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A Developmental Checklist for 4-Year-Olds

By Virginia Franco ; Updated June 13, 2017

Milestones represent averages, which can give you an idea about what to expect from your 4-year-old. These milestones can alert you to potential concerns and reassure you that he is on par with others his age. At the age of 4, your child is considered a preschooler, an age when motor skills, language and social development milestones are achieved at what seems to be a lightning pace. Keep in mind that all children are unique and develop at slightly different rates; if you have concerns, talk to your child's pediatrician.

Motor Skills

Motor skills can be divided into two distinct categories: gross and fine. Gross motor skills involve the bigger muscle groups that control balance and activities such as running and jumping, At the age of 4, children should be able to move in a controlled fashion, according to Great Schools. This means they can start, stop and turn when running, hop on one foot and even gallop. They can easily catch, throw overhead and bounce a ball. Four-year-olds are able to groom themselves when it comes to brushing hair and teeth and can get dressed with little help from an adult, notes Great Schools.

Fine motor skills involve control over activities performed by the hands. A 4-year-old's fine motor skills should be developed to the point where he can handle a pencil or crayon and draw some shapes, according to HealthyChildren.org. When it comes to other devices, a 4-year-old can use a fork and a spoon comfortably to eat without assistance and cut on a line using a pair of scissors.

Language and Thinking Skills

Language and thinking developmental milestones appear to grow together exponentially when your child reaches her fourth birthday. When it comes to language, parents can expect a 4-year-old to understand 2,500 to 3,000 words, according to PBS Parents. She should speak in relatively complex sentences that have more than five words, count to 4 and even sing simple songs solo. She should be able to comprehend words that relate one idea to another, such as "if," "why" and "when." Her brain can grasp concepts related to space and number, such as "more," "smaller," "under" or "behind," and by this age she can distinguish between fantasy and reality as she begins to start developing logical thinking processes, notes Great Schools. This is the age when your child will begin to understand that a picture or symbol can represent something real (e.g., a logo for a favorite restaurant) and begin to identify patterns to categorize things (round things, things that are blue, etc). Even though a 4-year-old can't comprehend the difference between a year or a month, she can understand something is taking place tomorrow vs. something that already happened. With all this activity going on in a 4-year-old's brain, it is no wonder MedlinePlus states this is the age when a child asks the most questions.

Social and Emotional Skills

Socially and emotionally, a 4-year-old's growth is rapid. When it comes to interacting with others, most 4-year-olds have learned to take turns, share and be cooperative, according to Medline Plus, although it is normal for this behavior to regress from time to time. When a 4-year-old is mad, he is able to verbalize this rather than resorting to more physical forms of communication, such as hitting or kicking. Emotionally, he is capable of feeling jealousy and may even begin to lie when he needs to protect himself. That being said, he is still too young to grasp more complex moral concepts like right or wrong. While a 4-year-old is likely to be fiercely independent, he is known to rebel when expectations set by those in charge are excessive. And even though a 4-year old can distinguish fact from fiction, he still enjoys pretending and can have vivid imaginations that include imaginary friends, states Great Schools.

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