What to Expect with 5-Year-Old Development (2024)

Life with a 5-year-old can be incredibly fun. For instance, a 5-year-old can still feel little and adorable, yet ask thoughtful questions that will seriously impress you.

Cuteness aside, the age of 5 isn’t without its ups and downs. For instance, they're learning how to regulate emotions and doing "big kid" things like going to school.

Here's what to expect in terms of growth and development in your 5-year-old, as well as some red flags that might warrant a call to your pediatrician.

What to Expect with 5-Year-Old Development (1)

5-Year-Old Language and Cognitive Milestones

Here are some of the cognitive milestones you may see in your 5-year-old:

  • Language skills. Your child’s language skills are really exploding at this age. “Five-year-olds are fluent talkers,” says Molly O'Shea, MD, official pediatrician ofGoldfish Swim School. “They use pronouns correctly, recognize colors, and understand and use direction words like 'over,' 'under,' and 'next to.'”
  • Remembering details. Dr. O’Shea says that children this age love to recount the things that happened to them during the day and can recall details from hours before.
  • Following directions. They're also able to carry out more detailed directions, a skill that will help prepare them for kindergarten. “When following directions, 5-year-olds can usually carry out a three-step sequence such as, ‘Get your shoes, put on your jacket, and pack your backpack,’ with few reminders,” Dr. O’Shea describes.
  • Learning new information. You will be wowed by how quickly your child is absorbing new information, says Tiffany Kimbrough, MD, associate professor and pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. “Five-year-olds are like sponges and are constantly learning,” Dr. Kimbrough explains. “They can count 10 or more items, can understand concepts like money, print letters and numbers, and copy shapes.”
  • Knowing what's real vs. what's not. Although your child still enjoys playing imaginatively, they are better able to distinguish between imaginative play and real life, says Dr. O'Shea. “Fantasy vs. reality is getting clearer, but kids still struggle to understand what can really happen and what can’t,” she notes.

Language and Cognitive Checklist

A 5-year-old can:

  • Have a vocabulary of about 2,000 words and speak in sentences with at least five words
  • Recount things like their phone number, and the first and last names of their parents
  • Answer simple questions
  • Recognize rhymes like "hop" and "stop"
  • Have speech more easily recognized by others
  • Use the future tense when speaking (“I will go to school tomorrow”)

5-Year-Old Movement, Hand, and Finger Milestones

Here are some of the physical characteristics you might see in a typical developing 5-year-old.

Physical appearance

As your child moves from preschool age to school age, they're growing a bit more slowly, and their round cheeks and chunky thighs may start to lean out a bit.

Movement milestones

A 5-year-old's movements are becoming more synchronized and their hand-eye coordination is getting more refined.

“Five-year-olds have gotten a lot more coordinated and are ready for action,” Dr. O’Shea says. “Gross motor skill development allows them to throw and catch smaller balls, run, jump and skip, and even do more complex movements like gymnastics and swimming real strokes.”

They should also be able to hop on one foot.

Fine motor skills

As for fine motor skills, your child should be able to do things like:

  • Feed themselves easily
  • Use a child-safe knife to do things like spread butter on bread
  • Write their own name
  • Dress themselves

“They should have established hand dominance and be exhibiting a mature pencil grasp called a dynamic tripod (or quadrupod) grasp,” explains Caitlin Sanschagrin, an occupational therapist at Bright SpOT Pediatric Therapy.

But all children are different, Sanschagrin adds, and you shouldn’t expect your child to have a “textbook” pencil grasp at this age.

Physical Milestones Checklist

Your 5-year-old should be able to:

  • Stand on one foot for about 10 seconds
  • Be learning to climb, swing, and somersault
  • Use the potty on their own
  • Hop and sometimes, skip

5-Year-Old Emotional and Social Milestones

You may notice just how much fun it is to chat with your 5-year-old. Yes, they still say the cutest things, but they also have a lot of interesting thoughts and opinions to share.

“They are very capable of participating in conversations and may ask questions to gain information,” says Emily Rooker, a speech-language pathologist at Bright SpOT Pediatric Therapy.

Here are some additional social and emotional milestones you may notice at this age.

Expanding their circle of friends

Rooker explains that your 5-year-old is growing and maturing when it comes to making friends and engaging with people outside their immediate family. At this age, children more consciously make and choose friends on their own, Rooker says.

How to Help Your Child Make Friends

Learning to follow directions

They're also able to engage in play that involves directions, expectations, and cooperation, Rooker explains, which is another important prerequisite for the type of activities they will engage in once they begin elementary school.

A 5-year-old can also do simple chores, such as putting their plate and cup in the sink after a meal.

Testing boundaries

As much as your child can adhere to rules and become a team player, they're still very much capable of testing limits, especially with their parents.

Regressing in behavior—and even having the occasional meltdown—is typical at this age, and it’s important to remember that your child is young and still learning.

“It can be frustrating for parents to see children behaving ‘like babies’ in their eyes, but by acknowledging the feelings and supporting the child, their emotional capabilities will grow and the child will have more ways of handling tough situations,” Dr. O’Shea advises.

Other Milestones for Your 5-Year-Old

Here are a few other things that may happen as your 5-year-old continues to grow and develop:

  • Losing baby teeth. Get your tooth fairy skills ready, because 5 years old is when most children start to lose their baby teeth. Starting at around age 5 or 6, your child’s mature sets of incisors (the middle bottom and middle top teeth) start to come in.
  • Using the bathroom solo. At this age, your child should also be fully potty-trained, for both pee and poop. Most children this age can clean up after themselves in the bathroom as well.
  • Occasional accidents. Don’t be surprised if your child still has accidents, though (that’s why their kindergarten teacher will have you send in an extra set of clothes). Kids this age still sometimes wet the bed.

How To Help Your 5-Year-Old Learn and Grow

As a parent, you may feel frustrated that your child still has occasional tantrums at 5 years old. This behavior is normal, says Dr. O’Shea, but there are some things you can do as a parent to help your child navigate these difficult feelings.

“Children will get upset,” she says. “When they do, parents can try hard to empathize rather than diminish their children’s feeling by saying things like ‘stop crying’ or ‘you’ll be fine.’”

Even though your instinct as a parent may be to try to make the behavior stop immediately, allowing children a chance to share their emotions is important. “By leaning into it with empathy, we give our children an opportunity to express their feelings and for us to help them come up with new ways to express themselves in the long run,” Dr. O’Shea adds.

Starting school

Of course, you can't discuss a 5-year-old without talking about the possibility of them starting school. This is natural because starting kindergarten or an early kindergarten is a major milestone for both you and your child.

Thankfully, although the adjustment to school can be bumpy, most children do fine in kindergarten—and yes, their parents learn to let go as well. But some children may need extra help and that's OK, too.

If you're concerned about your child’s ability to self-regulate their emotions, or if your child is showing lags in social skills or pre-reading and math skills, don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician with your questions and concerns.

8 Ways to Prepare Your Kid for the First Day of Kindergarten

How To Keep Your 5-Year-Old Safe

Your child will have a well-child checkup at the pediatrician's office soon after they turn 5 years old. Here are some things you can expect at their check-up to keep them healthy:

  • Immunizations. Their health care provider will make sure they're up to date with their childhood vaccines, especially the ones required for school. Immunizations typically offered at this age include additional doses of the DTaP vaccine, the polio vaccine, the chickenpox vaccine, and the MMR vaccine. Your child’s provider will likely offer the flu shot as well.
  • Physical activity. Additionally, your child’s pediatrician will discuss the kinds of lifestyle choices that will keep your child healthy during this time. Five-year-olds need regular physical activity—at least one hour of movement a day.
  • Sleep. They need to get adequate sleep as well, and many kids this age need to sleep between 11 and 13 hours each night.

When To Talk to Your Doctor About Your 5-Year-Old

Every child is different when it comes to reaching milestones, and this is especially true at age 5. Some children can read a little at this age, while others are still learning their letters. Some children are little gymnasts while others are still mastering catching a ball.

There's a wide range of normal, so don’t worry too much if your child has or hasn't mastered certain skills before others. Dr. Kimbrough does advise talking to your health care provider if your child exhibits any of the following symptoms:

  • Can't say their first and last name
  • Doesn't play with a variety of toys or play different games
  • Doesn't respond to others
  • Has extreme emotions (anxious, shy, or overly fearful)
  • Is unable to wash their own hands
  • Cannot draw a picture
  • Loses skills they once possessed

You can bring up your concerns with your pediatrician. If they agree that there may be an issue, they will be able to refer you to a specialist who can evaluate your child and connect them to resources and help they may need.

What to Expect with 5-Year-Old Development (2024)
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