Your 4-year-old is continuing to explore the environment and to enjoy more social interactions. Play remains critical to social development. Your child will like being with peers and requires less adult supervision. He or she can distinguish between genders and might engage in male-female role play. Other play activities might include hopping, ball throwing, cutting with scissors, and drawing. (Most 4-year-olds can copy a cross.)

Language and motor skills develop rapidly during this time. Your child's vocabulary will grow quickly. He or she can now understand two-step commands. Four- to five-word sentences are used most of the time. Some 4-year-olds will have a short period of stuttering, but otherwise speech is good. During the year, your child will be able to tell a story, name one to two colors, and count up to four objects.

Your child will enjoy his or her new independence. You can expect him or her to dress without assistance (except tying the shoes).

Praise your child for learning new skills.

What safety measures do I take with a 4-year-old?

  • Poison-proof your home, paying special attention to cabinets at child level. In the event your child ingests a potentially harmful substance, keep the container and call the poison control center toll-free at 800.222.1222. A representative will tell you what to do.
  • Hot tap water should be less than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Smoke detectors should be located on each level of your home and outside of each bedroom.
  • Keep firearms unloaded and locked in a cabinet if you must have them in the home.
  • Secure electrical cords and cover electrical outlets.
  • Practice fire drills at home.
  • Your child should be in a car seat until he or she weighs 40 pounds and is at least 4 years old. The car seat should be placed in the back seat of the car.
  • Your child should not ride a bike without a helmet.
  • Discuss stranger safety.
  • Your child should never swim without supervision. All pools and water areas should be inaccessible to your child.
  • Until your child can be taught to cross the street independently, he or she should always be accompanied by an adult.
  • Check to make sure playground equipment is secure. Look for loose parts.
  • Be careful when removing food from microwaves. Children can be burned by steam escaping from lids, plastic wrap, cooking bags, and food itself.
  • When entertaining, make sure someone is assigned to watch the kids. Too often, accidents happen when everyone assumes someone else is in charge.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/26/2017.


  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Developmental Milestones: 3 to 4 year olds ( Accessed 8/7/2017.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Developmental Milestones: 4 to 5 year olds ( Accessed 8/7/2017.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Important Milestones: Your Child By Four Years ( Accessed 8/7/2017.

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