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4 year developmental milestones

  • 1-5 Years
  • Child development and growing up
Grandad and granddaughter sitting at kitchen table colouring a picture and talking

There are some key physical and communication milestones you will expect your 4 year old to reach. These milestones should be treated as a rough guide, as each child is unique and will develop at their own pace. It is often unhelpful to compare a child to other children or their siblings.


Last reviewed: 1 November, 2023

At around 4 years old you can expect your child to be able to:

Physical

  • walk up and down stairs using alternate feet
  • pedal a tricycle or bike with stabilisers
  • hop and stand on one foot
  • throw, catch and kick a ball
  • climb the rungs of a ladder on a playground slide and slide down without help
  • draw a person with a head, arms and legs
  • hold and use a fork and spoon alone
  • undo one button on clothing
  • undo zip on a coat
  • try to cut paper with child safe scissors

Read our information on hand skills

Communication, problem solving and behaviour

  • know their own first and last name
  • sing several nursery rhymes
  • like to listen to longer stories and will tell their own stories
  • continue to ask lots of questions
  • show sympathy to friends when hurt or upset
  • play with a small group of children or with another child alone
  • recognise big and small items
  • follow instructions to put an object under something or over something
  • understand instructions such as ‘go and get your shoes’
  • calm themselves down when upset, which may take up to 15 minutes
  • explain how they feel, ‘I am happy’ or ‘I am sad’
  • may be shy or upset in new situations, but will settle when distracted or supported
  • name 5 different colours (for example, red, orange, yellow, green and blue)
  • sit still and listen to a short story or play with an activity they like for 5 to 10 minutes

Read more about your child's communication

Encouraging development

Activities and games you can explore with your pre-schooler:

  • outdoor activities (for example, climbing frames, hopscotch)
  • musical statues
  • construction toys (for example, jigsaws, puzzles and board games)
  • arts and crafts
  • playdough
  • books
  • matching games (for example, pairs)
  • teaching how to dress and undress
  • encouraging independence when using the toilet
  • practice using a computer mouse and carrying out simple computer activities
  • encourage imagination
Child playing with colourful playdough on a table.

Toddlers do not need lots of toys or devices to have fun or to encourage development. Toddlers have very active imaginations. Playing with old cardboard boxes or homemade playdough are great alternatives.

Possible development concerns

Sometimes development can be slower than you expect, or you may notice something different about your pre-schooler. It's normal to feel worried but there is lots of support out there. 

Contact your health visitor if you notice your pre-schooler is:

  • not able to walk, run, climb, jump or use stairs confidently
  • not able to catch, throw or kick a ball

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Need more specific support for your child?

If your child needs more help or has additional needs, you can visit our specific section for extra support.

Child development and growing up for additional needs

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Who can help

If you have any questions or concerns about your child's development, a health professional in our team will be able to offer advice and support.

You can Call Us on 0300 029 50 50 or Text Us on 07520 649887 to start a conversation.

Open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays).

Information for 4 year old children

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