It's safe to say that a 4 year old, is a joy to be around. They are bursting with energy, curiosity, and creativity, and their playful antics can brighten even the gloomiest of days. At this age, children are in a constant state of discovery and learning, and it is an exciting time for both them and their caregivers. Yes they can be argumentative, they can be incredibly emotional, but they can be your best friend!
With Joey turning 5 in May, I've been thinking a lot about what the last year has held for him. Every age Joey that progresses to, and the same with Zack, I instantly think "oh this is my favourite age!" and then I'm proved wrong when they enter the next stage of their development!
Joey started Reception last September and his enthusiasm for learning has meant he's absolutely flourishing. He's taking everything in his stride, and he blows us away every day with his knowledge and questions. I wish someone had handed me a 'What to Expect When... Your Child Grows Up' book when pregnant, as knowing what I know now would absolutely have saved my sanity during those early newborn months when things seemed so tough!
So, what does a typical 4 year old look like!?
Physical Development: At 4 years old, children are developing rapidly in their physical abilities. They have better balance and coordination, and can usually run, jump, and climb with ease. They also have greater dexterity and can engage in activities that require finer motor skills such as drawing, cutting with scissors, and using utensils. Joey learning to use scissors this year has been surprisingly lovely to watch, as it's boosted his creativity and independence!
Cognitive Development: When little ones are 4, they are also making great strides in their cognitive development. They are becoming better at solving problems, making connections between things, and understanding cause and effect. They are little knowledge sponges and scientists! They are also become more independent and self-sufficient, and can complete simple tasks on their own. Additionally, their language skills continue to expand, and they are able to express themselves with greater clarity and comprehension. They don't always get it right though!
Emotional Development: At 4 years old, children are starting to understand and regulate their emotions. They are becoming more aware of their feelings, and can attempt to express them with words. They also typically begin to develop empathy and an understanding of others' feelings. However, their emotional regulation is still developing, and they will still have outbursts or tantrums, especially when frustrated or overwhelmed. The biggest battle for us is a disconnect between the big feelings and how Joey can actually articulate them. From calming techniques to grounding techniques, there are lots of things you can help and encourage your child to do in order to help with their emotional regulation, we love deep breathing and 'thinking about the sea on your toes'.
Social Development: They are also starting to form more meaningful relationships with their peers and those around them. Most 4 year olds are becoming more confident and assertive, and are starting to understand the importance of cooperation and sharing. They also enjoy playing with others and may even begin to form close bonds with friends. Whether at school, home or out and about, your little person will be curious about those around them!
Caregiver's Role: As a caregiver, it is important to understand the developmental needs of a 4 year old. Providing them with opportunities for physical activity, allowing them to explore and make their own choices, and encouraging their creativity and imagination will help support their development. It is also important to be patient and understanding during their emotional outbursts, and to provide them with guidance and support as they navigate their relationships with others.
Sensory play can play a massive part in all the areas of development for a 4 year old. Whether it's messy play or an opportunity to play outside and discover the world around them, sensory play doesn't stop once children are at school! 4 year olds are a fascinating age, full of energy and discovery. They are constantly growing and changing, and it is an exciting time to be a part of their journey. Understanding their developmental needs and providing them with the right support will help them reach their full potential and become happy, confident, and successful individuals.