Important Milestones: By The End Of 4 Years (48 Months)

Four-year-old children have the ability to participate in fantasy play, problem solve from one perspective, and play with a ball. This Learn the Signs. Act Early. fact sheet offers parents, teachers, and staff a basic understanding of what to expect and when to be concerned.

The following fact sheet is provided courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. Campaign.

Introduction
Social
Emotional
Cognitive
Language
Movement
Hand and Finger Skills
Developmental Health Watch

See PDF version: Important Milestones: By the End of 4 Year (48 Months) [PDF, 147KB]

Children develop at their own pace, so it's impossible to tell exactly when yours will learn a given skill. The developmental milestones below will give you a general idea of the changes you can expect as your child gets older, but don't be alarmed if your child takes a slightly different course.

Social

  • Interested in new experiences
  • Cooperates with other children
  • Plays "Mom" or "Dad"
  • Increasingly inventive in fantasy play
  • Dresses and undresses
  • Negotiates solutions to conflicts
  • More independent

Emotional

  • Imagines that many unfamiliar images may be "monsters"
  • Views self as a whole person involving body, mind, and feelings
  • Often cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality

Cognitive

  • Correctly names some colors
  • Understands the concept of counting and may know a few numbers
  • Tries to solve problems from a single point of view
  • Begins to have a clearer sense of time
  • Follows three-part commands
  • Recalls parts of a story
  • Understands the concepts of "same" and "different"
  • Engages in fantasy play

Language

  • Has mastered some basic rules of grammar
  • Speaks in sentences of five to six words
  • Speaks clearly enough for strangers to understand
  • Tells stories

Movement

  • Hops and stands on one foot up to five seconds
  • Goes upstairs and downstairs without support
  • Kicks ball forward
  • Throws ball overhand
  • Catches bounced ball most of the time
  • Moves forward and backward with agility

Hand and Finger Skills

  • Copies square shapes
  • Draws a person with two to four body parts
  • Uses scissors
  • Draws circles and squares
  • Begins to copy some capital letters

Developmental Health Watch

Alert your child's doctor or nurse if your child displays any of the following signs of possible developmental delay for this age range.

  • Cannot throw a ball overhand
  • Cannot jump in place
  • Cannot ride a tricycle
  • Cannot grasp a crayon between thumb and fingers
  • Has difficulty scribbling
  • Cannot stack four blocks
  • Still clings or cries whenever parents leave
  • Shows no interest in interactive games
  • Ignores other children
  • Doesn't respond to people outside the family
  • Doesn't engage in fantasy play
  • Resists dressing, sleeping, using the toilet
  • Lashes out without any self-control when angry or upset
  • Cannot copy a circle
  • Doesn't use sentences of more than three words
  • Doesn't use "me" and "you" correctly

From CARING FOR YOUR BABY AND YOUNG CHILD: BIRTH TO AGE 5 by Steven Shelov, Robert E. Hannermann, © 1991, 1993, 1998, 2004 by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Used by permission of Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc.


The National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) promotes the health of babies, children, and adults, and enhances the potential for full, productive living. Our work includes identifying the causes of birth defects and developmental disabilities, helping children to develop and reach their full potential, and promoting health and well-being among people of all ages with disabilities.

Important Milestones: By The End Of 4 Years (48 Months). Learn the Signs. Act Early. HHS/CDC/NCBDDD. 2005. English.

Last Reviewed: August 2010

Last Updated: September 5, 2014