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Learn about what 4-year-old tamariki are typically like, and find out more about the B4 School Check initiative from the Ministry of Health.

Remembering to celebrate each stage of a child’s development is really important. Try to avoid the trap of always looking ahead to the ‘next’ stage.

How often does a 4-year-old hear things like, ‘Oh you’ll be starting school next year!’. This sort of comment may unconsciously give them a message that 4 is not that important – the action really starts when you get to kura!

When whānau take notice and focus their attention on what’s going on right now for their tamaiti, it can help them to understand, appreciate and enjoy their child’s present age and stage (and remember it better later, as well).

What are 4-year-olds like?

Generally speaking, a 4-year-old is gaining more confidence as they develop. Whakatipu booklet Te Māhuri 2 (pages 10–17) show very active, energetic, busy, fun-loving, adept 4-year-olds. They’re gaining more physical skills and becoming more capable in a number of ways. They hop, skip, walk forwards and backwards, peddle a tricycle, stack blocks, walk up and down stairs and most can look after their own personal needs (dressing, eating and using the toilet).

A 4-year-old is likely to enjoy the company of other children and be able to play co-operatively. For the most part they can play by the rules, take turns and share.

The term ‘normal’ when applied to a young child’s development can cover quite a range. It can be hard sometimes to work out what is and what isn’t ‘normal’. But if there are concerns, there are a few warning signs for whānau to watch out for. They may need extra assistance if their tamaiti:

  • doesn’t seem to hear or see very well
  • has difficulty making themselves understood
  • can’t use sentences of more than 3 words
  • trips or falls over a lot, or is generally ‘clumsy’
  • can’t take care of their own personal needs
  • doesn’t play with others
  • is afraid or aggressive.

B4 School Check

Every child in Aotearoa New Zealand is entitled to the B4 School Check, which is the last Well Child/Tamariki Ora check before they start school. This is carried out by a registered nurse and consists of a general check of tamariki health and development, including height and weight, teeth, social and emotional wellbeing and immunisation status.

It is preferably carried out near to the child’s 4th birthday. That way, if there are any concerns requiring linking with support or health services, there is plenty of time for this to happen before the child starts school.

The B4 School Check can identify and address any health, behavioural, social or developmental concerns that might affect a child’s ability to settle in well and get the most benefit from school.

Other resources

B4 School Check information for early learning services | Ministry of Health(external link)

About the B4 School Check | Ministry of Health(external link)