The PlayShifu Digest

Beyond the birthday cake: Exploring the developmental milestones of your 4-year-old

Your child just blew out the candles for their fourth birthday! Congratulations, and may the fours be with you. They will be doing a lot of growing up this year – you will soon be able to see their little personalities taking shape. To help you navigate the highs and lows that the year will bring, this article will explain the different milestones coming your way.  

Before we get to it, please remember that every child grows at a different pace. If your child hasn’t checked off every milestone we have on this list, there’s no need to worry. If you think they are significantly behind, we encourage you to talk to your pediatrician about your concerns. 

Children enjoy the challenge of physical activities

Physical milestones – Growing ‘leaps’ and bounds!

Your child might grow about four inches taller and five pounds heavier this year. With their eyesight improving, you will see their motor skills developing significantly – they will be hopping, skipping, and jumping toward their milestones!

At home: Your little one should be walking in a straight line now and can climb stairs one foot to a step. They might be able to dress themselves if the clothing is simple enough. They can solve easy puzzles, stack towers up to ten blocks high, and string beads by themselves. They may also be able to shape clay or playdough into distinct objects. 

In the classroom: You might see that your child can now draw basic shapes, crosses, and wavy lines. They may also write some letters or make distinct shapes like letters. 

At play: Children can climb playground ladders, throw, catch, bounce a ball, and use the swings by themselves in the park. They can pedal and steer a tricycle or a bike, jump over small obstacles, hop on one leg, and walk on their tiptoes. 

Things to keep an eye out for: While your child might be able to address their toilet needs during the day, they may still need your help at night.

Cognitive milestones – You better ‘make-believe’ it!

Cognitive skills enable children to better comprehend the world around them.
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Your child’s imagination and cognitive skills will expand at this age, and you will see that they can think about things they can’t touch or see. They will develop many more ideas, and their attention spans will increase, too – you might see them stick with an activity for up to 15 minutes! 

At home: You will see your child starting to differentiate between things and people by height, size, or gender. They will use logic to think, understand the concept of time (‘later’ or ‘before’), and use ‘if’ and ‘when’ to explore the relationship between ideas. 

In the classroom: Your child will start learning to sort and arrange things by shape, size, and color. They will understand the concept of symbolism and that pictures they see are of natural objects or have meaning attached to them. They might be able to copy their name and count up to 20. Your child should also be able to draw a human figure with two to four body parts. 

At play: With increased cognitive ability, your child will learn to distinguish between real and make-believe. 

Things to keep an eye out for: While your child might understand ‘make-believe,’ the concept might sometimes confuse them! This may lead to them cooking up some stories (usually intending to please you).

Language milestones – It’s the wabbit season!

At four years old, your child’s language skills will improve greatly.
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With up to a thousand words in their vocabulary at this age, your child will have something to say about everything. Expect an explosion of stories, songs, rhymes, and questions this year! While they may be able to pronounce most sounds correctly, you will still enjoy the occasional (and adorable) ‘wabbit’ and ‘pasghetti’. 

At home: With better language skills, your child can follow up to 3 simple instructions together (e.g., ‘Find the ball, pick it up, and bring it to me’).

In the classroom: There will be a LOT of questions! Children at this age begin to wonder about the ‘what, why, how, where, and when’ of things. They can name some colors, clearly say their first and last names, and recall parts of stories. 

At play: At this age, your child will likely be making up silly words and phrases and singing goofy rhymes. They may also have imaginary friends. This is an excellent time to introduce them to simple board games (don’t forget to check out Tacto Classics!).

Things to keep an eye out for: With their expanding vocabulary and cognitive skills, you can expect your child to begin to argue a little – even if the arguments don’t always make sense.

Social and emotional milestones – You’ve got a friend in me

With better social skills, it will be easier for children to make friends

Little people have feelings, too – and a lot of them! Your child will begin to express a broader range of emotions this year. They will also be able to tell between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and attempt some of the latter just to see how you react. 

At home: You might see your child develop a sense of humor – they will begin to find things funny and even make up their own jokes. Their conversational skills will get better too. They will also feel a sense of empathy and understanding when someone else feels happy or sad. 

In the classroom: You will see that your child is more capable of getting along with their peers because they have developed better social skills. They will learn to share and try to help if they see a friend in need. 

At play: Your little one will make friends and separate from caregivers more easily. They will also play a lot of imaginary games and play them over and over again! 

Things to keep an eye out for: As your child begins to feel more, they’re also more likely to experiment with their feelings. You might see them test boundaries through temper tantrums, displaying bossiness amongst their peers, and maybe telling a few white lies!

Well, this is a snapshot of some of a four-year-old’s key developmental milestones. Most importantly, as you prepare for all the wonders this age brings, don’t forget to take a breath and enjoy the little things – for there will be many, and you won’t want to miss them. 

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