Your Child at 5: Milestones

With kindergarten coming up, your 5-year-old is on the cusp of a brave new world -- new friends, new routines, and all kinds of new ideas. Typically, kids this age are bursting with creative energy. They also know about everyday things like food and money. At the same time, they can have trouble dealing with strong feelings. One minute everything’s easy-peasy, the next you feel like you got launched back into the terrible 2s.

Knowing your child’s milestones at age 5 can help. They tell you the kinds of skills your child will learn, which gives you a sense of what’s normal and what to expect next. As you review the milestones, it also helps to know how to support your child’s development and how to keep your child safe.

Milestones at Age 5

These are the skills you can expect your child to know at age 5 -- or soon after. Keep in mind that milestones are guidelines -- children reach them at their own pace. Some kids have these skills before age 5, some later. Still, if these milestones give you concerns that your child might be falling behind, talk to your child’s doctor.

Language and Communication Skills

  • Knows how to make rhymes
  • Says full name, address, and phone number
  • Speaks clearly and uses sentences with five or more words
  • Tells longer stories using complete sentences
  • Uses future tense, such as, “We will go to the park soon.”

Movement and Physical Skills

  • Does somersaults -- head-over-heels tumbles
  • Dresses and undresses without help
  • Hops and may skip
  • Stands on one foot for at least 10 seconds
  • Swings and climbs
  • Uses a fork, spoon, and sometimes a table knife
  • Uses the toilet without help

Social and Emotional Skills

  • Agrees to rules more easily
  • Cooperates easily one moment, but very demanding the next
  • Does more on her own, like visiting a next-door neighbor by herself (with adult supervision)
  • Gets the difference between make-believe and reality
  • Knows about gender, such as who’s a boy or girl
  • Likes to act, dance, and sing
  • Wants to please friends -- and act like them, too

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Thinking and Mental Skills

  • Copies triangles and other shapes
  • Counts 10 or more things
  • Draws people with six or more body parts
  • Knows about everyday things around the home, like food and appliances
  • Names at least four colors
  • Prints some letters and numbers
  • Stronger grasp on the idea of time

How to Help Your Child

There’s a ton you can do every day to help your child learn and grow, such as:

  • Allow plenty of time for running around and playing, and help with activities like using monkey bars and learning to swing
  • Give your child chores around the house
  • Let your child choose activities with friends, and let them work out issues that come up between them
  • Point out common words and symbols in books or when you’re out and about
  • Read to your child every day -- ask questions about the stories, like “What do you think happens next?”
  • Suggest activities like drawing, writing letters, and doing projects with glue, scissors, and other art supplies
  • Talk to your child and listen closely -- ask about likes and dislikes, worries, and what they did with friends today
  • Work with your child on how to manage strong feelings, like anger

When it comes to TVs, smart phones, computers, and tablets, doctors suggest that you:

  • Keep technology out of bedrooms
  • Limit screen time to 1 hour a day of high-quality programs
  • Talk about what you watch together and how it applies to the world

How to Keep Your Child Safe

As children gain new abilities, they can do more and more on their own. That’s just what you want, but it means a shift in how you keep them safe.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Always have your child ride in the back seat of a car in either a car seat or booster seat
  • Ask about guns and gun safety in homes where your child goes to play
  • Don’t keep guns in your home. If you have one, keep it unloaded, locked away, and separate from bullets. And make sure children can’t get the key.
  • Don’t let your child play in the street, including riding bikes -- teach that the curb is the limit
  • Show your child how to cross the street -- look both ways and listen for traffic -- but help your child cross until around age 10
  • Sign your child up for swimming lessons, but don’t let your child swim alone and always keep a watchful eye in and around water
  • Teach your child not to play with lighters and matches -- and check your smoke detectors regularly
  • Wear helmets when biking, skating, skiing, and doing other activities where falls can lead to head injuries

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You can also start to teach your child basic safety ideas like:

  • Ask only certain adults for help, like those with uniforms or name badges
  • Don’t open the door to your house or apartment unless you’re with an adult
  • Make sure your child knows his full name, address, and phone number
  • Talk about what to do in an emergency, like dialing 9-1-1

And, teach your child that certain body parts are off-limits. Tell your child that:

  • No one can ask you to keep a secret from your parents
  • No one can ask you to see or touch your private parts -- the parts that a bathing suit covers
  • No one can ask you to look at, touch, or help with their private parts
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 21, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

HealthyChildren.org: “Developmental Milestones: 4 to 5 Year Olds,” “Safety for Your Child: 5 Years.”

CDC: “Important Milestones: Your Child by Five Years,” “Facts About Child Development.”

Mayo Clinic: “Child Development: Know What’s Ahead.”

Help Me Grow: “5 Years,” “Encouraging Healthy Development -- 5 Years.”

Bright Futures: “Bright Futures Parent Handout: 5 and 6 Year Visits.”

KidsHealth: “Medical Care and Your 4- to 5-Year-Old,” “Your Child’s Checkup: 5 Years.”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use.”

University of California San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital: “Your 5-Year-Old.”

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