Development Milestones in Four Year Olds

Wondering if your four-year-old is developing at a healthy rate? Below is a list of key development markers most four-year-olds have achieved. If your child has yet to meet some of these milestones, don’t worry. It is not unusual for children to lag behind in one area of development sometimes. However, if your child displays any of the developmental alarms listed below, then make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician for follow-up.

Mental Development

  • If taught, will know some letters and can write his name
  • Can spot familiar words in easy books (boy, cat, dog)
  • Has a distinct idea about size and amount of things (tall, short, fat, less, more)
  • Can put objects in a line according to their size
  • Attention span increases; can do an activity for more than 10 minutes
  • Responds to questions of "who", "what", "when" and "where"
  • Identifies more colors and shapes
  • Can count up to 10
  • Identifies objects in the home and their rightful place, such as "Clothes can be found in the laundry bag"
  • Identifies people by their names
  • Gets an idea about daily routines (from breakfast to lunch to dinner)


Physical/Motor Development

  • Hops (even on one foot), swings, climbs, might be able to skip
  • Will walk in a straight line
  • Easily pedals a tricycle
  • Can groom himself with little help (take a bath, wear his clothes)
  • Knows how to handle a spoon, knife and fork
  • Can make different shapes from clay or plasticine
  • Plays with a ball skillfully (catches, bounces, throws)
  • Can put beads through a string
  • Plays easily with building blocks
  • Does not need any help to go to the toilet


Social and Emotional Development

  • Plays with rules, may even change them in the process
  • Will obey rules and take turns but sense of self might cause her to be bossy
  • Besides playing, listens and enjoys long conversations
  • Develops common anxieties; her world of make believe and reality might overlap. Can be scared of darkness, strangers, and monsters.
  • Will want to know "why" about all things
  • Throws tantrums to get what she wants
  • Might lie to avoid situations but does not understand the meaning of a lie
  • Pretend play becomes more refined (student-teacher, mom-dad games abound)
  • Will tell what he finds funny; can make little jokes
  • Verbalizes her anger more than acting it out
  • Acts in a more independent way; makes small decisions


Language Development

  • Can easily make conversations. Has a basic idea about grammar. Uses longer sentences. Also uses past and future tense.
  • Can make herself understood to a stranger
  • Uses adjectives to describe things and feelings ("cold", "tasty", "hungry")
  • Knows her name and address
  • Can tell a story and recall it, too


Developmental Alarms
Seek timely professional help for your child if he:


  • Cannot count, hasn’t learned the alphabet, or fails to identify basic colors
  • Cannot put objects of same shape together
  • Is disinterested in activities, does not play games with playmates or remains aloof around them
  • Has trouble with showing or controlling his emotions
  • Cannot get involved in grooming (bathing, wearing clothes); fails to be toilet-trained
  • Cannot tell body parts like eyes, ears, etc.
  • Has clumsy movements. Coordination between hands and legs is not that good. Cannot play with a ball.
  • Cannot make herself understood to strangers
  • Cannot scribble
  • Cannot tell her name
  • Is unable to do things she could easily do earlier