4 Years Old

During this year, you can expect the baby fat to fade, vocabulary to explode and your child's interest in her body to grow. Learn what more you'll experience during the fourth year.
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Physical and Developmental Milestones

Physical Milestones

This year, your preschooler will be more in control of her body and muscles. She will become adept at buttoning, zippering, and using a knife and fork. She will gain about 4 pounds this year and grow approximately 2 inches in height. She may seem thin because she is losing the plumpness of the toddler/preschool years -- which will gradually be replaced by muscle in the coming years. If her weight and height are rising together, you will know that she is growing normally. However, if weight rises faster than height, you will know she is getting fatter. If height doesn't rise perceptibly in 6 months, measure her again in 3 months. If there is still no increase, consult your pediatrician since some children do lack a growth hormone.

Smart Strategy:

Since a preschooler's growth pattern tends to make children slimmer at this age, it's unusual for many in this age group to be plump. However, if you suspect that your child is overweight, look at her upper arms and thighs. If there are rolls of fat in these areas, straining the sleeves and legs of clothes that otherwise fit, she probably is overweight. Before you take any action, such as restricting her food intake, talk with your pediatrician. It may not be that she's eating too much, but rather that she isn't eating the right foods. Examine her eating patterns to reduce the amount of fat and up the fruit and veggies in her diet. Offer nutritious snacks instead of sugar-laden ones. And make sure she is getting plenty of exercise and not spending too much time in front of the television or computer.

Developmental Milestones

Four-year-olds are obsessed with their bodies and what they can do. You may find your child exploring his private parts, getting undressed in front of other children, and playing "doctor" with friends. Your youngster may become obsessed with the parent of the opposite sex. Bathroom humor is also popular.

Children this age think they know everything, as their attention span increases and they are able to play more independently. Your child may be able to spend more time apart from you without becoming too upset.

Smart Strategy:

Exploring his own body, alone and with other kids, is your child's way of learning about sex differences and is a normal part of growing up. Masturbation is normal, so set boundaries, but don't make a big deal of his curiosity.

Self-identity flourishes now and his "know it all" mentality is evidence of this. He may even act rude when you ask him to do something he doesn't want to do. As difficult as this behavior may be to tolerate, it is actually a sign that he is the testing limits of his independence.

Continued on page 2:  Emotional and Cognitive Milestones


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