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The Fantastic Four-Year-Old

By — University of Florida IFAS Extension
Updated on Nov 12, 2009

Overview

Welcome to the world of a four-year-old! During this year, your child will be improving old skills while developing new ones. Everything new is of interest to her. Her curiosity is abundant and energy is overflowing. Playtime outdoors is most enjoyable for her. Providing her with plenty of time for physical activity is a good way to avoid her getting bored and acting out. A four-year-old has lost much of her shyness toward strangers. You may find her eager to go to parties and spend time in other's homes. At this age, boys tend to play with boys, and girls with girls. They love to dress up and play pretend. It is through play that children learn best. Pretending to be a firefighter, a teacher, police officer, an astronaut, etc, provides them with a chance to work out their fears and fantasies.

Developmental Milestones 

Your four-year-old is experiencing many changes during this stage of development. Let's explore some of these milestones of development.

Physical Development

By the age of four, children are able to perform more and more tasks independently. Their use of both their large and small muscles has improved from when they were three. At three, it was more difficult for them to dress themselves and eating required greater assistance from you. At four, children are able (for the most part) to dress and undress themselves without help. They can also use a fork effectively to feed themselves. At four, the only help children need during eating is in cutting meat and similar foods into smaller pieces.

Your four-year-old is also able to use a pair of scissors quite well. She enjoys cutting straight lines, as well as cutting out shapes. Her ability to color and draw is improving but her short, chubby fingers can still make drawing within the lines a challenge. She can also manage to ride and steer a bike equipped with training wheels.

Social Development

At four, your child starts understanding the meaning of friendship. She is learning to be more cooperative in play with other children. Your child will like to listen to stories as well as tell her own. Your four-year-old loves to whisper and tell secrets. She will often put her arm around a friend, and understands when a friend is upset. However, she still lacks a sense of loyalty to friendships. For example, she might say Michelle is her best friend, but when Michelle gets on the swing set first, and your four-year-old declares that she "doesn't like Michelle anymore and we are not friends."
Your child is developing her social skills-- therefore, it is important to acknowledge her feelings while encouraging the relationship. You could say something like, "Michelle really upset you because she took the swing ahead of you. It's okay for you to be angry. Maybe you and Michelle can be friends again soon."
Your child delights in anything new. She is enthusiastic about new people, new places, new playthings, and new activities. New activities satisfy part of her questioning nature. When possible, vary her activities in order to keep her interested.

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