5-Year-Old Child Development Milestones

Your child’s growth and development at age 5

This is what you can expect from your 5-year-old.
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The development of a 5-year-old is fraught with emotional extremes and contradictions. At this age, many children are still straddling the not-too-distant past period of the toddlerhood and preschool years and the "big kid" phase of development to come.

A 5-year-old may be able to exhibit much more self-control than a toddler, and most children this age will be able to sit for periods of time in a classroom and listen to a teacher's instructions. At the same time, a child this age is still learning to regulate their emotions, and will still be prone to meltdowns over something as small as a spilled glass of milk.

Physical Development

Your 5-year-old has likely left their teetering toddler years long behind them and are well on their way to becoming more coordinated and precise in their movements as they enter the school-age years. 

At age 5, many children will start to look less like a chubby-cheeked toddler and more like the lanky grade-schoolers they will become. This is when kids begin to lose fat and gain muscle. Some of the typical growth milestones include gaining four to five pounds, growing two to three inches, and achieving 20/20 vision.

Key Milestones

  • Gross motor skills: A child’s ability to hop, skip, run and jump really starts to develop at this age. They will have good balance and better coordination.
  • Fine mother skills: As their small muscles become more fine-tuned, a 5-year-old will be able to dress themselves, handle buttons and zippers, and learn how to tie their shoes (although many kids develop this skill later these days since Velcro has taken over children’s footwear).
  • Major highlights: Mealtime will be a different experience as 5-year-olds become more adept at handling forks and knives and need less help with things like cutting their food.

Parenting Tip

As your child masters each new skill, it’s a great time to introduce new tasks to keep them challenged. For example, as the ability to use utensils improves, start teaching better table manners.

Emotional Development

At age 5, children are entering the "big kid" world of better emotional control and regulation. Many 5-year-olds are "people pleasers," who actively want to make friends and receive positive responses from adults.

At the same time, 5-year-old children are still very much in the world of younger children and may display emotional extremes, tantrums, and contradictions.

This is the age when many children begin articulating their feelings in a meaningful way. For instance, a 5-year-old child might say, "I don't like it when I have to go to bed early."

Children also naturally feel empathy, and a 5-year-old who sees a friend in distress might say, "I'm sorry you are sad." If a child this age is upset about something, they may simply declare what they're thinking, and say something like, "I'm mad at you, Mommy."

Key Milestones

  • Separates from caregivers without excessive upset
  • Plays and shares with other children
  • Attends to an adult-directed task for at least five minutes

Parenting Tip

It’s a key time to begin teaching your child socially appropriate ways to handle feelings, like anger and frustration. Talk about how drawing a picture, counting silently to themselves, or taking deep breaths are good ways to calm down the mind and body.

Social Development

Your child will start to make new friends, experience the formation of relationships (including teachers and peers) that are outside the immediate family circle, and blossom as an independent person. Many of the social and emotional milestones you will see at this age will make your child's transition to kindergarten much easier.

Because of this, friendships begin to take on more importance for 5-year-olds. A child this age may begin to gravitate toward certain select friends and form close-knit bonds with two or three other kids.

Key Milestones

  • Wants to please friends
  • More likely to agree with the rules
  • Wants to be like the other kids

Parenting Tip

Cliques may form and ostracism may occur in 5-year-olds, so it’s important to keep a close eye on dynamics in classrooms and playgroups. Bullying can also occur in kindergarten and at this age, kids lack the skills to respond to a bully so adult intervention is key.

Cognitive Development

Your 5-year-old should also begin to understand the difference between "right" and "wrong." They will be able to grasp the concept of rules and will want to follow them and please adults.

By age 5, kids can think and express themselves on higher levels. Those who start kindergarten will show interest in tackling academic and behavioral expectations at school.

Speech & Language

By this age, kids can express their needs and wants with their words. Their language should be easily understood by adults who are not familiar with them and in turn, they can usually understand more complex instructions.

They can also understand positional vocabulary, and should know what you mean when you say things like, “on top of,” “below,” or, “next to.”

Play

Most 5-year-olds enjoy dramatic play. They may initiate some privacy with their friends too, by suggesting they play in another room away from adult interaction. They can often resolve minor conflict on their own without requiring adult intervention in their play.

Their budding physical skills may also expand their play. Your child might enjoy riding a bike without training wheels, jump rope, or play more complex games with balls.

Key Milestones

  • Able to count to 20
  • Begin to extend their oral language skills to reading and writing
  • Likes to sing, act, and dance

Parenting Tip

Expose your child to a variety of new experiences to help them learn new skills and practice the ones they already have. Introduce new crafts, sports, and social situations to help them flourish.

Other Milestones

Many 5-year-old children will begin to lose their baby teeth, which will soon be replaced by permanent teeth in the next couple of years. It should be noted that pediatric dentists do not recommend yanking out loose baby teeth and generally recommend letting baby teeth fall out naturally on their own.

Many 5-year-olds can brush their own teeth, although parent supervision is usually still a good idea. They can wash themselves, and even wipe their own bottoms after using the toilet (which parents may also want to also oversee and help with until kids master this skill).

When to Be Concerned

All 5-year-olds develop at slightly different rates. Attendance at school or preschool will also play a big role in some of the milestones you’re likely to see. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests talking to your child’s physician if you notice any of the following in your 5-year-old:

  • Doesn’t show a wide range of emotions
  • Exhibits extreme behavior (unusually fearful, aggressive, shy or sad)
  • Is unusually withdrawn
  • Is easily distracted, has trouble focusing on one activity for more than five minutes
  • Doesn’t respond to people, or responds only superficially
  • Can’t tell what’s real and what’s make-believe
  • Doesn’t play a variety of games and activities
  • Can’t give first and last name
  • Doesn’t use plurals or past tense properly
  • Doesn’t talk about daily activities or experiences
  • Doesn’t draw pictures
  • Can’t brush teeth, wash and dry hands, or get undressed without help
  • Loses skills they once had

A Word From Verywell

Kindergarten is a big step for kids and parents, so it's understandable if you have concerns about whether your child is ready to start school. If there is a concern about a particular skill, try to work on it with your child. If you are concerned about your child’s lack of readiness, talk to the pediatrician or a preschool teacher.

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