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Ages & Stages: 4 to 5 Years

Dear Debi,
I’m raising a 4-year-old. Are there any special techniques that you can share with me for a child her age? What skills should a 4-year-old have?
Irene Lopez
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
Look for:
  • Frequent dramatic play
  • Developing friendships
  • Increased physical mobility
  • Increased language skills
Ages & Stages – 4 To 5:
  • Talk frequently with your child & read books together
  • Follow your child’s lead
Expert Advice
Susan Baxter
Susan Baxter
Early Childhood Education Instructor
There are many things you can do to foster the development of four-year-olds. You should create a space that encourages exploration and development of the imagination through dramatic play, storybooks, props, and art materials. You can model appropriate ways of socializing and resolving conflict. Four-year-olds need a lot of physical affection. They need to be cuddled, along with plenty of time to regroup and be reassured. Four-year-olds need an environment that encourages appropriate exploration, they need a lot of time for physical play, they need opportunities to socialize, and an opportunity to increase their verbal skills. They need opportunities to explore and create and see their bodies and minds evolving through play.

Dramatic play is important at this age. Four-year-olds start to wake up to their own empowerment, have a sense of initiative so that they’re starting to take on and create their own play and imagination. They’re very much more self-directed than they were at two or three. Two things happen at four years of age that didn’t happen at ages two or three. Four-year-olds have a greater imagination and they’re able to incorporate their imagination more and more, and they’re also starting to play with concepts and ideas in their environment. They’re tuned in to imitation, playing mommy, daddy, the cat, the brother.

Four-year-olds are really interested in the social process and in the idea of having a friend. They’re keen on having friends, but their friends aren’t stable. They are friends because they have the same clothes – their friendships are very self-centered. The best friends three weeks ago may not be the same best friends in two weeks.

Four-year-olds should be doing a lot of self-taught behaviors with supervision like cleaning themselves, brushing their teeth, and eating properly. They move very quickly, but their bodies still are not in adult proportions. They still have a bigger torso comparatively and they are starting to lean out. They are full of energy and do everything fast. They’re very active and very capable in their skills. They are still working on catching a ball, and hopping on one foot. It’s an extremely physical age because their physical body, fine and gross motor skills are more refined so that they can do more things and they can use their bodies much more readily.

Child Care provider Comments
Ronni Rice
Ronni Rice
Mother of Two
With my daughter, who’s also 4, one of the things we’re working on now is what to do when someone doesn’t want to play the same game you want to play. So she is now learning about negotiation and cooperation with other children. The other thing I’ve noticed in 4-year olds is role-playing, like playing house, mommy, daddy, baby. They tend to act out what’s going on in their lives. A technique I use at home with my daughter is simple observation because it is a great tool at getting amazing insight about how they’re feeling and what they’re doing.
Sandra Dennis
Sandra Dennis
Grandmother of one
The other thing is that they can be bossy because they love to be in charge of something or someone. So give them responsibilities by letting them be line leader or special helpers, or even let them wipe the table. I have a little one in my child care that likes to fold the blankets after nap. She loves to do it and she takes her time doing it; she feels a lot of pride about her accomplishments. My four-year-old granddaughter, Janelle, also likes to help with the younger children. If we’re on a walk, she can hold someone’s hand and she feels like she’s a big girl. That allows her to do what she’s able to do and be the “big sister” at the daycare.
Sonnia Corzo
Sonnia Corzo
Child care provider for 6 years, mother of four
I think one of the most common traits of 4 year-olds is that they’re starting to learn pre-writing skills. It’s common for them to want to know how to write their names because they’re at the pre-kindergarten stage. You can help them do that by writing their name on every piece of paper and project. Label everything that is theirs with their names so they’re able to match the letters to their name. You can also incorporate the alphabet and pre-writing skills with free form writing and drawing, or even tracing letters with beans.

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Ages & Stages:  4 – 5 Years Featured Video:
Ages & Stages: 4 – 5 Years
Topic: Child Development
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