What to Expect from Your 4-year-old

Each of us wonders whether our children are developing appropriately and if they’re achieving as they should. These are guidelines on what to expect from your child at age four. Remember that these are only guidelines. Child development is not age-specific. Each child develops at his or her own special rate.

Your 4-year-old:


  • Moods change rapidly
  • Tries out feelings of power
  • Dominates, is bossy, boastful, quarrelsome
  • Assertive
  • Shows off, is cocky, noisy
  • Can fight own battles
  • Hits, grabs, insists on desires
  • Explosive, destructive
  • Easily over-stimulated, excitable
  • Impatient, intolerant in large groups
  • Cooperates in groups of two or three
  • Develops special friends
  • In-group develops, excludes others
  • Shifts loyalties frequently
  • Resistant
  • Tests limits
  • Exaggerates, tells tall tales
  • Teases, outwits, has terrific humor
  • May have scary dreams
  • Tattles frequently
  • Has food jags, food strikes


  • Has more words than knowledge
  • A great talker, questioner
  • Likes words, plays with them
  • Has high interest in poetry
  • Able to talk to solve conflicts
  • Responds to oral directions
  • Enjoys taking turns to sing along
  • Interested in dramatizing songs, stories
  • Exaggerates, practices words
  • Uses voice control, pitch, rhythm
  • Asks when? why? how?
  • Joins sentences together


  • Longer, leaner body build
  • Vigorous, dynamic, acrobatic
  • Active until exhausted
  • Works, builds, drives, pilots
  • Can jump own height and land upright
  • Hops, skips, hops on one foot
  • Throws large ball, kicks accurately
  • Jumps over objects
  • Walks on a straight line
  • Races up and down stairs
  • Turns somersaults
  • Walks backward toe-heel
  • Accurate, rash body movements
  • Copies a cross, square
  • Can draw a stick figure
  • Holds paintbrush in adult manner
  • Can lace shoes
  • Dresses self except back buttons, ties
  • Has sureness and control in finger activities
  • Alternates feet going down stairs


  • Does some naming and representation in art
  • Gives art products personal value
  • Can work for a goal
  • Questions constantly
  • Interested in how things work, has active intellectual drive
  • Interested in life and death concepts
  • Has an extended attention span
  • Can do two things at once
  • Dramatic play is closer to reality
  • Judges which of two objects is larger
  • Has concept of three, can name more
  • Has accurate sense of time
  • Full of ideas
  • Begins to generalize, often faulty
  • Likes a variety of materials
  • Calls people names
  • Has imaginary playmates


Gordon, A. & Brown, K. W. (1996). Beginnings and Beyond. New York: Delmar Publishing.


2/24/2005 11:53:57 PM
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