Your 5-Year-Old's Social Development

Five-Year-Olds Are Ready to Expand Their Social Circle

Boys using digital tablet together in elementary school
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Gone are the days when your five-year-old was once a baby, only intermittently interacting with a playmate and engaging in what is commonly referred to as "parallel play." Now, whether your child is a social butterfly or a more slow-to-warm kid, he will increasingly and naturally interact with other children, whether in kindergarten or at play dates.

He will also begin to expand his relationship with the world at large as he increasingly understands more about the world around him. Here is a general picture of five-year-olds' social development.


Friendships begin to take on more importance for five-year-olds. A child this age may begin to gravitate toward certain select friends and form close-knit bonds with two or three kids. Parents should be aware that the downside to this is that cliques may form and ostracism may occur, so they should keep a close eye on dynamics in classrooms and playgroups. And as sad as it may be to think about, the reality is that bullying can also occur in kindergarten.

Morals and Rules

Five-year-olds 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.

At the same time, your five-year-old may try to push boundaries as he naturally attempts to try new things and assert his own preferences and will. Much as with the so-called "terrible two's," this may be a phase where you see more clashes with your child as he tests his limitations.


Five-year-olds also begin to develop of sense of how interpersonal relationships work and may ask lots of questions about who is married to whom and what a sister-in-law or a stepfather is. They will become more interested in knowing how members of their own families are related to each other and will inquire about their friends' families as well.

Giving, Sharing, and Empathy

Many five-year-olds will naturally enjoy giving and sharing (as well as receiving!). This is something even young children are naturally geared to do, but at five, when many children are in settings where they are interacting with friends and classmates, the ability to be considerate of others, share, and have empathy will play an increasingly important role in kids' social interactions.

Alone Time

As children grow older, some may naturally need some time alone to play and just be by themselves. This, too, will be an important skill, as much as learning how to interact well with others is essential for healthy social development in kids.

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  • Children develop at very different rates. Often, girls will develop emotional and social skills more rapidly than boys. The difficulty with emotional milestones, however, can also suggest a developmental challenge that should be addressed. If you're concerned about your child's emotional development, reach out to your child's pediatrician and teacher and share your thoughts. Then, if appropriate, consider taking action.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Important milestones: your child by five years. Web. 2017.
  • PBS Parents. Child development tracker: your five-year-old. Web. 2017.