young boy smiling

By four-years-old, children 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, especially 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 achieve during the developmental year between ages 4 and 5:

  • Using complex sentences containing four to eight words
  • Using words like "but", "if", "so", and "because"
  • Answering "why" and "how" questions that require reasoning
  • Understanding 10,000 words or more
  • Saying 900-2,000 different words
  • Asking for the meanings of words
  • Listening to and understanding simple stories; answering questions about stories and books
  • Starting conversations and keeping on topic
  • Shares personal experiences
  • Pronunciation is good enough to be understood by most adults, but still makes age-appropriate sound errors
  • Beginning to draw letters
  • Playing pretend and creates scenarios using toys
  • Starting to problem-solve, plan ahead, and think about "what would happen if..."
  • Developing friendships with other children
  • Responds to the emotional state of other children


Speech, Language, & Hearing Milestones: 4 to 5 years, video excerpt offered by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (


Red Flags

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

  • You have difficulty understanding your child even when they say single words
  • It is difficult to understand your child because they can not organize their thoughts and express themselves clearly
  • He/she has difficulty maintaining the topic of conversation even when the conversation is short
  • He/she has difficulty answering questions about "What?", "Where?" and "Who?"
  • It is difficult for them to talk about things, events, or people that are not in sight
  • He/she has trouble making friends, or participating in playgroups
  • He/she has trouble expressing their emotions or feelings with words


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