Milestones for 5-Year-Old

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

Your child grows at his or her own pace, and healthy growth is different for every child. Your child’s natural growth rate may be slower or faster than the example below.



Most children by age 5:

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


Physical and motor skill milestones for a typical 5-year-old child include:

  • Gains about 4 – 5 pounds
  • Grows about 2 – 3 inches
  • Vision reaches 20/20
  • First adult teeth start breaking through the gum (most children do not get their first adult teeth until age 6)
  • Has better coordination (getting the arms, legs, and body to work together)
  • Skips, jumps, and hops with good balance
  • Stays balanced while standing on one foot with eyes closed
  • Shows more skill with simple tools and writing utensils
  • Can copy a triangle
  • Can use a knife to spread soft foods

Sensory and mental milestones:

  • Has a vocabulary of more than 2,000 words
  • Speaks in sentences of 5 or more words, and with all parts of speech
  • Can identify different coins
  • Can count to 10
  • Knows telephone number
  • Can properly name the primary colors, and possibly many more colors
  • Asks deeper questions that address meaning and purpose
  • Can answer “why” questions
  • Is more responsible and says “I’m sorry” when he or she makes mistakes
  • Shows less aggressive behavior
  • Outgrows earlier childhood fears
  • Accepts other points of view (but may not understand them)
  • Has improved math skills
  • Questions others, including parents
  • Strongly identifies with the parent of the same sex
  • Has a group of friends
  • Likes to imagine and pretend while playing (for example, pretends to take a trip to the moon)

Ways to encourage a 5-year-old’s development include:

  • Reading together
  • Providing enough space for the child to be active
  • Teaching the child how to take part in — and learn the rules of — sports and games
  • Encouraging the child to play with other children, which helps develop social skills
  • Playing creatively with the child
  • Limiting both the time and content of television and computer viewing
  • Visiting local areas of interest
  • Encouraging the child to perform small household chores, such as helping set the table or picking up toys after playing

Thinking and reasoning (cognitive development)

  • 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.

Language development

  • 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.

Your 5 Year Old Child: Emotional Development

The phase of 5-year-old development is fraught with emotional extremes and contradictions. At this age, many children are still straddling the not-too-distant past phase of the toddler hood/preschool years and the “big kid” phase of development to come. A 5-year-old may be able to exhibit much more self-control, such as sitting for periods of time in a classroom and listening to a teacher’s instructions.

5 year old child development - girls lying on grass and laughing
At the same time, a child this age will still be prone to meltdowns over something as small as a spilled glass of milk.

Words and Feelings
This is the age when many children begin articulating their feelings. For instance, while children naturally feel empathy, a 5-year-old might see a friend in distress and say, “I’m sorry you are sad.” If they are upset about something, they will declare what they are thinking, such as, “I’m mad at you, Mommy.”

Criticism of Others and Themselves
Many 5-year-olds will point out things that they see as different or wrong in others’ behavior and appearance. At the same time, children this age can also be very critical of themselves and may be hard on themselves if they think they made a mistake or didn’t do a good job with something.

Similarly, you may see 5-year-old children exhibit confidence (she may tell younger children about all the things they can do now as a “big” kid, for instance), but then just as quickly fall apart when she realizes that she cannot do something as well as she wanted.

As with many milestones at this age, 5-year-old children will experience a desire to be independent at everything from choosing their own clothes to eating certain foods. As many parents of kindergarteners know, these declarations of independence can often result in a battle of wills as when a 5-year-old might insist on going to school in a tutu in the middle of winter or refuses to eat anything but food that is white.

At the same time, many children this age will still need cuddles and comfort, and will want to be “babied” from time to time — a pattern parents can expect to see to varying degrees in the next few years.

  • 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.

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