Lesia Oesterreich, M.S.
Family Life Extension Specialist
Human Development and Family Studies
Iowa State University

Copyright/Access Information

Five-year-olds are cheerful, energetic, and enthusiastic. They enjoy planning, and spend a great deal of time discussing who will do what. They especially enjoy dramatic play, usually with other children. Five-year-olds are more sensitive to the needs and feelings of others around them. It is less difficult for them to wait for a turn or to share toys and material. “Best friends” become very important.

Many 5-year-olds will be going to kindergarten. Be sensitive to the needs of a 5-year-old returning from school. She may want to rest, play by herself, be free for a while from adult-directed activity, or catch up with the group happenings. Pace afternoon kindergarten children during the day with a balance of rest and activity. All-day kindergarten children need to be given every consideration when they return to your home as they may be tired, talkative, hungry, or wanting to share the day's happenings.



  • invents games with simple rules
  • organizes other children and toys for pretend play
  • still confuses fantasy with reality sometimes
  • often fears loud noises, the dark, animals, and some people
  • can take turns and share, but doesn't always want to
  • expresses anger and jealousy physically
  • likes to test muscular strength and motor skills, but is not emotionally ready for competition
  • carries on conversations with other children and adults
  • often excludes other children in play – best friends only
  • uses swear words or “bathroom words” to get attention
  • sometimes can be very bossy
  • likes to try new things and take risks
  • likes to make own decisions
  • notices when another child is angry or sad – more sensitive to feelings of others
  • prefers company of 1 or 2 children at a time; may become bossy or sulky when others join in
  • likes to feel grown up; boasts about self to younger, less capable children
  • begins to have a very basic understanding of right and wrong
  • plays contentedly and independently without constant supervision
  • takes turns and shares (sometimes)
  • understands and respects rules – often asks permission
  • understands and enjoys both giving and receiving
  • enjoys collecting things
  • sometimes needs to get away and be alone
  • can understand relationships among people and similarities and differences in other families
  • seeks adult approval
  • sometimes critical of other children and embarrassed by own mistakes
  • less fearful of the world than toddlers because understands the world better
  • has a good sense of humor, and enjoys sharing jokes and laughter with adults


  • weight: 31-57 pounds
  • height: 39-48 inches
  • requires approximately 1,700 calories daily
  • sleeps 10-11 hours at night
  • may begin to loose baby teeth
  • able to dress self with little assistance
  • learns to skip
  • throws ball overhead
  • catches bounced balls
  • rides a tricycle skillfully; may show interest in riding a bicycle with training wheels
  • balances on either foot for 5-10 seconds
  • uses a fork and knife well
  • cuts on a line with scissors
  • left or right hand dominance is established
  • walks down stairs, alternating feet without using a handrail
  • jumps over low objects
  • can run, gallop, and tumble
  • can skip and run on tiptoe
  • can jump rope
  • interested in performing tricks like standing on head, performing dance steps
  • capable of learning complex body coordination skills like swimming, ice or roller skating, and riding bicycles
  • may be able to tie shoelaces
  • may be able to copy simple designs and shapes


  • understands about 13,000 words
  • uses 5-8 words in a sentence
  • likes to argue and reason; use words like “because”
  • knows basic colors like red, yellow, blue, green, orange
  • able to memorize address and phone number
  • understands that stories have a beginning, middle, and end
  • able to remember stories and repeat them
  • enjoys creating and telling stories
  • understands that books are read from left to right, top to bottom
  • enjoys riddles and jokes
  • draws pictures that represent animals, people, and objects
  • enjoys tracing or copying letters
  • can place objects in order from shortest to tallest
  • can understand and use comparative terms like big, bigger, or biggest
  • sorts objects by size
  • identifies some letters of the alphabet and a few numbers (if taught)
  • understands “more,” “less,” and “same”
  • counts up to 10 objects
  • recognizes categories (“These are all animals; these are all toys.”)
  • understands before and after, above, and below
  • block and dramatic play is much more elaborate and complex
  • has good attention span and can concentrate well
  • is project minded – plans buildings, play scenarios, and drawings
  • interested in cause and effect
  • can understand time concepts like yesterday, today, and tomorrow

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