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Milestones for 5-Year-Olds - Topic Overview

Children usually progress in a natural, predictable sequence from one developmental milestone to the next. But each child grows and gains skills at his or her own pace. Some children may be advanced in one area, such as language, but behind in another, such as sensory and motor development.

Milestones usually are categorized into five major areas: physical growth, cognitive development, emotional and social development, language development, and sensory and motor development.

Physical growth and development

Most children by age 5:

  • Have gained about 4.4 lb (2 kg) and grown 1.5 in. (4 cm) to 2 in. (5 cm) since their fourth birthday.

To see the high and low percentiles for normal weight and growth, go to www.cdc.gov/growthcharts.

Thinking and reasoning (cognitive development)

Most children by age 5:

  • Know their address and phone number.
  • Recognize most letters of the alphabet.
  • Can count 10 or more objects.
  • Know the names of at least 4 colors.
  • Understand the basic concepts of time.
  • Know what household objects are used for, such as money, food, or appliances.

Emotional and social development

Most children by age 5:

  • Want to please and be liked by their friends, though they may sometimes be mean to others.
  • Agree to rules most of the time.
  • Show independence.
  • Are more able to distinguish fantasy from reality but enjoy playing make-believe and dress-up.
  • Have distinct ways of playing according to gender. Most 5-year-old boys play in rough or physically active ways. Girls of the same age are more likely to engage in social play.

Language development

Most children by age 5:

  • Carry on a meaningful conversation with another person.
  • Understand relationships between objects, such as "the boy who is jumping rope."
  • Use the future tense, such as "Let's go to the zoo tomorrow!"
  • Often call people (or objects) by their relationship to others, such as "Bobby's mom" instead of "Mrs. Smith."
  • Talk about or tell stories. They have little or no trouble being understood by others.

Sensory and motor development

Most children by age 5:

  • Somersault and possibly skip.
  • Swing and climb.
  • Hop on one foot.
  • Use the toilet by themselves. They may still wet the bed, though.

By age 5, most children can use their hands and fingers (fine motor skills) to:

  • Copy triangles and other geometric shapes.
  • Draw a person with a head, a body, arms, and legs.
  • Dress and undress on their own, although they may still need help tying shoelaces.
  • Write some small and capital letters from the alphabet.
  • Eat with a fork, spoon, and possibly a flatware knife.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: February 22, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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