Every child's development is unique and complex. Although children develop through a generally predictable sequence of steps and milestones, they may not proceed through these steps in the same way or at the same time. A child's development is also greatly influenced by factors in his or her environment and the experiences he or she has. The information in this guide explains what child development experts consider to be "widely-held expectations" for what an average child might achieve within a given year. Please consider what you read in the context of your child's unique development.
Below is a snapshot of this year. For more in-depth information click on the specific areas of development in the menu at the left.
Five-year-olds are creative and enthusiastic problem solvers. They offer progressively more imaginative ideas for how to do a task, make something or solve longer-term or more abstract challenges. As they participate in a variety of new experiences, five-year-olds ask more analytical questions and weigh their choices. They are also more social as they learn new things and prefer activities that involve other children.
The language skills of five-year-olds are well developed. They pronounce words clearly, speak in complex and compound sentences, use correct grammar for the most part and have good-sized vocabularies that continue to grow rapidly. Children this age enjoy initiating conversations, can wait their turn to speak during group conversations and are typically able to include appropriate details when sharing personal experiences.
Five-year-olds begin to extend their oral language skills to reading and writing. They know their uppercase and most lowercase letters and understand that letters represent specific sounds in spoken words. This knowledge helps them to sound out words in print and write out words based on their sounds. They also can discuss stories and are able to tell their own tales.
The mathematical thinking of children this age becomes more abstract and expands to include a greater understanding of the characteristics of shapes and numbers. They can count out a collection of up to "20" items, conduct simple addition and subtraction and identify which number in a set is larger. Five-year-olds understand and use words related to position, such as "under" or "behind." They sequence events chronologically and are learning to tell time. They can also sort objects based on more than one characteristic.
Physically, five-year-olds abound with energy and seek active games and environments. Their increased abilities to balance and coordinate movements allow them to ride a bike with training wheels, swim, jump rope and perform most ball-related skills. They show mature form in walking and running and are able to vary the direction, speed and quality of their movements. They can also use their fingers flexibly to control writing and painting tools, dress and undress dolls and manage zippers and buttons.
Five-year-olds really want to know more about how the world works. Hands-on experiences help them to form theories to explain "how" and "why" things happen. They can use tools like thermometers and scales to gather information and are able to more independently carry out simple investigations. Five-year-olds also use increasingly descriptive language to relay information, ask questions and provide explanations.
Children this age can manage feelings and social situations with greater independence. They might decide on their own to go to another room to calm down, or try strategies like negotiation and compromise to resolve a conflict before seeking adult help. They also have improved skills for forming and maintaining friendships with adults and other children. Being accepted by "the group" is becoming more and more important.
In the creative arts, five-year-olds have a varied repertoire of music and are able to compose and arrange music within specified guidelines. They create realistic art with recognizable subjects and more detailed settings. They also recognize that art can tell a story. The dramatic play of five-year-olds is pre-planned, elaborate and sustained. They are able to perform simple plays, do pantomime and perform puppet shows.