Joyce Powell

Extension Assistant
Human Development

Charles A. Smith, Ph.D.
Extension Specialist
Human Development

Copyright/Access Information

Have you ever wondered how your child is growing and developing compared to other children of the same age? How do you know if your child is “on the right track”?

Your child is going through many physical and mental changes. Although no two children grow at the same rate, experts agree there are “normal” signs of development. This brochure will provide you with a checklist of important milestones in your child's development during the fourth year of life.

It is a simple tool you can use to become aware of and appreciate the dramatic changes that are occurring in your child. Watch for these signs in your child over a one month period. (Even children have “bad days.”) Remember, each child is different and may learn and grow at a different rate. However, if your child cannot do many of the skills listed for his or her age group, you should consult your pediatrician. Several additional sources of information are listed on the back of this brochure.

You are the most important observer of your child's development. If your child has special needs, early help can make a difference.

By 4 years of age does your child:

Motor Skills

feed herself (with little spilling)
try to use a fork
hold a pencil
try to write name
draw with the arm and not small hand movements
draw a circle
draw a face
try to cut paper with blunt scissors
sometimes unbutton buttons
try to buckle, button, and lace, even though she probably needs help
completely undress herself if wearing clothes with simple fasteners
brush teeth with help
build a tower of 7-9 blocks
put together a simple puzzle of 4-12 pieces
pour from a small pitcher
use the toilet alone
try to skip
catch a bouncing ball
walk downstairs using a handrail and alternating feet
swing, starting by himself and keeping himself going

Sensory and Thinking Skills

recognize red, yellow, and blue
understand taking turns and can do so without always being reminded
understand “big,” “little,” “tall,” “short”
want to know what will happen next
sort by shape or color
count up to 5 objects
follow three instructions given at one time
(“Put the toys away, wash your hands, and come eat.”)
distinguish between the real world and the imaginary or pretend world
identify situations that would lead to happiness, sadness, or anger

Language and Social Skills

have a large vocabulary and use good grammar often
often talk about action in conversation (“go,” “do,” “make”)
enjoy rhyming and nonsense words
use regular past tenses of verbs (“pulled,” “walked”)
use “a,” “an,” and “the” when speaking
ask direct questions (“May I?” “Would you?”)
want explanations of “why” and “how”
relate a simple experience she has had recently
understand “next to”
separate from his parent for a short time without crying
help clean up toys at home or school when asked to
like to play “dress up”
pretend to play with imaginary objects
act out elaborate events which tell a story (as in serving an imaginary dinner or going on a “dragon hunt”)
sometimes cooperate with other children
often prefer playing with other children to playing alone, unless deeply involved in a solitary task
change the rules of a game as he goes along
try to bargain (“I'll give you this toy if you'll give me that one”)
share when asked
enjoy tag, hide-and-seek and other games with simple rules
like moderate “rough and tumble” play
like to do things for himself
know her age and the town where she lives
act as though a doll or stuffed animal thinks and feels on its own

If you have questions about your child's development or want to have your child tested,

  • call your pediatrician
  • the local health department
  • the Make-A-Difference Information Network (They can help you find a testing location near your community.) 1-800-332-6262
  • the Parent Helpline (They can help you with questions about child rearing.) 1-800-332-6378

Contact your county extension office to obtain other publications in this series. Additional resources on parenting are also available.

Thanks to Ann Murray and Susan Wanska for their assistance
in the preparation of this publication series.

The developmental information provided in this bulletin has been synthesized
from a variety of professional resources to help you appreciate your child's progress.
It is not a formal, standardized measurement tool.

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