5-Year-Old Child Development Milestones

Your child’s growth and development at age 5

For a 5-year-old, there will be many steps forward as well as steps back as she navigates new challenges and broadens her world. Many 5-year-olds begin kindergarten, which means more time away from the familiarity of home. At this age, children will increasingly express a desire to be independent, but will still want and need cuddles and comfort from mom and dad.

While it’s impossible to say what "all 5-year-olds are like" given the fact that children have individual abilities, preferences, and personalities, these are some milestones that can be generally applied to a 5-year-old child.

Behavior and Daily Routines

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Some 5-year-olds will be entering kindergarten. For children who did not attend preschool, this will be a major shift from the familiarity of home to a whole new world of social and behavioral expectations. New friends, new rules, and new discoveries mark this transition. For some children, school is an exciting new adventure. For others, it can be a bit overwhelming. If your child has difficulty with the transition to school, it's important to understand what her challenges are and to discuss options with her teacher. In most cases, parent-teacher cooperation can smooth a bumpy road.

Physical Development

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Physical development of 5-year-old children will vary. Some children this age may experience sudden growth earlier than others, and some may have stronger motor skills than their peers. According to the CDC, your child should be able to do some or most of these things:

  • Stand on one foot for 10 seconds or longer
  • Hop and possibly even skip
  • Do a somersault
  • Use a fork and spoon and sometimes a table knife
  • Use the toilet on her own 
  • Swing and climb

Emotional Development

5 year old child development - girls lying on grass and laughing
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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, however, 5-year-old children are still very much in the world of younger children and may display emotional extremes, tantrums, and contradictions.

Cognitive Development

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Children will experience an explosion of cognitive development as they enter school and begin to develop math, reading, and other academic skills. The saying, "kindergarten is the new first grade" will apply for many 5-year-olds as they tackle things like homework and have to meet academic and behavioral expectations at school. As they move through kindergarten, 5-year-olds will be challenged to learn and print numbers, letters, and shapes. They will also be expected to learn and understand basic facts about their own bodies and the world in which they live.

Social Development

5 year old child development - boys whispering and laughing
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Gone are the days when your child only intermittently interacted with a playmate and engaged in what is commonly referred to as "parallel play." Now, whether your child is a social butterfly or a more slow-to-warm child, he will increasingly interact with other kids, whether in kindergarten or at play dates. Social interaction is now more likely to involve games with rules, sports-based activities, and high energy play.

What If My Child Isn't Ready for Kindergarten?

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Young children develop at different speeds, and quite a few have challenges that can make the transition to kindergarten challenging. Sensitivity to sensory input, learning or speech difficulties, or other differences may mean your child isn't quite ready for kindergarten. If that's the case, bring up the question with your pediatrician and your child's teacher. It's often possible to delay kindergarten for a year, giving you a chance to help your child build the skills he needs to thrive in school.

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