passed, instead of encouragement. Its probably the same in your household. Judgement instead of praise/assistance/encouragement. When you are needing help there are books out there that will help you. The key to it is consistency. Thing is, our children will do the things they see us do (but in kid form). We must look at ourselves in the behavioral situations. Understand our children's emotions and speak to the emotion. A book I have been reading that has really helped me change my thinking is "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk". Try this book, very inexpensive.

LORENA March 31, 2014 | 7:59 PM

i have a four yeaar old son he loves being called a chararcter from a movie or book he just seen and really liked, we went through a tiger, lion and hulk and now he wants us to call him a big bad wolf and he calls me red riding hood but he started having his preschool teacher call him that too schould I be concerned.

Justine January 19, 2014 | 7:24 AM

My little boy has just turned 3 and most of the time a little angel. From my experience, children are only naughty when they're bored. Mine is kept occupied from the moment he wakes up until bed time. Get them involved in house work or cooking, take them to the park to wear them out. Children aren't born naughty, if they're ignored, they want attention, Just like adults, right?

Sandi January 13, 2014 | 8:51 AM

My son will turn four very soon, he is the youngest of nine but this is a blended family his siblings are all grown. He is the only child at home. Because he has no siblings it is very challenging to keep him busy with things he can do, loves to be bigger then he really is. He picks up on everything and repeats words he hears in his own sentences. I am a stay at home mom for the first time so I realize I have not the patience I did with his sisters. He has as all four year olds do a behavioral problem, I'm trying to discipline with words and logic but it doesn't always work. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Very independent and wants to do things himself and does not take no for an answer.

jeanne forsyth December 31, 2013 | 9:27 PM

my four year old daughter enjoys singing, playing with me when it is just us (i get on floor and pretend i am a horse or a unicorn, play with barbies etc.) and all the other things 4 year olds enjoy: playgounds friends singing dancing working with clay puzzles practicing letters (i do not push her) counting and of course READING BOOKS.i love this site and i am going to be giving her little tasks to do around the house to make her feel like she is an important member of the family.

M.A.Y. November 16, 2013 | 8:20 PM

Wow! I can't believe the things I'm reading here. I have a four year old and show him with words and with actions everyday how blessed I am to have him. Besides love I give him attention, I listen to him, treat him with respect, acknowledge his feelings, teach him, learn with and from him and most importantly I enjoy him. He will only be 4 years old for 365 days. Shouting, spanking, extreme feelings of frustration, not knowing basic milestones and behavioural development for your child have little to do with the child. It's our job as parents to learn, grow and develop into someone capable of guiding and teaching with love and patience the angel god has leant us.

Charlie November 05, 2013 | 5:16 PM

My son is 3 and a half, sometime some day not listens to mama and papa, just spanks here and there in the morning before get under control,

Cathy579 September 08, 2013 | 4:17 AM

I have a 4 year old son,He is very energetic. He is really sweet he listen to us most of the time. My Dad come and pick him up sometimes and stays with him 1 or 2 nights. When he came back home,he is acting up and want to stay more nights with my Dad and start screaming, crying.We decided not to let him stay with my Dad but he can come and visit my son.I need help if I should keep him at home because when he is in my dad house he always having fun and he can play all of the kids thats lives out there.My son always misses him. Please help

patricia rose August 14, 2013 | 4:04 PM

I thought i might actually learn something about my beautiful daughter that i don't know already. I have read thought some of the comments and to be honest i feel sick that you are treating your children with so much disrespect. Lisa and Valerie your a disgrace Jane you need to go to parenting course actually the whole lot of you should get off the internet and look after your kids.

Monique August 13, 2013 | 6:02 AM

When my daughter skyler throws a temper trantrum I throw one too and she stops immediately :) she must think Im crazy!!

rosi July 09, 2013 | 5:02 PM

@ faith, if my child does not react of normal adjustments such as asking or time out ect and is screaming and and not stopping the tamper tantrum at home I will take her into the shower and turn cold water on. it usually takes about 1-2 sec. for her to stop and this works . So far she is 4 years old and I needed it only 2 times.

Lisa July 02, 2013 | 7:51 PM

Valerie, I had the same problem with my son and it would go on for hours no matter what I tried. My friend nada similar problem with h now 8 year old son and what worked or her also worked for me.....since they almost seem like they can't help it and calm down, and for your own sanity since you will not convince them, tell them you are going to ignore them completely until they stop yelling and get back o a calm state. They may do some crazy things to get your attention (ie..pinch or even hit) but ignore them and keep washing those dishes or fold your clothes. It worked for us and mine gets the message now and is doing much better with his crazy tantrums. I hope it work for you

Valerie June 13, 2013 | 4:15 PM

My son throws temper tantrums to the point where he is screaming at the top of his lungs. Spanking does not work with him, putting him in the corner or in his room doesn't work, and taking toys away doesn't work. Im lost on how to get him to stop. Any suggestions would help.

Thelma Sawyer May 26, 2013 | 1:03 AM

My granddaughter turned four one ago. She is very smart and advanced for her age. On her last two visits, she has cried excessively when it is time for her mother to leave. And this child was very independent. Now she cries for her at night and is withdrawn from me. She moves away from reach but will allow my 27 year old daughter to comfort her. What could be the problem?

juliet May 10, 2013 | 2:02 PM

Hi my 4yr old son loves to sing,dance etc.i enjoyd with him but when his needs are not met he throw things away.i always say that "dont do it again its bad" but none of these things work.thats why im out of control i spanked him.he likes to play video games on wii,celphone,ipod maybe becouse of that he worsen!,.pls help me...

victoria February 25, 2013 | 3:23 PM

i think we need to show more patience as moms and ask God or higher power for help and compassion within ourselves. They are just kids and we need to love them no matter what

Carrie Payne February 15, 2013 | 4:09 PM

I have a little boy who turned four in October, he is funny, energetic, creative and very advanced for his age with writing and drawing. He sometimes tries to answer back or says with a huge grin on his face that he is going to hit us etc I think it is halarious. lovely age.

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