4 Years

Does your 4-year old

  • follow directions involving 3 or more steps – “First get some paper, then draw a picture, last give it to mom?”
  • use adult-type grammar?
  • tell stories with a clear beginning, middle and end?
  • talk to try to solve problems with adults and other children?”
  • demonstrate increasingly complex imaginative play?
  • talk in a way that is understood by strangers almost all of the time?
  • generate simple rhymes – “cat-bat”?
  • match some letters with their sounds – “letter T says ‘tuh’?


If your child does not do one or several of the above, we can help!

Complete the First Words Communication Checkup or contact Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 or 613-PARENTS for more information.

Renfrew county families may call our Intake Office at 613-732-7007, ext. 5905 or 1-888-421-2222.



Also, look out for any of these red flags:

  • Limited eye gaze and/or limited shared interest in others
  • Repeats exactly what you say instead of responding to questions or comments
  • Lack of interest in or contact with other children of the same age during play
  • Does not look at you when listening or speaking
  • Makes noises or uses gestures to show needs instead of using words or sentences
  • May talk but what they say may not be relevant to the conversation
  • Repetitive play or movement behaviours
  • Limited sequenced pretend play
  • Any loss of any social and/or language skills


If you have noticed any of these red flags, your child may be dealing with a developmental issue as well as a language delay and will need more support.  An immediate referral to the Children’s Treatment Centre (CTC) for a developmental assessment might be required. Contact the CHEO Access Team at 613-737-2757.


Here are a few quick strategies to help your 4-year old learn to communicate:

  • Ask your child questions about things they find interesting.
  • Talk about the similarities and differences in toys, rocks, balls, etc.
  • Sing songs that end with rhyming words and make up new verses.
  • Have conversations about books with your child.  When reading to your child, encourage them to guess what the book is about and talk about the different characters.
  • Talk about letters and words on cereal boxes and signs (e.g. STOP sign).
  • Check out our “Strategies” and “Learning Tools” sections for other strategies and resources!