What Does a Four Year Old Understand

This question gets me all the darn time because my daughter was advanced in many ways at age four. My daughter was reading, writing and entered kindergarten at a first grade level at age 4. I am now facing a four year old who is a boy and advanced in different ways and incredibly smart but does not vocalize it, however, there are some things I wonder if he really, truly understands. So I decided to look up some information online out of curiosity.

Here are some things that I found on PBS Parents website:

  • Their pretend play is more complex and imaginative and can be sustained for longer periods. <– AJ does this & it’s so wonderful to see him interact with his siblings.
  • They also want to be more self-reliant and seek to expand the areas of their lives where they can be independent decision-makers. <– does this mean being defiant on everything? I will say, Aj will not dress himself although I think he is capable of it. I have to force him to get dressed by saying I am not doing it and handing his clothes to him & simply assisting with arm in shirt holes if need be.
  • They can follow multi-step directions and understand explanations given for things they can see. Four-year-olds frequently initiate conversations and are less likely to change the subject of conversation to areas of personal interest. <– Nope Aj is not here yet.
  • Four-year-olds are building their knowledge of written language. They want to know what words in their environment say and can recognize many letters. <– Aj is sort of interested but he has a higher interest in numbers than letters.
  • Four-year-olds have an increased capacity for learning math concepts. They use logical reasoning to solve everyday problems and can effectively use language to compare and describe objects and shapes. They can count to “ten,” recognize written numerals “0” to “9” and add and subtract using numbers up to “four.” Four-year-olds know some variations of a circle, square, triangle and rectangle. They know days of the week, months and the seasons, but still cannot tell time. <— YES Aj can actually count to 29. He has known shapes for a while now. He loves attempting “math problems” on his own.
  • Children this age can engage in long periods of active play and exercise. They are skillful at walking, climbing, jumping, hopping, skipping, marching and galloping. <– yes Aj has always been physically at or above his age level.
  • Four-year-olds approach the world with great curiosity and use their imaginations to help understand it. Hands-on explorations help them to separate reality from fantasy. <— Aj does this I believe at some level.
  • Emotionally, four-year-olds continue to learn what causes certain feelings and realize that others may react to the same situation differently. They have learned to better manage intense emotions with coping strategies like talking it out or drawing a picture. <– Aj addresses emotion with anger, aggression or lately he has shown sadness on occasion but he doesn’t seem to understand this concept yet. Aj has shown some compassion in the past couple of months especially towards his siblings, which I enjoy seeing.
  • In exploring the creative arts, children this age can identify changes in pitch, tempo, loudness and musical duration. They can sing songs of their own creation as well as memorized ones. <– Aj isn’t really interested in this, so I am not sure about this for him.

I know that every child and every gender approaches milestones at different ages. For Aj he was delayed in speech due to something we didn’t realize. Aj had major ear infections most of his young life and anti-biotics didn’t touch them, he ended up having an  ear infection so bad that it was like glue on his left ear and he couldn’t hear, which caused a speech delay. After having tubes placed in his ears, Aj ended up being very good at speech and language skills.

Do you have any concerns about your child? Did they reach “milestones” at the “age appropriate” levels?

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  1. My boys do meet their milestones that are suppose to be for their age.. sometimes they are faster at certain things and slower at others..
    For my #1 boy he is faster at speaking as compared to #2 so he was able to read independently at 4yrs old..while #4 ( who is 4 now) still needs quite a bit of prompting to read. – will have to work on it more with him in this area.

    I’m not sure about the standard over where you are but here.. at Age 4 they are taught addition and subtraction to 20.
    Independence- the 4yr old can wear the clothes himself..but do get stuck with the buttons some times.. he knows how to put his laundry away and am teaching him how to pack his own school bag.
    My concern for him is more his ability to express himself more clearly and be more confident in reading aloud and performing on stage.

  2. Yep, I concur. Every child is different and they themselves change all the time. Eight was the hardest for us but our DD’s current 10 is no joke either.

  3. I agree they’re all different. Granted my son was 5 when I split from his father but he understood what was happening and handled it well. I could talk about someone else who had an adverse reaction but she might read this and this statement alone will get me in a world of shit.

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