4 Years

Caring for Your 4-Year-Old

Language and Social Development

  • You may add books with longer stories, fewer pictures, fairy tales and legends to your reading together. Find books about things they like and relate the stories to their own experiences. Let your child see you read, visit the library for story time, ask them to tell you a story. Help them identify letters, especially in their own name. Provide the opportunity to draw, write and learn letter sounds.
  • Having conversations with your 4-year-old is important for social and language development. Ask your child to tell you about the favorite part of his or her day.
  • Be patient while your child forms thoughts in sentences. Stuttering is normal at this age. Try not to interrupt. Find opportunities to model behaviors, such as patience, respect and remorse, when appropriate.
  • At this age, games like I Spy engage your child in learning about colors and shapes. Jigsaw puzzles are a great way to promote hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills. Playing dress-up encourages imaginative thought.
  • Limit screen time to two hours or less each day of age-appropriate programs. Encourage your child’s creativity with activities, such as drawing, building and imaginative play. Children should not have a television in the bedroom.
  • Children benefit from interaction with same-age peers. Play dates, play groups, classes and preschool should be part of a weekly routine.
  • Set aside time to actively play with your child. Regular physical activity is fun and healthy for the entire family.


  • Plan regular family mealtimes. Offer healthy, kid- friendly options at every meal.
  • Children at this age should use a fork and spoon on their own.

Routines and Discipline

  • Never slap or hit your child; it will teach him or her to hit others.
  • Praise your child for good behavior.
  • Set reasonable and consistent limits. When using discipline, the priority is to teach and protect your child, not to punish.
  • Predictable routines help your child feel safe. Try to create a daily routine and a consistent bedtime routine, perhaps with a calm bath and a book.

Oral Health

  • Use a toothbrush with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to clean your child’s teeth twice a day.
  • See the dentist every six months for routine checkups.


  • Always supervise your child in the house, car, yard, and when at play near driveways and streets.
  • Helmets must be worn when riding a bike, even with training wheels.
  • Teach your child about stranger danger and how to be safe with other adults.
  • No one (outside of trusted caregivers and physicians) should ask to see your child’s “private parts” or ask for your child to see theirs. Teach your child not to keep secrets from parents.
  • Chemicals (like lawn and cleaning supplies) and medications can be tempting for little ones to explore. Be sure these are kept locked and out of reach from your toddler’s curious hands. For poison emergencies and questions, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.
  • If you have a gun in your home, be sure the ammunition is kept separately from the weapon and that these are both kept safely locked away.
  • Use a forward-facing car seat in the back seat of the vehicle until your child meets the maximum height and weight limits printed on the seat, then switch to a belt-positioning booster.

This document contains general parenting information based on American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations and is not meant to replace the expert advice of your pediatrician.