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NYS Parent Guide

48-60 Months: Growth and Development

You and Your Fabulous Four-Year-Old

Child Development

Child Development

“Energetic,” “imaginative,” “social” and sometimes “impatient” describes a four-year-old. Typically, four-year-olds feel good about what they can do and want to explore new ideas. Sometimes they try things that they can’t yet do. Your job is to encourage your child’s desire for exploring and learning within safe, secure and reasonable boundaries.

Sometime, during the next twelve months, here are some of the new things you will likely see your four-year-old do:

  • Show interest in letters and words, especially letters in her own name and familiar signs (like a stop sign on the street) …and begin to identify some words and letters
  • Be able to write some letters and maybe even her first name with help
  • Have a vocabulary of over 1500 words
  • Carry on a conversation for at least seven turns on the same topic
  • Ask and answer lots of questions, even those you wish she didn’t ask!
  • Tell you her own name, address, and phone number, if taught Use five to seven words in a sentence
  • Retell a simple story, event or activity from the past day
  • Count at least five objects correctly, count to twenty from memory, recognize some of the first numerals (1,2,3…)
  • Understand spatial and size concepts like “biggest, smallest, more, in, under, above and behind“
  • Understand the order of daily routines (Is it time for breakfast or lunch?
  • What do you do before going to bed?)
  • Explain what causes things to happen such as “the snowman melted because it what was warm and sunny outside today.” and can build on that information)
  • Plan and complete simple tasks
  • Focus on an activity of interest for at least 10 minutes
  • Name colors and shapes; sometimes name both together (ex. red circle; blue square)
  • Copy simple shapes and/or lines on paper
  • Feed self, brush teeth, comb hair, wash hands and face, dress and use toilet with little assistance
  • Run, jump, hop, stand on one foot, gallop and maybe skip with increasing skill
  • Catch, kick, bounce and throw a ball with increasing ease
  • Stack 10 or more blocks, building both high and wide
  • Put together an 8-10 piece puzzle
  • Form shapes and objects out of clay or playdough, use child-safe scissors to cut, draw a simple person with 4 body parts (e.g., head, trunk, leg, arm, nose, eye, mouth)
  • Thread small beads/macaroni on a string
  • Take turns and share (most of the time)
  • Understand and follow simple directions and rules (most of the time)
  • Begin to understand danger but still need reminders
  • Have difficulty separating make-believe from reality, including an imaginary playmate
  • Enjoy pretend play and role playing Identify a range of feelings (happy, mad, sad, tired, silly, scared, etc)
  • Express anger verbally rather than physically (most of the time) but still have a tantrum on occasion
  • Have “friends” and asks to play with them
  • Express affection for and seek help from trusted adults both in and out of home
  • Negotiate both with adults and friends to solve problems
  • Show empathy for another’s pain and feelings; try to comfort another person
  • Show awareness of gender and cultural traits of self and other.
  • Show pride when feeling an accomplishment

Useful Resources:

NYS Universal Pre-kindergarten

Call your local school district or visit their website to learn more.

Private Pre-school

Find listings in your local phone directory under nursery school or pre-school.

Find a Head Start Program in your community

For eligible three and four year olds, there are Head Start programs throughout the state. Find one in your community:


additional resources My E-Journal

Did you know

If you have a concern about your child’s development, your local school district has a Committee on Preschool Special Education who can coordinate services for your child through preschool special education. Go to: