Lesia Oesterreich, M.S.
Family Life Extension Specialist
Human Development and Family Studies
Iowa State University
“Energetic” and “imaginative” best describe the 4-year-old. Often impatient and silly, they discover humor and spend a great deal of time being silly and telling you “jokes.” A 4-year-old's language may range from silly words such as “batty-watty” to profanity. Loud, boisterous laughter may accompany such language.
Imagination suddenly becomes greater than life for the 4-year-old, who often confuses reality and “make-believe.” Wild stories and exaggerations are common.
Four-year-olds feel good about the things they can do, show self-confidence, and are willing to try new adventures. They race up and down stairs or around corners, dash on tricycles or scooters, and pull wagons at full tilt. You still need to watch them closely as they cannot estimate their own abilities accurately and are capable of trying some outlandish and dangerous tricks.
SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
IDEAS FOR CAREGIVERS
- Read aloud each day and encourage children to look at books on their own. Provide alternative reading material with a collection of outdated coupons, junk mail, newspaper ads, and old cereal boxes.
- Say nursery rhymes and fingerplays together. Encourage 4-year-olds to tell stories to younger children.
- Encourage interest in writing and words. Provide children with paper and notebooks for writing. Print letters and numerals on art work, and label toy shelves with pictures and words that describe objects.
- Provide a variety of art experiences. Make play dough. Create collages from magazine pictures, fabric, wallpaper, and newsprint. Encourage children to experiment with new media like wire and cork, soda straws, string, or yarn. Teach children to mix different colors with paint.
- Teach important number and space concepts. Sort and count everything in sight, like silverware, socks, rocks, leaves, etc. Talk about things being in, on, under, behind, beside, before and after, larger than, too far, etc.
- Teach children the correct use of the telephone.
- Four-year-olds have a strong need to feel important and worthwhile. Praise accomplishments, and provide opportunities to experience freedom and independence.
- Teach the use of landmarks to find their way around your neighborhood.
- Encourage physical development. Play follow the leader. Pretend to walk like various animals. Set up an obstacle course indoors with challenges such as crawling, climbing, leaping, balancing, and running across stepping stones. Encourage walking with a beanbag on the head.
- Promote respect for life and living things by letting them help you build a bird feeder and hang it up. Record the kinds of birds observed, and teach them to identify birds by significant characteristics like the red male and green female cardinals, the black caps and white cheeks of the chickadee.
- Encourage 4-year-olds to help you plan and plant a garden. They will love to water plants daily and will enjoy measuring plant growth.
- Encourage multicultural awareness through representative dolls, puppets, pictures, and books. Encourage cultural aspects of all the families, and learn recipes, songs, and information about cultural celebrations.
- Expand dramatic play by providing a variety of props for themes like grocery store, pizza parlour, birthday party, and firefighter.