Child Development Stages at Age 4

By Kathryn Walsh
Ronnie Kaufman/Larry Hirshowitz/Blend Images/Getty Images

Four is an age of in betweens. Your child is no longer a toddler, but she's not yet one of the "big kids" either. She may cling to your hand one day, but run ahead of you the next. You should see changes in your child this year, as she makes strides in all areas of development, but remember that no two 4-year-olds develop at exactly the same rate.

Physical Development

At 4, the average child weighs about 40 pounds and is about 40 inches tall, according to KidsHealth, and the child should gain 4 to 5 pounds and 2 to 3 inches per year. Your child may be smaller or bigger than the average, but as long as she is growing steadily, her pediatrician may find no cause for concern. A 4-year-old child should have the strength and large-motor coordination to run, jump and climb smoothly. She should have the fine motor skills to feed herself, take care of most of her own toilet needs and get dressed and undressed by herself, according to HealthyChildren.org. Seek help if she shows signs of delays; troubling signs include difficulty dressing herself, using the toilet and washing her hands, the site says.

Emotional and Social Development

The typical 4-year-old may crave independence one moment then want to be babied the next. At this age, kids may still be deeply attached to their adult caregivers but can also happily play quietly alone or with friends. They're learning how to work along side friends and may have a different "best friend" every week. Your 4-year-old should enjoy pretend play and may like to play "Mom" and Dad," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Four-year-olds may still have occasional tantrums. Consult your pediatrician if your 4-year-old exhibits extreme or frequent episodes of fearfulness, sadness or aggression, or if he shows disinterest or unwillingness to play with other children, advises HealthyChildren.org.

Cognitive Development

Your 4-year-old should be able to solve simple problems; for instance, if her doll keeps falling over, she may prop the doll up using blocks or she may move her into a toy high chair. A 4-year-old can typically recognize and name some colors, shapes and letters. She may be able to write her own name with the letters in the correct order, or she may write the letters of her name out of order, according to KidsHealth -- but her writing will likely be messy. At 4, a child should be able to use scissors, draw a basic person shape and talk to you about what she thinks might happen next in a book, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Signs of possible delays include an inability to focus on an activity for at least five minutes and an inability to follow two-part commands, according to HealthyChildren.org.

Language Development

If you've ever heard your 4-year-old declare something "ridiculous" or start every sentence with "Actually," you know that kids this age are constantly picking up and trying out new words. At age 4, the typical child has a vocabulary of between 1,000 and 2,000 words, according to KidsHealth. His speech should be clear, though he may mispronounce difficult letter sounds including "ch" and "sh," according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and at this age, a child should also be able to tell a short story and hold a conversation. If your child doesn't speak clearly, doesn't seem to be learning new vocabulary or seems to have difficulty hearing or uses simple words incorrectly, speak with his pediatrician.

About the Author

Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.