What To Expect of Your Four-Year-Old

Blog Post created by teachontarioteam on Mar 25, 2015
citizenship_644-362.jpgBrain Development:
  • is more likely to solve problems through words than aggressive action
  • has a vocabulary of about 1,500 to 2,000 words
  • speaks in fairly complex sentences (4 to 5 words)
  • can hold a pencil, cut, paste, draw stick figures, and copy a square and a circle
  • can recognize some letters if taught and may be able to print name
  • recognizes familiar words in simple books or signs, like STOP on a sign
  • likes funny, exaggerated stories, jokes and riddles
  • can count to 5
  • names 6-8 colours and 3 shapes
  • continues one activity for 10-15 minutes
  • can place objects in a line from largest to smallest
  • begins to understand some concepts of time (yesterday, today, tomorrow)
  • understands tallest and biggest, same, more, under, in and above
  • asks endless "why" questions
  • usually can put toys and materials away without adult assistance
  • insists on finishing an activity or project
  • likes helping with simple tasks
  • begins to know difference between right and wrong
  • begins to be curious about things like skin colour, weight, and physical disabilities
  • shows growing ability to distinguish real life from make-believe
  • tells tall tales, but cannot always distinguish between honesty and dishonesty
  • believes the only viewpoint is own
  • believes two unrelated events can have a cause-effect relationship
Inside the Brain:
  • ongoing growth of dendrites (neuron branches that transmit messages), myelination (creation of sheath around brain nerve fibres allowing better communication), and creation of synapses (spaces where brain information is transmitted)
  • neurons aiding long-term memory emerge
  • math areas begin to develop in the parietal lobe
  • gains are seen in visual/motor coordination as myelination and lobe growth continue
Emotional Development:
  • regresses to baby-like behaviour periodically
  • shows new fears (becoming aware of more dangers)
  • enjoys showing off and bragging about possessions
  • has a penchant for silliness
  • is more confident and calm
  • enjoys being busy and making things
  • shows an interest in his or her private parts and in the differences between boys and girls
  • lies sometimes to protect self and friends
  • loves telling jokes that might not make any sense to adults
  • likes to be noisy
Social Development:
  • makes friends
  • knows how to give, share, and receive
  • takes turns and shares most of the time but can still be bossy
  • refers to parents as final authority
  • continues to test parental limits
  • uses "naughty" words to observe reaction
  • is ready for group activities
  • talks "with" another child, but does not listen to what other child says
  • is comfortable with other children, but shares grudgingly
  • tattles and name-calls
  • is aware of simple rules and is beginning to feel guilty when disobeys
  • changes rules of the game as it goes along
  • is more aware of sex role differences
  • imitates adult activities


Physical Development:
  • weight: 12-23 kilograms (27-50 pounds)
  • height: 94-117 cm (37-46 inches)
  • can skip, walk on tiptoes, and balance on one foot or on a beam about 5cm (2') wide
  • tires easily
  • is accident prone
  • can walk a straight line
  • can hop on one foot
  • stacks 10 or more blocks
  • can use a spoon, fork and knife skillfully
  • catches, bounces and throws a ball easily
  • enjoys making loud noises, but is frightened by unexpected sounds
  • toilets independently
  • makes designs and draws recognizable objects
  • manipulates blunt scissors
  • dresses self (with exception of shoes)
  • small muscle control lags behind large muscle
  • may wet the bed from time to time
  • needs 10-12 hours of sleep at night

As every child is unique and there is a wide range of what’s ‘normal’ at every age, it’s important to remember these lists are guidelines only. If you are concerned about your child’s development, see your doctor.

Sources: AboutKidsHealth, The Hospital for Sick Children, Health A-Z, Developmental Stages, Ontario Ministry of Child and Youth Services, Ontario Early Years Centres: A Place for Parents and Their Children,The Developing Brain: Birth to Age Eight, by Marilee Sprenger, Your Child’s Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning from Birth to Adolescence, by Jane M. Healy, Ages and Stages, by Lesia Oesterreich, M.S.,extension human development specialist, Human Development and Family Studies, Iowa State University and “Learning from mistakes only happens after age 12, study suggests,” from Science Daily, Sept. 27, 2008.