What to Teach a 4-Year-Old

Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten Confidence

Time flies when you are having fun, playing with building blocks and coloring with your favorite little four-year-old. It seems like just yesterday you looked into your baby's eyes for the very first time, and now it is already time to begin preparing her for kindergarten. The good news is that young children learn best through play, which you likely already do, along with answering hundreds of questions about everything under the sun all day long. Intentionally encourage your child's academic confidence, social skills and emotional management skills to make her transition to elementary school as seamless and wonder-filled as possible.


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Language skills are key to learning any subject taught in kindergarten, as well as to developing social skills and relationships. Engage your child in conversations about what you are doing as you go through your normal daily routine. Read him books, create your own make believe stories and ask him to tell stories about what his favorite stuffed toy likes to do in a day, or about an imaginary place he would like to go. Watch children's shows on the alphabet, practice tracing letter shapes on paper or in a sandbox and sing the ABC Song together as you drive down the road. Point out letters on food packaging at the grocery store or ask him to find 10 letters around the house as fast as he can.


Four-year-olds do not need to have any fancy math skills before kindergarten, but most children are naturally curious about counting things. Sit outside and count rocks or sticks, ask your child to count out two cookies at snack time or set out four cookies and ask her how many are left after she takes two for herself. Many four-year-olds are able to count up to 10 or 20 and can add and subtract sums up to four. Show her what addition and subtraction signs look like and play around with some simple worksheets to see what her interest level is. Have a counting contest to see how high she can count, or go on a short walk and pick up one stick, leaf, pine cone or rock every 10 steps you take and count them all at the end.

Shapes and Colors

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With a little inspiration, four-year-olds love to get creative with shapes and colors. Cut different shapes out of colored construction paper and hang them on his bedroom wall. Ask your child to find four purple things or four circle things in the house and bring them to you. Get a big box of crayons and see how many kinds of green or pink you can find. Use each color group to color sheets of paper to fold into paper airplanes or cranes. Encourage your child to pick a finger paint color that represents his mood and create a picture with it. Watch some episodes of his favorite show about shapes and colors and maybe even print off some coloring sheets to do together on a rainy day.

Social Skills

Four-year-olds learn social skills through practice and interacting with others. Make music together, dance, or sing along to a favorite song. Find a local music class or invite neighborhood children to join you for play dates. Practice sharing skills during play dates by bringing out special toys and allowing your child to practice verbal negotiation skills. Develop a consistent routine and give her a heads up before it is time to do something new so that she has a chance to learn how to smoothly transition from one activity to another. Sports teams at local community centers or churches give children a chance to develop social problem-solving skills and learn teamwork. Simply by living life with your child and encouraging her to make friends, you are preparing her socially for kindergarten.

Self Management Skills

Kindergarten is a huge emotional milestone for most young children who ride a bus for the first time, go to an elementary school for the first time, sit in a large class for the first time, focus on classwork and do homework for the very first time. Self management skills are one of the most important things you can teach your child to make kindergarten fun and exciting rather than overwhelming. Teach your child basic self-care skills like hand washing, teeth brushing and going into a bathroom stall alone. Let him flex his independent work skills by choosing some age appropriate chores like putting toys away, clearing the table, feeding a pet or fixing a bowl of cereal. Give him simple instructions to get something from another room or to be as quiet as a mouse in the library. Help him name his emotions, learn how to take a deep breaths and count to 10 when he is overwhelmed or upset. Ask him to tell you about what he is feeling and then listen, validate his emotions and work together to find solutions. These lifelong emotional management skills will serve him well in kindergarten and for the rest of his life.

Seek Help

Children learn at different paces and it is normal for any four-year-old to learn some of these skills more easily than others. If you notice that your child has trouble speaking in complete sentences, counting to 10, connecting with others or managing her emotions and daily tasks, it never hurts to talk with your pediatrician. She can evaluate whether your child is simply learning at a different pace, or if she would benefit from some early intervention before kindergarten to make the transition easier.