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What should my growing child be able to do between ages 4 and 5?

By four-years-old children have developed their own personalities.  They can have conversations with adults, understand feelings and emotions, make few pronunciation errors, and enjoy creative play and using their imaginations.  Many four-year-olds attend a preschool during this time and enjoy learning their letters and numbers in preparation for kindergarten.  Some children will even begin reading before age 5. Much of a child's development, especiallly concerning language and literacy skills, depends on their unique environment and experiences. The following guidelines will give you an idea of what an average child might acheive during the developmental year between ages 4 and 5.

Speech & Language Skills

  • Begin to use complex and compound sentences containing four to eight words
  • Begins to use conjunctions (and, but, if, so, because)
  • Begins to respond appropriately to WHY and HOW questions that requires reasoning
  • Understands 10,000 words or more
  • Says 900-2,000 different words
  • Follows multi-step directions
  • Answers complex two-part questions
  • Asks for word definitions curiously
  • Listens to short, simple stories and answers questions about them
  • Explains the function of familiar objects
  • Initiate conversations and less likely to change the subject of conversation to areas of personal interest
  • Shares personal experiences accurately with less adult prompting
  • Speaks at a steady fluent rate
  • Uses the same grammar as the rest of the family.
  • Overall good pronunciation and is understood by most adults
  • Counts to five
  • Begins to draw capital letters
  • Understands the parts of a book and enjoys being read to

O.K. Speech & Language errors

  • May still have difficulties with irregular verb and noun forms, like "eated" for  "ate"  or  "mouses"  for "mice"
  • " R "  sounds like  " W ", like  "wabbit"  for  "rabbit"
  • Says most sounds correctly except a few like   s, r, v, z, ch, sh, th

These errors should gradually go away by age 6 or 7.  If your child is still making many errors with these sounds by Kindergarten you may mention it to the teacher so that the child's progress can be monitored.

Play & Imagination Skills

  • Enjoys playing "pretend" and imagines creative play scenarios using toys, puppets or dolls
  • Begins to dream
  • Begins to lye, proof that they are developing a healthy, creative mind
  • Builds 3D structures with blocks to recreate specific structures child has seen
  • Begins to problem solve, plan ahead and hypothesize, "what would happen if…


Motor Skills


  • Pushes, pulls, and steers wheeled toys
  • Jumps over six-inch objects and lands on both feet together
  • Throws ball with direction
  • Balances on one foot for five seconds
  • Pours from a pitcher
  • Spreads things with a knife
  • Uses toilet independently
  • Skips to music and hops on one foot
  • Walks on a line
  • Uses legs easily with good strength
  • Grasps things with thumb and middle finger
  • Holds paper with hand when writing
  • Draws circles, crosses, and diamonds
  • Draws figures that represent people, animals, and objects
  • Copies simple block letters
  • Dresses and undresses without help


Social Skills

  • Successfully joins a group of children in play
  • Shows progress in developing friendships with peers
  • Begins to try and please other children ("you can come to my party, ok?")
  • Responds appropriately to peers who are in need, upset, hurt, or angry
  • Suggests solutions to problems with other children, while continuing to seek adults' help

Red flags K-1

Red Flags

Seek the advice of your pediatrician or a speech-language pathologist if you observe the following with your child:

  • You are having trouble understanding even simple words that your child says
  • The child is difficult to understand and cannot experience his/her ideas logically or clearly
  • The child has trouble keeping on topic, even for a brief period of time.
  • The child has difficulties answering "what," "where," and "who" questions.
  • The child has difficulty talking about events, people or things that are not in the immediate environment.
  • The child has trouble making friends, entering a play group.
  • The child has trouble expressing his/her feelings with words.


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