4 year old girl with a fur-trimmed hood closes eyes and laughs. There are many milestones to look forward to with your four-year-old, including an increase in social emotional skills.

You Have a 4-Year-Old! Here's What to Expect

Four is an exciting age, filled with milestones like lengthening back and forth conversations and the emergence of rhyming abilities. As the other half of the “magic years,” your 4-year-old child will continue to bloom in the areas of imagination, discovery, and wonder. There’s plenty to look forward to, so read on to find out what to expect from your little one this year!

Physical Development

Physically, your child will have slowed down their visible growth somewhat. However, that doesn’t mean that there are some new skills on the horizon. In their 4th year, your child will have advanced their balance, meaning they can do things like hop on one foot and play hopscotch. In terms of motor skills, your little one may be managing buttons and eating utensils with more ease.

Cognitive Development 

You’ll notice that your 4-year-old will be able to sustain attention for longer periods of time. Don’t get ahead of yourself, however. A typical 4-year-old can pay attention during activities for about 5-10 minute increments.

You may also notice increased skill when it comes to numbers. At some point in their 4th year, your child will be able to count to 10 and identify a few numbers when you point to them. Likewise, your child may be able to identify some letters when pointed to and write at least a portion of their name.

Language Development

Your 4-year-old’s language will continue to grow more sophisticated each week. A typical 4-year-old will have a vocabulary of more than 1000 words and will construct sentences of about 4 to 5  words. They’ll be able to tell stories with at least two events and can answer simple questions about a story after telling it to them. They will also be able to understand and follow simple rules for conversation, such as taking turns talking.

At this stage, your child will begin to recognize simple rhymes. This is a great time to read rhyming stories, sing songs together, or play rhyming games in the car. Rhyming is an important pre-literacy skill!

Social Emotional Development 

By four, your child will likely have an active social life filled with friends from around the neighborhood or at daycare. They’ll be more interested in playing with other children rather than playing parallel to them like years prior. They’ll play cooperatively and negotiate solutions to conflicts with others. You may also notice them becoming more creative with their imaginative play. Your child is blooming socially and this is a great time to encourage play dates!

Preparing for Kindergarten

This is the year to begin talking about Kindergarten. Discussing this big milestone in a positive light will be integral to your child’s outlook on education. And although you’ll want your child to keep up with the other children academically, the most important things you’ll want to prepare your child for will be social skills and independent self-care skills. Socially, you’ll want to be sure that they know how to share, cooperate, have empathy, respect boundaries, listen to others, accept consequences, and be able to practice a reasonable amount of patience (like waiting for their turn to talk). To learn more about these Kindergarten-ready social emotional skills read this article.

In terms of self-care, your child will benefit from knowing how to put on and remove their shoes, jackets, and sweaters. They should also start practicing how to access their lunch with as much independence as they can. This includes things like opening and closing containers, putting a straw in their juice, and opening twist tops. You’ll be amazed how much your child is capable of with consistent practice over time!

It's important to remember that every child develops at their own pace and some children may reach milestones earlier or later than others. These milestones are general guidelines and should not be used to compare your child to others. If you have any concerns about your child's development, it's best to speak with your pediatrician.

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