What should I be teaching a 4 year old?

What's Covered

Have you ever gone to a function and saw this child that was very stubborn, defiant, displayed tantrums, impulsive, unsettled, cried a lot, spoiled things around, and was always noisy? You were then left wondering whose child this was and how old was he? Then you came to realize he was 4 years old and you were in shock. Well, this child could be behaving this way because maybe the parents do not spend time teaching and preparing the child for public places or the child is just defiant and is experiencing a lot of emotions that he doesn’t know how to handle.

What should a 4 year old be taught at home?

1.      Behavioral skills

A 4 year old should be taught how to behave around people in the house and public. He/she should know how to speak to people, the right things to say, and the normal house routines. The house routines include but not limited to sleeping time, meal times, and time to wake up. The child should learn life values and morals including honesty, kindness, confidence, and respect. The child should know that it is wrong to shout at people, make noise/talk loudly around people in public, and lie. The 4 year old is playful hence should be taught how to behave appropriately in public places. Parents need to control their child’s behavior. It is perceived that both parents’ control of a child’s behavior is important and more control is associated with fewer problems and more competency both longitudinally and concurrently.[1]Parents can apply books to aid in teaching the best behavior to a 4 year old.

Hands Are Not for Hitting
this is the best book for teaching a 4 year old against violent behavior. The different illustrations in a variety of colors makes understanding easy for the child.
Voices Are Not for Yelling
this book is perfect for teaching peaceful ways of communication and not yelling. With the guide for parents, it is helpful in teaching a 4 year old to calm down so to communicate properly. Its simplicity makes it easy to understand.

2.      Language

Language is a key component of communication. Parents should make an effort to teach language to their 4 year old since this will aid in the child’s interaction with people. every parent should teach their 4 year old a common language which will enable easy interaction and communication with everyone. The teaching of the right and simple vocabulary to the child is essential for easy understanding. Since at this age children like challenging and asking questions, offer very simple explanations to their questions. Learning is a step-by-step journey. Teach the child letters of the alphabet and have conversations with the child more often. Singing the alphabet letters might work magic for the child. Ask the child to identify letters around him/her and try to pronounce them. Language is very useful in school therefore teaching a child how to join dots to letters provides the confidence of joining school. At school, the child will need language to communicate to teachers of any discomfort say, using the washroom or when he/she is feeling unwell.

My First 1000 Words
with the variety of words and colorful pictures, it is the easiest way of teaching language to a 4 year old. It makes the work easier for the parent.

3.      Self-management skills

Teaching a 4 year old self-management skills will help in emotional management, physical development and prepare the child for kindergarten. Teach your toddler about hygiene: brushing teeth, washing hands, making the bed, bathing and, using the toilet. Selfcare skills go a long way in your 4 year old’s future. Make it a routine for the child to wash hands (before and after meals, when coming from outside, after using the toilet, and after playing), make the bed after waking up, brush teeth before bedtime and in the morning and bathe in the morning and evening; and it will become a lifestyle.

These basic skills will not only make schooling fun but also help the child in physical development and keeping clean. Helping a 4 year old child achieve physical development is also very key, therefore, parents should engage the child in doing simple chores at home. the chores a 4yuear old can do include but are not limited to, being sent to fetch things around the house, tying shoelaces, dressing, and undressing, putting food on the table, removing dishes from the table, dusting chairs, and putting toys away.

Managing emotions is also one of the key things that a 4 year old should know. Parents should take time to manage aggression in children if noticed at this age, teach patience and sensitize the child about different emotions. parents can draw different faces representing different emotions and help the child identify the different emotions. At this age the child has a mix of different emotions therefore whenever a child is emotional, the parent should take time to converse with the child and explain how to deal with the problem. Whenever the child is angry, tell him/her to breathe in and out until he/she is calm. Most children do not like their first day at school so parents should prepare the child emotionally so that they don’t become so sad joining school.

4.      Social skills

At the age of 4, a child’s personality traits are starting to show, and he/she likes interacting more with people. Your child starts learning how to make friends, he/she can’t hold back when you visit public places full of children. The child is learning how to express herself and therefore a parent’s input on teaching social skills is mandatory. invite children to play with the 4 year old and take the chance to teach about sharing and teamwork. Allow the child to share toys with the friends and teach her how to converse. Teaching the child social skills helps prepare him/her for school and boosts the child’s confidence in interacting with new people. There are books available to parents for teaching a 4 year old how to get along with others

Talk and Work It Out
this is the best book for teaching a 4 year old social skills so that getting along with others becomes easier.

5.      Safety

every parent always feels the need to ensure their child’s safety when the child leaves the house. Most children join school at age 4 and are not under the care of the parents, therefore, teaching some safety measures to the child is key. Teaching safety includes ensuring the child knows and can tell his/her full name, the name of both the parents, their phone numbers, name of school and grade, and home address. this information will help in case the child wanders off and cannot trace the way back. in the current world, children get abducted by strangers, therefore, teach your child:

  • Not to answer the door when someone knocks, but rather, call for you
    • Not to talk to strangers
    • To SCREAM in case any adult picks him/her without consent
    • Not to run into roads since there is also a high risk of accidents
    • To hold your hand when in public places
    • To stay away from the kitchen especially sharp objects like knives and, gas cylinders, and stoves.

6.      Math

Do not teach a 4 year old complicated math, to begin with. Teach simple math like counting say,1-10, subtraction, and addition. Look for nursery rhyme songs for counting numbers and sing together with the child. Make learning fun by making the children count snacks like biscuits, sticks, small stones, bottles, and toys. Help the child identify numbers around the house or at the supermarket. give the child fruits like grapes and use these to teach about subtraction and addition. Try removing a specific number of grapes and add them back one by one as the child counts how many are remaining and how many are added and the total sum. Learning math can be fun if done with things that are familiar to the child.

Dinosaurs 123
this is the perfect book to aid a 4 year old in practicing numbers. It also eases the work of the parents.

7.      Literacy

To ensure that your child enjoys going to kindergarten, teach the child how to write and identify words. try drawing dotted letters and numbers and let the child trace them. This will help the child learn how to hold a pen firmly, be aware of the alphabet letters so that learning doesn’t become difficult when he joins school. show the child some pictures and find out if she can name them, if not, assist. the child should be able to; know how to hold a book, where to start reading or writing from, identify his/her name when written, and identify lower and uppercase letters. Read to your child books and try asking questions to see if he/she remembers.

8.      Shapes and colors for physical development

A 4 year old is always curious about the shapes and colors of things in the surrounding. Sensitizing your child about these different shapes and colors helps boost her confidence and makes her conscious of the different things the environment is made of. Try drawing different shapes and teach your child their names. Teach her different colors and while doing shopping ask the child to identify the various colors and shapes that are around. This is fun to the child and creates time for you to bond with the child. Every object in the environment is made of a different shape and the child needs to be aware of this, for example, what is the shape of his/her head? What is the color of his/her hair, clothe, plate shoes, toys, and what shapes are they made of? Allow the child to pick a favorite color and paint a picture; coloring and drawing of shapes together with him/her is even much fun.

My Numbers, Colors and Shapes Toddler Coloring Book
this book provides a fun learning experience for 4 year old as she colors different shapes using a variety of colors.

Seek professional help

If you feel like your 4 year old is slow at learning what you are teaching and that his/her development is slow, then it would not hurt to seek professional help from a pediatrician. Children learn at different rates (slowly and fast) there, when the child at this age is unable to speak well, count, identify shapes or socialize a pediatrician can be able to help identify the problem and work with you towards an appropriate solution.

What is normal behavior for a 4 year old

It is normal for 4 year old to lie to escape reality or as a form of play because of their creativity, appear overenergetic, and ask endless questions about the world since this increases their awareness and understanding of the different dynamics around them.[2]at the age of 4, children frequently experience nightmares, can distinguish fantasy from reality, prefers playing interactive games with peers, can sing a song and dance, listen to stories, follows rules, are demanding, and want to please friends.[3]

How to discipline a Defiant 4 year old

At 4years of age, children tend to be defiant and challenging to parents, therefore, the following are some of the ways of keeping the child in check and ensure he/she learns and adheres to set rules and policies.

  • Reward system

Create a reward system such that when a child adheres to set rules and guidelines, he/she is rewarded with, say, a favorite snack or is given the privilege of choosing a movie to watch. When a child is struggling to adhere to rules, try to find out why before acting in any way.

·         Praise good behavior

Praise and encourage a child sincerely when he/she behave accordingly, this way, the child will feel good and happy. Make them feel confident and good about a job well done.

·         Take away privileges

If your child refuses to set rules and regulations, take away a privilege and he/she will behave. This can be applied until the child learns the required skill.

·         Time out

This can be applied in different ways, for example, placing the child’s toy under time out to allow the child to calm down, you can stop engaging with the child for some time. After a time-out, it is key to have a talk with the child and explain the reason for this form of punishment.

·         Reprimand

This can be used on a problematic 4 year old. Use verbal reprimands for bad behavior and ensure you don’t do it over and over again.­

·         Prevention of future problems

Stay a step ahead of your 4 year old by considering situations that can be difficult for your child. Create clear rules and limits and warn your child about the consequences of breaking them. Many problems preschoolers experience results from struggles managing their emotions therefore, teach your child anger management skills such as taking deep breaths. Establish house rules about aggressive behavior. Teach the child it is okay to get angry but this doesn’t mean you harm others or spoil things around.[4]

Ways of teaching a 4 year old at home

There are so many fun learning activities that a 4 year old can be engaged in:

1.      Reading and writing

Every child like listening to exciting stories therefore reading your child a storybook, picture books poems, etc. is one way of teaching keeping the child busy. It enhances the child’s language and literacy and prepares the child for school. It is predicted that sharing reading accounts with children results in improved variety in spoken words and vocabulary.[5]take this time also to help the child learn how to write letters and numbers. parents can buy the child a book for first-time learners to help in reading and writing.

My First Learn to Write Workbook
this is the best book to buy for a preschooler since it teaches the child how to read and write while making learning a fun activity, it has a variety of tasks and activities for the child and it is very affordable.

Language is very important in learning how to read and write. Therefore, for language development, parents can buy a picture dictionary to increase the child’s vocabulary and spoken sentences.

Scholastic First Picture Dictionary
this book is best for a child who is beginning to read since it has a variety of picture words to increase the child's vocabulary, it is educative, diverse, and affordable.it also makes reading fun for the child thus, making the parent’s work of teaching easier.

2.      Visit the library

The library has a variety of books for the child to choose from and some offer fun activities for kids. Visiting the library is like an adventure that helps your 4 year old decide on the book he/she wants to read.

3.      Sing counting songs and nursery rhymes

Singing the alphabet and numbers can be the best way for your 4 year old to memorize everything. Nursery rhymes can not only be educative but also entertaining. The songs can also teach about subtraction and addition. Parents can purchase a smart tablet for easier learning.

Just Smarty ABC Tablet
this the best learning material for a curious 4 year old since it is eye and user friendly, portable and most importantly makes learning fun for the development of the child.

4.      Cutting and pasting

You can make a big board and allow the child to cut some of the pictures he/she likes and paste them on the board. Train the child on how to use a pair of scissors to cut beautiful and colorful pictures of shapes and other things in magazines or newspapers. Do this together with him/her to make it even more fun and interactive.

5.      Dress up and role play

Every 4year likes imaginative thinking. Girls can imagine being a princess and a boy can imagine being an astronaut according to the cartoon characters they fancy. Playing with your 4 year old provides time for you to listen and converse with the child and cultivate creative and imaginative thinking skills in them.it also helps in developing social skills in the child to make playing with friends easier. parents can buy role play costumes that the child best likes for example a princess dress-up costume.

Little Fairy Princess Dress Up Role Play Costume Set for Girls
this is a perfect role play costume for a 4 year old girl with a variety of outfits to choose from. It is cost-friendly and enables mother and daughter to have fun by enabling creative and imaginative thinking.

6.      Cooking together

Allow your 4 year old to be your ‘assistant chef’ in the kitchen more often as this allows them to be more in control and it is also a way of bonding with the child. This is also a way of learning math and it also creates time for you to talk and listen to your child. Allow him/her to help doing simple activities such as stirring mixtures, fetching spoons, pouring liquids, fetching vegetables and eggs, etc. while fetching things, let the child count, for example, eggs, and name the colors of different things in the kitchen. Involving your child in baking is one simple and easy way of cooking together.

7.      Conversing

At 4 years a child finds it difficult sharing and is struggling with a lot of emotions especially anger. parents who express positive emotions and are supportive of their preschooler’s emotional expressions and experiences are likely to engage in talking and teaching about emotions, thereby enhancing the child’s emotion knowledge.[6]read your child a book about these feelings and try explaining to the child using the characters of the book the goodness of sharing and why it’s good to control emotions and act appropriately towards others. an example of such a book is when Sophie Gets Angry.

When Sophie Gets Angry
this is the book to purchase for teaching your child how to control and manage emotions for healthy growth.

Final thoughts

As a parent, you need to be more involved in your 4 year old’s life since this is the stage when they discover independence and it comes with so many challenges including managing emotions. prepare your child well for kindergarten by teaching all the child needs to know such as literacy before joining school. And in case you feel like it’s a challenge to you raising your son/daughter, seek professional help. application of discipline strategies where necessary is also key to controlling the child’s behavior and help in physical development. explore the different ways available of teaching and ensure the learning process is fun.

[1] Hagekull, Berit, Gunilla Bohlin, and Annie Hammarberg. “The role of parental perceived control in child development: A longitudinal study.” International Journal of Behavioral Development 25.5 (2001): 429-437.

[2] Balch, J. “The extraordinary 4-year-old.” A therapist’s guide to child development: The extraordinarily normal years (2016): 57-68

[3] Sturner, Raymond A., and Barbara J. Howard. “Preschool development. Part 2: Psychosocial/behavioral development.” Pediatrics in review 18.10 (1997): 327.

[4] Lee, Catherine. “Preschooler Discipline: Strategies and Challenges.” Verywell family. 31 August 2020.print.

[5] Sénéchal, Monique, et al. “Relations among the frequency of shared reading and 4-year-old children’s vocabulary, morphological and syntax comprehension, and narrative skills.” Early Education and Development 19.1 (2008): 27-44.

[6] Denham, Susanne, and Anita T. Kochanoff. “Parental contributions to preschoolers’ understanding of emotion.” Marriage & Family Review 34.3-4 (2002): 311-343.

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Tiffany Biondi

Tiffany Biondi

Mother of 4 kids, Tiffany is a certified childcarer and during her free time, she write posts in thebabychoice to share her hands on experience and knowledge.