A 4-year-old standing by the door with her security blanket that looks like a mouse

Developmental stages 4-5 years

At this age, children often have a lot of imagination. They play a lot of make-believe about heroes and characters from films or books. They talk a lot and ask lots of questions. Four-year-olds can ask quite complicated questions. They often ask “why” and “what if”. The child’s thinking and language become increasingly similar to that of adults.

A 4-year-old practising her development skills by playing with a wooden toy vacuum cleaner.

Toys for the 4-years-old

Friends grow in importance and they start playing together more. The child gets better at planning and playing games and can cope better without the presence of adults. It’s important that everyone follows the rules of the game. The child now has an easier time understanding how others think, which helps them to work together with others better. At this age, children often like to make decisions and make plans, such as building a race track, painting something together, or deciding what roles everyone should have in the game.

They get better at balancing and become more confident in their movements. They enjoy climbing up trees or on climbing frames and walking along balance beams. The run and jump about and learn to do somersaults. When the child kicks or throws a ball, they practise their hand-eye/foot co-ordination. Many children can use a knife and fork, and many like drawing, doing crafts and playing with shapes and beads. They draw because it’s fun and because it helps them to process events. However, it can still be difficult for them to sit still for long periods.

It can be fun to sing, recite rhymes, dance, dress up, and play theatre. They often have good self-esteem and believe in their own ability. However, it can be difficult to distinguish between fantasy and reality, and imaginary dangers – such as ghosts and dangerous animals – feel very real. They begin to understand the meaning of “biggest”, “longest”, “less than” and “more than” and the order in which things come. They start to know colours and become interested in numbers and letters. The child likes to sort and count, as in “How many people are coming for dinner?” “How many knives and forks do we need?” “How many potatoes should we cook?”

See all stages here

Author: Benita Hammarström
Specialist nurse in health care for children and young people.