Welcome to the 8th installment in our milestones series and in this article we will look at the milestones of your 4 year old. If you missed the previous editions in the series, then you can check them out here…
Milestones: Newborn Milestones: 0-3 Months Milestones: 3-6 Months Milestones: 6-12 Months Milestones: 12-18 Months Milestones: 18-24 Months Milestones: 3 Years Old
Congratulations, you have managed to survive the first year of confusion, the terrible twos and the three-nager stages. Now is the time to savour that last year before they are all grown up and off to school.
I have to say that when it comes to milestones 4 years old were some of my favourites. They are old enough to start accomplishing the things that they want to do, so begin to grow their independence. But they also still love cuddles and lots of parent time.
Let’s look at those milestones now.
Milestones - 4 Years Old
“I can do it myself!”
Be prepared to hear this statement a lot. Also be prepared to clean up many messes after the effort your 4 year old makes trying to do things themselves. While the messes are a pain, learning to do tasks independently is an important rite of passage for them.
Their developing motor skills will mean that there are some simple tasks and chores they can do on their own. They will be able to get a drink from the tap, clear their plates from the table, or pour their own cereal into their bowl. Watch them fill with pride as they complete these tasks.
But there are still some things they will not be able to master yet. They might struggle with zips and buttons when dressing, and they may not register that plates and glasses are fragile. You will also need to help them brush their teeth as they do not have the precision required to do it effectively.
Your 4 year old will also be very good at pushing the boundaries to see if they can get themselves more wiggle room when it comes to the rules! Don't be afraid to tell them no, even if they don’t like it (I promise you, no kid likes to be told no!). Children need and appreciate boundaries, especially ones that concern their safety and the safety of others. Discipline can be just as important as love for a child.
There is one thing that I can say without a doubt, 4 year olds do yet not have a firm concept of time. You will send them to their room to get dressed. 20 minutes later you will go in to check on them and they will be prancing around wearing one sock… and nothing else.
It doesn’t matter what you read, all parenting advice will eventually mention establishing a routine. Routines work for four years olds as they help them begin to tell time. By sticking to a routine, your 4 year old will start to grasp the concepts of past, present and future. They will automatically reach for their toothbrush after bath time, or their shoes before walking out the door in the morning.
Help them learn about time by counting down to special events on the calendar, explaining that you will need to leave in an hour, or telling them they have 5 minutes left to play before bedtime. This will help them to gain perspective on time and the different measures used.
Your 4 year old is starting to be able to recognise their feelings. This helps them to process when things are happening to them, but it also helps them to empathise with others. The simple feelings they experience like sadness, happiness and anger are the easiest to recognise in themselves and in others because they are familiar. The more complex feelings of jealousy and embarrassment will take some extra explaining.
Being able to understand feelings allows them to interact with adults and children in a deeper way. This can lead to bonds with specific family members and they might start to form special friendships with their peers. Their communication is also at a level that allows them to express these feelings when they need to.
Sharing is getting easier, but can still be a challenge at this age. Your 4 year old will understand the sharing concept, but it doesn’t mean that the 5 minutes it takes them to wait for their turn on the trampoline will be any less whiney!
Deep breaths! Sleeping can be a minefield topic at any age. There is no set time when your child will sleep through the night. Some 4 years olds will continue to wake every night. Some will be able to self settle, others will require reassurance and cuddles.
Some will still need to wear a nappy or pull up to bed, some will be dry all night long. These little people that we are raising certainly have their own personalities and hit their milestones at different times.
Don’t be surprised if your 4 year old suddenly becomes a rooster, waking the rest of the family from their slumber well before they are ready - at the crack of dawn, or sometimes before! If this is happening on a regular basis then remove any daytime naps. At 4 years old, any daytime napping subtracts from the time they will sleep at night. It could also be worth moving their bedtime to a slightly later time so that they don’t wake so early.
Your 4 year old is much more able to focus for longer periods of time now. This is great news because it opens up a whole new avenue of possibilities for activities. Especially as their artistic side will begin to show through as well.
Try these activity ideas…
Hide and Seek: While their hiding places might be a bit questionable to begin with, this will be a game they will enjoy because 4 year olds love to explore.
Scavenger Hunt: In keeping with the exploring theme, create a scavenger hunt for them. You can either verbally give them a list, or have a sheet of paper with pictures that they need to find. You can print some great free scavenger hunts online.
Building Toys: You can totally get creative with building, look at branching out from standard blocks. Instead, you can use toilet rolls with holes punched in them and pencils, marshmallows and toothpicks, mud bricks made in an ice cube tray, or even pieces of wood.
Painting: As we have noted, 4 year olds love mess. So it stands to reason that they also love painting! Just a plain piece of paper, paint and a paintbrush will do. But you can also get creative with frozen ice block paints that melt, watered down paint in a spray gun, finger painting, face painting, stamping with potatoes, or splatter painting.
Outdoors: Pretty much anything outdoors will amuse them! Running around after a ball, obstacle courses, riding bikes, ten pin bowling with bottles and a ball, blowing bubbles, or playing catch with wet sponges.
Puzzles and Simple Board Games: These will challenge their little brains, test their attention span, encourage teamwork and turn taking, as well as work their skills of logic and problem solving.
Four year olds are all kinds of fun. They are adventure, curiosity and attitude in a steadily growing package. Delight in these milestones, as next year they will be off to school and will hit a whole new level of development. Tune in next time when we look at those 5 year old milestones in the last blog of our milestones series!