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Your 5-year-old: Development, behavior and parenting tips

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

Your blooming 5-year-old

Understanding normal 5-year-old development and behavior will help you know the best way to parent your child. As parents, we know that a child's birthday comes with plenty of hoopla. With each turn of the calendar there's a new guest list, a new theme and a new 'must have' toy. When they're young, another birthday also means a number of significant accomplishments.

What's happening physically?

Your child continues to grow, but this is a crucial time for gross and fine motor skill development. Dr. McKay says, "If you have not done so already, this is a great time to start training in dance, gymnastics, swimming and soccer — activities that encourage a child's awareness of her body, help improve focus and concentration, and engage her in collaborative relationships with other children."

What's happening neurologically?

A 5-year-old's brain is almost the size of an adult's, but will continue to develop for the next 20 years. "The language centers of the brain are maturing and a child's speech is becoming increasingly like the adults around her," says McKay. This is also a perfect time to start teaching your child a new language or instrument.

"The brain is incredibly plastic, which means that children at this age love to memorize facts, song lyrics, and can readily learn new languages," says McKay. "Learning a second (or even third) language during early childhood improves processing speed and cognitive flexibility — two key aspects of intelligence and creativity."

What's happening socially and emotionally?

At 5, many kids are becoming aware of their individuality and learn the concept of self-confidence. While some are beginning to understand other people's moods and feelings, most are not too interested in relationships, as we understand them. "For those children who are sensitive and intuitive, this can be a difficult time," says McKay.

"Hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and even bullying and victimization can begin to shape social relationships. The good news is that many 5-year-olds are more interested in learning about dinosaurs, insects, and human anatomy than they are about navigating social relationships."

With a little patience, your child's fifth year can be an adventure... for both you and your little one.

What's up for next year? Read about your 6-year-old's development >>

More on child development

The benefits of developing early reading skills
How different styles of play encourage child development
Calming foods for hyperactive kids

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