Tips for parents of a four-year-old

Happy 4th Birthday!

“You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.” – Dr. Seuss

At 4, the big and exciting next step for your child is becoming part of a wider community and being a good neighbour! The ideas on the following pages will focus on preparing you and your child for this next step.

“Now I’m 4!”

Whether your child has just turned 4, or it has been a few months, it’s an exciting time with so much to see, explore, and discover. This is often a time when a child’s community starts to extend beyond the walls of home and will likely include daycare or school teachers, instructors from community programs, and even playdates with neighbours and friends. You may have seen your child show more interest in brushing his or her own teeth, getting dressed, or learning to use scissors to cut open those freezies.

Will You Be My Neighbour?

As your child’s social world continues to grow, there are many new opportunities for learning how to make friends and be a good neighbour.

What does it mean to be a “good” neighbour? As Mr. Rogers would say, it means, “… treating our neighbour at least as well as we treat ourselves.”

What is great about being 4 years old, is that all the skills your child has been learning until now, such as running, jumping, skipping, putting on their shoes, reading, sharing, taking turns, and using their words, are all being used altogether when they begin to make friends. Providing many opportunities for children to play with each other (with occasional adult help) helps them to learn important life lessons, such as how to be kind to others, how to handle conflict, how to be aware of the needs of our friends, and many more.

Public, Private, Catholic, or En Français?

Selecting a school that best suits the need of your child can be a daunting task. Before deciding if a school or class placement is a good fit for your child, consider the following:

  1. Each child is unique and has skills they are very good at and skills they need to develop.
  2. You have your own expectations. Think about what you want for your child and talk with your school principal about these expectations. Find out if the structure, class size, and teaching methods are a good fit for your child.

Thinking About Early French Immersion?

Early French Immersion starts in senior kindergarten. Until grade three, French is spoken throughout the entire day, with special subjects such as gym sometimes taught in English. How do you know if your child ready for this challenge? Consider the following:

  1. If you child is used to speaking only English until now, the move to hearing and speaking French all day long will be a big change. It requires extra effort on top of academic expectations that increase with every year at school. Is my child doing well at school now?
  2. For some families, it is important for their children to learn French. There are options beyond French Immersion, such as the Junior Extended French Program and weekend second language programs. Does my child need to speak French? Are there other ways I can enrich his or her learning?
  3. If a child’s parents do not speak French, it can be difficult for them to know if their child is having trouble with schoolwork. How will I know if my child is having trouble? Can I support my child in learning a new language?

Keep in mind: Registration and enrollment deadlines are different between school boards and programs. For example, for the Toronto District School Board, Kindergarten registration begins early in the calendar year, while registration for French Immersion is late fall.

Thinking Ahead: Getting Ready for Grade 1

Whether your child is in a kindergarten class, attending child care, or has other options at home, the time to transition to Grade 1 will creep up faster than you think! Here are some of the expectations for Grade 1 that will be different from Senior Kindergarten:

Expectations in Grade 1 What it Looks Like
Greater social maturity Making friends and learning to work together
Independence in self-care Dressing, toileting, and eating on their own
Stronger attention skills Following group instructions
Improved organization skills Introduction of homework
Literacy and numeracy Introduction of reading and math concepts
Greater focus on paper and pencil tasks More time working seated at a desk


With a whole new set of skills to learn, have you wondered whether your child will be ready for Grade 1? You are not alone. Did you know there are options for your child if you feel he or she is not ready for Grade 1? It may be possible for your child to do an extra year of kindergarten and begin Grade 1 a year later. If you feel this is the right choice for your child, arrange a meeting with your school’s principal to discuss the possible benefits and drawbacks for your child. The Sunnybrook Neonatal Follow Up Clinic can also help you with this process by providing a letter of support or speaking to the school to support your request and provide information about prematurity. Finding a good fit between the child and the classroom helps everyone – including your child’s next teacher!

Technology Bubble – Telephones and Tablets and TVs, Oh My!

There is no question that advances in technology have made access to information and entertainment easier for everyone, big and small! While technology can be educational, it is also possible to have too much of a good thing. Too much time in the front of the TV or tablet can take away from time spent playing with parents or other children, and learning important skills for school and life. So, how much is too much?

The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends the following:

  • Children under 2 years of age: zero screen time.
  • Children 2-5 years: no more than 1 hour per day (total).
  • Maintain daily screen-free times especially around meal times and book-reading.
  • Avoid screen time one hour before bed to promote better sleep.
  • Adults should model healthy screen usage such as choosing healthy alternatives (e.g. reading, time outdoors, etc.), turning off the devices at home during family time, avoiding using the TV as part of the background atmosphere.

Limiting screen time reminds everyone, even parents, of the need for a variety of healthy activities for the body and mind that involve exercising, reading, learning, helping around the house, sleeping, listening to music, playing with friends, and enjoying family time.

Printing and Handwriting

You may be wondering, with keyboards and touchscreens available everywhere from the gas station to the SMART boards at school, is there a need for my child to learn how to print legibly and clearly? Learning to print or write can take a lot of work and time. Is printing still useful in a digital age?

Your child may have figured out how to take a picture and post it online, and might even have a favourite educational letter matching game on your phone, but technology has not (yet) completely replaced printing. Even today, we all still need to print our names. Learning to print is still required in most elementary schools. In fact, as your child enters Grade 1, printing is required for spelling tests and journal writing.

Of course, you might ask, why not just teach them to type? For now, many elementary schools are simply not set up to have all of their topics taught using technology alone. Although learning to use a mouse and keyboard can be helpful in our high tech world, learning to print legibly is still an important basic skill to master. For now, have your child learn both!

Some children may experience a lot of difficulty with printing, to the point that it slows down their learning of other skills at school. If this description fits your child, it may be time to consider a referral to a writing aids clinic in your area. Your child can be assessed by a team of professionals that will help determine various technological aids that may be of help.



  1. Canadian Pediatric Society – Screen Time and Young Children-Promoting Health in a Digital World