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Milestones - 4 Years

The Milestone Guide
- 4 Years -

At age four, your child’s confidence makes a big jump. With near-mastery of her motor skills, an increased attention span, and a heck of a lot more independence, she’ll be eager to approach new experiences and learn new things. There’s a good reason kindergarten is reserved for four-year-olds—this is when kids can really start digging into learning. The big moment you’ve been waiting for is just around the corner… a lot of children start reading this year!

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Fine Motor

This year is all about precision. Your four-year-old will soon develop enough fine motor control to learn how to hold a pencil properly. She’ll be able to throw and kick a ball much more effectively and her hand-eye coordination will see a massive upgrade. Small, precise movements will be developed this year. She’ll be able to build more complex and intricate structures out of blocks, use tools effectively, and even thread small beads onto a length of string. It’s also at this time many kids learn how to interact with a computer via a mouse and keyboard.

Gross Motor

One word: sports! Confident gross motor control means an ability to participate in sports with other kids. Sports a great form of exercise, and playing on a team is a great way to learn how to cooperate and the importance of follow the rules. At four, your child can begin learn how to swim, skate, dance, ski… the list goes on! The base ability for large movements is well established by the end of this year. Any improvement in gross motor from this point on is mainly due to increased strength and practice, practice, practice!

Curiosity & Discovery

This year you’ll witness a tremendous expansion of your child’s horizons. He’ll have a much longer attention span, which means he can focus on activities and tasks for longer. There will also be an increase in curiosity about experiences he observes or hears about others having. That means he’ll want to do new things, and he’ll be able to get more out of every experience he has. His ability to learn about objects and events by discussing his observations and making comparisons will increase as well. Give your four-year-old plenty of new experiences this year, and talk about all of them together!

Imagination & Creativity

The world of your child’s imagination is becoming a more defined place. Your four-year-old is using her imagination and creativity for more complex pretend play. She shows a remarkable ability to think outside the box, offering creative (though not always effective) alternative methods to performing this task or that. Your little one’s artistic inclinations are moving more towards realism—you may not have to ask her what she’s drawn anymore! She uses art to tell stories and depict scenarios, both real and imagined. It’s a great way to process the events of the day and the thoughts she has. Musical ability may blossom this year, along with an understanding of musical concepts like pitch and rhythm, among others.

Thinking & Problem Solving

Your four-year-old is a scientist. This year will bring an ability to make and follow plans to accomplish tasks. Your little one has the ability to learn from past experiences, including failures and successes, and explain what happened and how it led to the result. When things don’t work out, there’ll be willingness to re-think the plan and try something new. Willingness to fail and try again is one of the best early indicators of success later in life. Encouraging his desire to try, and try again is more important than praising success at any given task.


This is the year many children start to learn how to read, write, and count. Your four-year-old may be able to identify and reproduce many letters, numbers and shapes. By the end of the year, she’ll know over 5,000 words—more than enough to have conversations about nearly any topic. You’ll be able to start reading longer books with more words per page together. By the end of the year, she’ll likely know the alphabet, and be able to count to 10. Even though it’s not likely your little one will write actual words, she may string letters together, pretending to write words. This year your four-year-old will understand concepts like less and more, as well as being able to recognize and manipulate geometric shapes.

Self-Expression & Confidence

Though four-year-olds still need adults around as role models, confidence in their own actions and decisions is growing. You may see your child wanting to choose her own clothing, for example. It’s good to let your child have some autonomy in appropriate situations. Being allowed to make her own decisions will help her become more and more self-sufficient. Four-year-olds are quite good at expressing themselves verbally. They aren’t shy about making their individual needs and preferences known. But your child will also develop awareness that others’ feelings and preferences might be different. There will be plenty of opportunities to teach cooperation and compromise.

Listening & Communication

Your child’s ability to communicate will take a leap forward this year. Along with vocabulary growth, your four-year-old will start using more complex sentences to communicate his thoughts, feelings and ideas. He may even understand some figures of speech, showing that his grasp of abstract language is increasing. This year, your child will become a better conversationalist. Initiating conversations, waiting for others to finish before speaking, and relaying information about past events more effectively are some of the ways you’ll see your little one improve this year.

Sharing & Cooperation

Your little one will continue to hone her social skills this year. She’ll be able to cooperate with a group of kids well enough to spend long stretches of time playing games or engaging in pretend play. She’ll form stronger friendships with some of the children she encounters, bonding over similarities and shared interests. Your four-year-old will develop a sense of empathy, showing appropriate concern when another child is upset or hurt. She may even suggest solutions to problems her peers are facing. It’s important to encourage empathy and compassionate thinking to keep your little one developing a habit of kindness in friendship.

Security & Happiness

Kindergarten starts this year, which means a big change for your child. New kids, a new teacher, and maybe even the first time away from mom or dad for an extended period. Luckily, four-year-olds have developed some of the tools needed to adapt to changes like that. Your little one can tolerate time away from you or other familiar adults much better than ever before. He’s able to get his feelings out through talking or drawing a picture, which can help him control strong emotions.

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