At four, the child is in an age of extremes. S/he is more self-confident, has overflowing energy, and may be temperamental with extreme mood changes. S/he loves to brag and show off, and may refuse to follow instructions that s/he understands and can do. Yet, the enthusiasm for new activities and experiences, interest in learning new things, and continued love and respect for family wins everyone over.
The child likes to run, hop on one foot, and skip; can throw, catch and bounce a ball, and is a skilled tricycle rider and may ride a bike with training wheels. Sports such as soccer, basketball, softball, swimming, and gymnastics, or walks and hikes are wonderful outlets for the child’s abundant energy. Twelve hours of sleep at night is ideal.
An understanding of the difference between reality and fantasy may still be unclear until about 4 ½. At that time, the imagination may get in the way of truthfulness, and sometimes fabrication may be used to protect oneself and one’s friends from parental disapproval. The child also begins to understand dangers and may become fearful of things easily done before, like separating from parents for school.
The child is now independent in dressing, washing hands and face, and is capable of doing simple household chores, such as folding laundry, setting the table for dinner, and feeding the pet. In fact, while there may be grumbles at first, the child actually feels proud to be a contributing member of the family. When a routine for chores is established, the child understands expectations and utilizes responsibilities as an outlet for his energies. He also enjoys working alongside an adult or older sibling to cook, wash the car, and load and unload the dishwasher.
The four year old likes simple board games, books, stories, jokes, rhymes, and songs. Still in the Absorbent Mind stage of development, the child easily learns greetings, phrases, and songs in foreign languages. In fact, she talks constantly with a vocabulary of over 2,000 words. She now speaks in complex sentences, using prepositions with understanding. She may begin building simple words with the Movable Alphabet by combining consonant/vowel/consonant in such words as cat, hat, and bat, in preparation for the reading of three letter phonetic words. She may also sight read, or recognize words like McDonald’s or the STOP sign. She loves to whisper and tell secrets.
Handwriting is a skill that is challenging for many children. Because the Sensitive Period for writing occurs between 3 ½ and 4 ½, she has probably received guidance on the proper way to hold a pencil and practiced free drawing, tracing lines, and drawing metal insets. Letter formation may still be a challenge so regular writing with chalk or pencil can be helpful.
The four year old continues to like to count, can associate numeral and quantity up to 10, and is intrigued by the Montessori math materials. With a strong foundation on the basics of Math, the child will show interest and capability in more complex Math in the future. The child will soon be ready for lessons on the Golden Beads, which provide an overview of the hierarchy of the decimal system.