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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...

All about 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.

Our 5-year-olds are enjoying a magical time in their young lives, and with all of that magic comes all sorts of changes and some unique challenges for parents.

It may be sobering to see your 5-year-old has grown from a toddler into a little person. At this age, children show us a glimpse of the adult they will one day become. While there are a number of factors that contribute to a child's development, there are some universal milestones that come with a child's fifth year.

5-year-old developmental milestones

Social skills for 5-year-olds

  • knows right from wrong
  • doesn't use adult logic
  • plays make-believe
  • likes to play with friends rather than alone
  • plays with both boys and girls but prefers the same sex
  • seeks praise from adults and peers
  • wants to conform and may tease those who don't

Motor skills for 5-year-olds

  • walks on a balance beam
  • runs in an adult manner
  • can jump rope and possibly skate
  • bounces and catches a small- to medium-sized ball
  • stands on one foot for 10 seconds without swaying
  • jumps over string 10 inches off the ground using two-footed takeoff and landing
  • completes three sit-ups
  • kicks ball so it travels 10 feet in the air
  • can lace his shoes but not tie them
  • grasps a pencil in an adult manner
  • cuts and pastes basic shapes, colors within lines

Language skills for 5-year-olds

  • speaks fluently and uses correct pronouns and plurals
  • uses the right tense most of the time
  • understands opposites
  • seeks out new words and knowledge

Parenting survival tips

Every parent can use some tips when it comes to raising a 5-year-old. Dr. Robyn McKay, a therapist at Arizona State University and expert in child and adolescent development, offers the following nuggets of wisdom:

  • Encourage your child's curiosity (tiresome and frustrating sometimes). Ask him, "What do you think?" You'll be amazed at his creative responses!
  • Keep challenging your own mind. One of the best predictors of a child's future success is his or her parents' own educational level. When you keep learning, you grow, and your child most certainly benefits. For example, learn a second language along with your child, take a creative writing class, or finish your master's degree.
  • Focus on what's right with your child. Does she belt out songs from the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack? Is he already a math whiz? Celebrate your child's strengths and encourage him or her to continue focusing on what's right. The world is full of critics. Be your child's biggest fan.

Up next: More about your 5-year-old's development >>

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