Developmental Milestones for Your Child’s Fourth-Year

Your baby is growing up so fast! By the time they turn four years old, your little one will have accomplished many milestones in their journey through life. It’s an exciting time full of change as your child grows and learns, and there are certain milestones that can tell you how well your child is doing that. This page will list the milestones that most children reach between ages three and four years.

Some of these milestones might seem small, but they are an important part of your child’s overall development. That’s why it’s good for you to be aware of what changes to expect during your child’s fourth year. When you know what to look out for, you can help your child learn and grow with confidence! And as part of this guide, we’ll give you ideas for different activities you can do with your child to help them improve their skills and reach their milestones.

Remember, these milestones are a guide, not a hard and fast rule. Some children pick up new skills faster than others, and some children need a little extra encouragement. Don’t stress about whether or not your child is doing everything listed by the exact ages given. But if you are concerned about your child’s development, you can always speak with their pediatrician or one of our pediatric therapists to get answers and advice.

Your Child by Three-and-a-Half Years

It may feel like things are slowing down with your child, but they’ve got some more tricks up their little sleeves! By about three-and-a-half years old, most children will achieve the below milestones in the following developmental areas:

  • Able to wash their hands thoroughly
  • Walks up the stairs with feet alternating on each step (though they may still go down the stairs with one foot always taking the step)
  • Can cut a piece of paper into two pieces
  • Able to balance while standing on one leg for about five seconds
  • Able to throw a ball at a target with good coordination
  • Makes ropes by rolling Play-Doh®, putty, or a similar soft material
  • Climbs with confidence on playground equipment
  • Starts to understand more prepositions (like if you say something is on the table, under the chair, over the fence, etc.)
  • Uses different question words to get answers, like “what,” “why,” “who,” etc.
  • Understands and uses the plural form of words, like shoes or toys.
  • Other people can understand what your child is saying about 75% of the time or more
  • Can hear you when you call their name from another room
  • Uses their words to ask you for help
  • Able to count to at least five on their own
  • Can describe the actions happening in picture books
  • Understands and follows daily routines, like coming to the table for breakfast in the morning
  • Able to tell you their first name and age
  • Knows that things like a hot stove or a ladder are dangerous and avoids them
  • Talks about their day, like what they did at daycare or a friend’s house
  • Can play by themselves for a while (and may prefer it sometimes)
  • Likes to play with other children and wants to make friends
  • Is starting to understand the difference between right and wrong, and may start tattling on others

How You Can Help Your Three-and-a-Half-Year-Old Reach Their Milestones

Encouraging your child to try new things is a great way to help them learn and grow! Here are some tips for what you can do with your child to help them reach their three-and-a-half-year milestones:

  • Keep answering your child’s questions to help them learn more about the things, people, and places around them.
  • Engage with your child’s stories by asking questions about what they did, who was there, was it fun, and so on. Showing them that you are interested in what they have to say will help them feel confident in communicating with you and others.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of time to run around outside and play. Lots of exercise will ensure their strength, balance, and coordination develop.
  • Play games with them that improve cognitive skills, like matching games, finding patterns, and “Spot the Difference” pictures.
  • Keep reading them stories and asking questions about the characters, the pictures, and what your child thinks is going to happen next. This engages their imagination and can help improve their comprehension.
  • Let your child play with creative and sensory toys like paints, crayons, Play-Doh®, sand, beads, etc.
  • Continue to limit your child’s screen time to about an hour per day, and make sure you supervise what they are watching or playing. Screens are fun, but what’s most important for your child’s development is to explore the real world around them.
  • Praise your child for the good things they do, like if they help you take groceries out of the shopping bags or share their toy with another child. Telling your child when they did a good job can go a long way toward getting them to show good behavior.

Your Child by Four Years

It may feel like things are slowing down with your child, but they’ve got some more tricks up their little sleeves! By their fourth birthday, most children will achieve the below milestones in the following developmental areas:

  • Able to successfully button and unbutton larger buttons, like the ones on their clothes
  • Can walk down the stairs by alternating their steps
  • Can walk backwards about four feet without stumbling
  • Able to hop on one foot three to five times per foot without falling
  • Holds fork, spoon, crayons, etc. with their fingers, not in a fist
  • Able to color mostly within the lines of coloring pages and drawings
  • Can ride a tricycle or other similar toy and successfully navigate it where they want to go
  • Can zip up their own clothes once the zipper is started
  • Able to take off their own clothes and can put their clothes on with some help
  • Can explain to you what different objects are used for, like the refrigerator, the TV remote, the doorbell, etc.
  • Likes to sing their favorite songs
  • Routinely speaks in longer sentences (four or more words)
  • Uses contractions when they speak (I’m, can’t, etc.)
  • Pronounces most sounds correctly, though may still have trouble with r and th sounds
  • Can recount what will happen next in a story they’ve heard multiple times
  • Draws people with three or more body parts
  • Able to recognize patterns, like stripes of alternating colors on clothing or shapes that are lined up in a simple pattern (square, triangle, circle; square, triangle, circle; etc.)
  • Recognizes and names the basic colors of the rainbow
  • Can sort objects by size
  • Draws pictures and tells you what each part is
  • Able to tell you their first and last name, age, and gender
  • Understands the concept of time (past, present, and future) enough that they can tell you about something that happened in the past, what they are doing right now, and what is going to happen soon
  • Able to solve larger puzzles (about 10 pieces)
  • Pretends to be someone else when playing, such as a favorite movie character, a superhero, an animal, etc.
  • Likes to offer help to others
  • Knows that certain behavior like running around or talking loudly is okay in some places (home, the playground) and not okay in others (grocery store, library)
  • Is becoming more independent
  • Will share their toys with their friends or family when playing
  • Likes to share their opinions about things
  • May have imaginary friends that they play with

How You Can Help Your Four-Year-Old Reach Their Milestones

In addition to the examples given above, here are some tips for what you can do with your child to help them reach their four-year milestones:

  • Turn learning numbers into a scavenger hunt. Ask your child how many of something is in your house or yard, and walk around with them to find out the answer. Example: “How many sinks do we have? Let’s go look. There’s one…two…” etc. This will help them learn their numbers and encourage them to find out the answers to questions by looking themselves.
  • Encourage them to play and explore outside to develop their balance, coordination, strength, and other vital motor skills.
  • Prepare your child for meeting new people and going to new places (like school, the dentist, or a vacation) by talking to them about what they can expect when you get there. You may also find age-appropriate books that cover these kinds of topics in a story or educational videos online. By letting your child know what’s going to happen and answering their questions, you can help them be more confident about new situations.
  • Continue limiting their screen time to about an hour per day with adult supervision.
  • Ask your child about the colors, shapes, and sizes of things that they see throughout the day: What color is that stop sign? Do you think that’s a big tree or a small tree? Asking them these kinds of questions will help your child learn and remember more about colors, shapes and sizes, which will help when they start school.
  • If your child does not usually get a lot of time to play with other children their age, look for groups or activities in your community that you and your child might enjoy. Your local library or community center may have activities for children throughout the week.
  • Make sure your child has toys that encourage them to use their imagination, such as dolls, puppets, dress-up costumes, toy kitchens, tools, etc.. And if your little “doctor” comes along to listen to your heartbeat or your little “chef” brings you a tasty meal they prepared, play along!
  • Play age-appropriate games with your child to encourage their critical thinking and problem-solving skills: jigsaw puzzles, Jenga®, matching games, hide and seek, scavenger hunts, etc.

Children are natural explorers. They’re curious about the world around them and they learn best by doing. That’s why play is such an important part of their development! Through play, children can explore their interests, try new things, and practice the skills they’re learning. As a parent, you can encourage your child’s play and exploration by spending time with them, engaging in their interests, and having conversations about what they’re doing. Not only does this help your child develop, but it’s also just plain fun!

And if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s development, their pediatrician or our pediatric therapists will be happy to help you with answers and advice.