Milestones for 4-year-olds

Children usually progress in a natural, predictable sequence from one developmental milestone to the next. But each child grows and gains skills at his or her own pace. Some children may be advanced in one area, such as language, but behind in another, such as sensory and motor development.

Milestones usually are categorized into five major areas: physical growth, cognitive development, emotional and social development, language development, and sensory and motor development.

Physical growth and development

Most children by age 4:

  • Have gained about 4.4 lb (2 kg) and grown about 1.5 in. (4 cm) to 2 in. (5 cm) since their third birthday.

The following table shows the approximate high and low percentiles for normal weight and growth. 1


Percentile figures are measured according to how many children are above and below the value. For example, having a child in the 10th percentile for weight and height means that 10% of all children weigh less and are shorter than the corresponding height and weight measurements. And for a child in the 90th percentile, 90% of all children are below that corresponding height and weight, and 10% of children are above them.


Growth chart for children, age 4
  10th percentile 90th percentile
Girls: Weight

30 lb (13.6 kg)

40 lb (18.1 kg)

Girls: Height

37.5 in. (95.3 cm)

41.75 in. (106 cm)

Boys: Weight

30.5 lb (13.8 kg)

42 lb (19.1 kg)

Boys: Height

38 in. (96.5 cm)

42.5 in. (108 cm)

Thinking and reasoning (cognitive development)

Most children by age 4:2

  • Can say their first and last names.
  • Understand the concept of counting and may know some numbers.
  • Better understand concepts of time.
  • Can name some colors.
  • Understand the difference between things that are the same and things that are different.
  • Are aware of their own gender and can identify the gender of others.
  • Understand that events are connected, although their interpretation may not always be logical. For example, a child may understand the logic that glass may break if hit with a rock. But he or she may still throw the rock thinking that it won't break this time (magical thinking).
  • Know the difference between fantasy and reality. But they still play "pretend", which becomes increasingly inventive. They also may blur fantasy and reality when they are stressed or have extreme emotions. They may develop new fears as a result of their active imaginations.

Emotional and social development

Most children by age 4:2

  • View themselves as whole people, with a body, mind, and feelings.
  • Are aware that they can be hurt physically, which sometimes causes them to be very sensitive about their bodies.
  • Are interested in new experiences.
  • Cooperate with other children and, with help, can negotiate solutions to conflicts.
  • Alternate between being demanding and cooperative.
  • Dress and undress themselves.
  • May pretend to be a mom or dad during play.
  • Are noticeably more independent.

Language development

Most children by age 4:

  • Use sentences of 5 to 6 words.
  • Speak clearly enough for strangers to understand them.
  • Have mastered some basic rules of grammar.
  • Will describe something that has happened to them.
  • Sing songs.
  • Tell a short story as well as recall parts of a story.
  • May go through a normal period (a few weeks) of repeating words or seeming to stutter.

Sensory and motor development

Most children by age 4:2

  • Stand on one foot.
  • Move forward and backwards easily.
  • Can go up and down stairs without holding on to anything for support.
  • Ride a tricycle or a bicycle with training wheels.
  • Throw a ball overhand and sometimes catch a bounced ball. They also can kick a ball forward.

By age 4, most children can use their hands and fingers, which are called fine motor skills, to:

  • Build a tower of 10 blocks.
  • Draw a circle and squares.
  • Draw a person with 2 to 4 parts.
  • Use scissors.
  • Write some capital letters.


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2000, revised). CDC growth charts: United States. Advance Data (314). Also available online:
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics (2004). Age three to five years. In SP Shelov, RE Hannemann, eds., Caring For Your Baby And Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 4th ed., chap 12, pp. 339–388. New York: Bantam.

Last Updated: March 26, 2009

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