What’s happening physically?
Your child continues to grow, and this is a crucial time for gross and fine motor skill development. 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, according to Dr. Sandra Aamodt, neuroscientist and coauthor of the book Welcome to Your Child’s Brain.
“The language centers of the brain are maturing, and a child’s speech is becoming increasingly like that of the adults around her,” adds 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 & 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.”
And the extra-good news is that, with a little patience and learning, your child’s fifth year can be a fun adventure — for both of you.
A version of this article was originally published in August 2010.