5-Year-Old Child Development Milestones

Your child’s growth and development at age 5

Five years old can be a really fun age! Your child loves to play and is extremely imaginative. They still feel little and adorable, but they are becoming quite the conversationalist, and their ability to pick up new information and ask thoughtful questions will seriously impress you.

This age isn’t without its ups and downs. Five-year-olds are still learning to regulate their emotions, so meltdowns happen from time to time. Still, your child is moving toward becoming more mature, and is able to do big kid things like going to school, and brushing their own teeth.

Let’s take a look at what to expect in terms of growth and development as you parent your 5-year-old, as well as some red flags that might warrant a call to your pediatrician.

5 year old development milestones
Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

5-Year-Old Language and Cognitive Milestones

Your child’s language skills are really exploding at this age. “Five-year-olds are fluent talkers,” says Molly O'Shea, MD, official pediatrician of Goldfish Swim School. “They use pronouns correctly, recognize colors, and understand and use direction words like 'over,' 'under,' and 'next to.'”

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. They are also able to carry out more detailed directions than they did before, a skill that will help prepare them for kindergarten.

“When following directions, five-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.

Cognitively, 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 ten or more items, can understand concepts like money, print letters and numbers, and copy shapes.”

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 are getting clearer, but kids still struggle to understand what can really happen and what can’t,” she notes.

Language and Cognitive Checklist

  • Five-year-olds have a vocabulary of about 2000 words, and speak in sentences with at least five words.
  • They can recount things like their phone number, and the first and last names of their parents.
  • They still ask a lot of questions, but they can also answer simple questions.
  • They can recognize rhymes, like "hop" and "stop."
  • Their speech is more easily understood by others, and they are starting to use the future tense when speaking (“I will go to school tomorrow”).

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

As your child moves from preschool age to school-age, they are growing a bit more slowly, and their round cheeks and chunky thighs may start to lean out a bit. At this age, your child will gain about 4 or 5 pounds a year, and grow about 5 to 8 centimeters. On average, 5-year-olds weigh roughly 40 pounds and are about 40 inches in height.

Your child is no longer a teetering toddler or preschooler. Their 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.

As for fine motor skills, your child should be able to do things like feed themselves easily, and may even be able to use a child-safe knife to do things like spread butter on bread. Your child’s writing skills are also improving, which is readying them for exciting things like printing their own name. They also have some ability to dress themselves, such as by buttoning large buttons.

“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 says, 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.
  • They are mastering the art of climbing, swinging, and somersaulting.
  • They should be able to use the potty on their own.
  • They can hop, and may even be able to skip.

5-Year-Old Emotional and Social Milestones

One of the things you may notice at this age is 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.

Additionally, Rooker notes, 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.

They are 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.

But as much as your child is becoming more able to adhere to rules and become a team player, they are 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 you 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

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 is when your child’s mature sets of incisors (the middle bottom and middle top teeth) start to come in. The teeth will be wiggly for a few days or weeks before they fall out, and they often fall out while your child is eating. There may be a little blood, but the bleeding should be minimal.

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. 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 by the fact 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 offers.

How to Keep Your 5-Year-Old Safe

Your child will have a well checkup at the pediatrician's office soon after they turn 5. Their healthcare provider will make sure they are up to date with their immunizations, 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.

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. 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 Be Concerned 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 are able to 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 is a wide range of normal, so don’t worry too much if your child has or hasn't mastered certain skills before others.

Still, there are some signs that your child may need a little extra help or an evaluation by a medical professional.

“If your child cannot 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, or if your child ever loses skills they once possessed, you should speak with your child's pediatrician or family practice doctor for more of an in-depth developmental assessment,” Dr. Kimbrough advises.

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 help them get the help they need.

A Word From Verywell

As you observe your 5-year-old and consider their growth and development, you probably have their entry into elementary school at the forefront of your mind. This is natural, because starting 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 there are some children who struggle.

If you are 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.

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Important milestones: Your child by five years.

  2. Mott Children’s Hospital. Milestones for 5-year-olds.

  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Developmental milestones record - 5 years.

  4. Nemours KidsHealth. Growth and your 4- to 5-year-old.

  5. Nemours KidsHealth. Your teeth.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines at 4 to 6 years.

  7. Nemours KidsHealth. Your child's checkup: 5 years.

By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a lactation consultant and writer covering maternal/child health, parenting, general health and wellness, and mental health. She has worked with breastfeeding parents for over a decade, and is a mom to two boys.

Originally written by Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin

Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, international bestselling author and host of the The Verywell Mind Podcast.

Learn about our editorial process