Every Age a Remarkable Stage! Part 5: Fantastic Fives

Your young child’s development year-to-year

Your Fantastic 5-Year-Old!

Carousel is pleased to bring you the fourth article in our series celebrating your young child’s marvelous ages and exciting developmental stages! 

Every few weeks we’re focusing on a specific age group to explore the amazing things that are happening in your child’s body and brain—be sure to catch all the articles in the series.

Though we specialize in 0-3 years, Carousel Teaching System®, our exclusive curriculum, is designed to grow with your child and address the particular needs of every stage–to advance language development, inspire curiosity, and cultivate joy in learning.

We have captivating programming and exquisite learning materials for school-age children as well as babies and toddlers—and tailored tutoring available for kids right up through the teen years.

Today, we’re taking a close look at the developmental milestones of Fantastic 5-Year-Olds. Remember: these are general benchmarks. Every child is an individual and develops at his own rate. Talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns.

This is an exciting time! Your 5-year-old is still in
the early childhood phase, and yet, she’s right on
the cusp of being a “big kid”—there are many signs that she is almost there.

Five-year-olds start to lose a bit of their toddler chubbiness; they get longer and leaner, and build more muscle. This year they may grow 2-3 inches and put on 4 or 5 pounds. As coordination and balance improve, they can run and jump, do a somersault, stand on one foot for 10 seconds or more, hop, and maybe even skip. They love to climb and swing, and can throw and catch a big ball. They can even start learning to ride a bicycle.

Fine motor coordination is improving (along with cognitive skills) so now they can copy simple geometric shapes, print some letters and numbers, maybe write their own name. They can draw a person including about 6 body parts (body/head/arms/legs). They can learn to use table utensils properly, do buttons and zippers, and even tie their own shoes; they can brush their teeth and hair. This is especially exciting because their growing sense of independence makes them want to do things on their own such as choose clothes and dress themselves, and take care of their own bathroom needs. It’s important to encourage their independence but remain vigilant with supervision and support.

Five-year-olds understand common things about daily life, such as the function of food, and money; they know what the main household appliances are for: dishwasher, laundry, oven, and so forth. They can count to 10, and name 4 or more colors. They understand basic spatial relationships and can tell you that the cup is on the table or the cat is under the bed.

They’re developing a stronger concept of time and can speak using future tense,
“Dad will be home tomorrow.” You can help them grasp time and abstract concepts like past, present, soon, later, etc. by creating routines in which certain things happen at the same time each day, or during specific seasons, and by tying the terms to concrete events. “We’ll go to the playground after school.” “We take swimming lessons in the summer.”

Your 5-year-old can tell a story using sentences of more than 5 words, and retell parts of a story you’ve read to her. Even someone who doesn’t know her well can understand her. Her vocabulary is growing like wild—she probably has over 2000 words, and is learning 5-10 new ones per day. She’s more able now to express her needs and wants, and talk about her feelings, but still needs your help in understanding and articulating complex emotions.

Five-year-olds are social! They want to be liked, and are eager to please; they want to make you happy and even impress you (Mommy! Watch what I can do!) They’re beginning to grasp the difference between right and wrong. They understand rules and are becoming more likely to agree and adhere to them; they can follow more complex directions, and they like to cooperate (at least, much of the time), and to do a good job. This is a wonderful time to actively involve them in simple, useful tasks around the home, and to praise them handsomely for their help.

Of course, it’s also normal for children of this age to have moments of being demanding and defiant. At 5, children have a wide range of emotions and can experience extreme and conflicting feelings, maybe even have a tantrum once in a while. Be patient, and remember that your child is poised right between early childhood and the big kid world.

There will be challenging moments—growing up is hard. Affirm their feelings and offer support. You can help them learn to handle difficult emotions in appropriate, constructive ways. For example: take a few deep breaths, draw a picture, help them label their feelings and express themselves calmly, saying, I feel [ angry ] when [ my big brother takes my toys ]. Children who have positive tools like these are less likely to act out or have emotional outbursts.

At this stage your child is starting to develop meaningful friendships outside the immediate family. He may form especially close bonds with a few friends. He’ll want to please his friends and be like them. You may notice that your child shows a preference for being with friends rather than alone, and when with friends, they may want to go off to play away from the grown-ups. Make sure they’re safe, but give them room to play on their own.

At this age friends can work together to achieve a goal like building a snow fort or castle of blocks, they can play a game. They’re developing problem-solving skills, and can resolve many conflicts on their own.

Five-year-olds especially love dramatic play. They create elaborate imaginative worlds to disappear into—but they understand the difference between real and make-believe. They like to dance, sing, and play act. They develop fascinating characters and storylines, and may extend particularly engaging dramatic scenarios over a lengthy period. They might even stage a whole show for you!

Although your child is probably going to full-time school now, and is able to pay attention in a classroom setting, play—and lots of it—is still crucial to his learning process. It’s important to provide unstructured playtime each day, experts recommend an hour or more. Encourage active play, away from screens, with lots of movement and physical activity—your squirmy little one needs it! Include both independent and social play, time with friends…and especially time with YOU.

Play with your child every day! Read books together, tell stories, build things, do art projects, bake cookies, play dress-up. Get outside as much as possible: take nature walks, plant flowers, kick a ball around. Let your child take the lead and allow yourself to get absorbed in their imaginative worlds. Playing together is wonderful bonding time, and an important opportunity to develop good communication, and find out what’s going on in their brilliant young minds!