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Your Child's Development: 4 Years

Medically reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD

Doctors use certain milestones to tell if a preschooler is developing as expected. There's a wide range of what's considered normal, so some children gain skills earlier or later than others.

Kids who were born prematurely may reach milestones later. Always talk with your doctor about your child's progress.

Here are things preschoolers usually do by this age:

Communication and Language Skills

  • say sentences with 4 or more words
  • say some words from a song, story, or nursery rhyme
  • talk about at least one thing that happened during the day
  • answer simple questions, like “What is a crayon for?”

Movement and Physical Development

  • catch a large ball most of the time
  • help serve food; pour drinks with help
  • unbutton some buttons
  • hold a pencil or crayon between fingers and thumb (not in a fist)

Social and Emotional Development

  • pretend to be something else during play, like a teacher, superhero, or animal
  • ask to go play with other children if none are around
  • comfort others who are hurt or sad, like hugging a friend who is crying
  • avoid danger, like jumping from a high playground set
  • likes to be a “helper”
  • changes behavior based on environment, like at a library or playground

Cognitive Skills (Thinking and Learning)

  • name a few colors
  • tell what comes next in a well-known story
  • draw a person with 3 or more body parts

When Should I Call the Doctor?

You know your child best. So share your concerns — even little ones — with your child's doctor.

If your preschooler is not meeting one or more milestones or you notice that your child had skills but has lost them, tell your doctor.

To learn more about early signs of developmental problems, go to the CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early program.

Medically reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: May 2022