Five years ago you first held your baby and you had a lot of dreams and fears.  One dream that brings up good thoughts also brings up fears and sadness.  That dream is the first day of kindergarten.  Your child may have been in preschool or daycare but today is a big step in both you and your child’s life.  The first empty nest syndrome starts to appear. 

This is the scenario that plays out in the life of a 5 year old and their parents.  There are many other milestones that go along with the starting school.  There are many more than pales in comparison to this major parental milestone.  Rivals would be graduating from high school, moving out, getting married, and having their own child.  All of these are significant events for the parent and child.

Rest assured, you child and you will be alright.  You and they have survived much harder things.  The carrying and birth being the biggest; the first step; the first words; and etc.  You will survive this too.

Physical Development

Your child is no longer a baby, even though he or she will always be your baby.  They are no longer a toddler.  They have grown.  They should weigh between 30-60 pounds by now.  They will be nearing the 4 foot tall mark.  During this year, the tooth fairy may have their first visit.  Ask the tooth fairy for this tooth.  It is an important one; you can share with your adult child someday. 

They are still sleeping 10-11 hours a night, but since they are going to be starting big boy or big girl school, they will have to go to sleep a little earlier at night.  Get ready for the resistance.  Hopefully, you already have some sort of sleeping schedule established that is appropriate for the child.  Eight if under 8 is the rule.  The child should not be staying up past 8 o’clock if they are under the age of 8. 

Fine motor skills continue to improve.  This is a year they will make vast improvements, because they are going to have to do more and experience more in kindergarten.  They will also see a lot of other children doing things and will learn from them.  They use fork and knifes well by now.  They can cut along a straight line with scissors.  They will be able to cut out simple shapes.Child artistCredit:

Speaking of making progress with leaps and bounds, this happens with the gross motor skills.  The child will skip to the moon my darling everywhere they go.  They will be able to throw and catch balls with more accuracy.  The little tricycle motors are able to go anywhere and will attempt with their new three-wheeled vehicle.  Some will be able to go right to bicycles with training wheels.  If the tricycle is not available, jumping over objects will become a past time they will enjoy often. 

Whether the brain is doing it or pressure from parents and teacher is occurring, hand dominance will be established.  However, some research shows hand dominance is not set until by age 8.  Teachers and parents need to be cognizant of this. 

Mental Development

Piaget did remarkable studies with children in Europe in the early 20th century and found that children learn to some logical thinking around age 5.  It was his research and studies that was the basis for forming the kindergarten program in most states.  Kindergarten had been around in the United States since the mid 1800’s with the first publicly funded kindergarten in St. Louis, Missouri.  However, the idea did not catch on until in the middle of the next century, when successes from Piaget’s studies in Europe persuaded education professional to take a better look at it. 

The 5 year old will know most of the colors and can identify them by now.  They will be able to memorize and tell you addresses and phone numbers.  Can remember various parts of stories, songs, and television show plots.  They can trace and copy letters and may even learn how to write their names and a few other words.  They can identify most letters of the alphabet and most numbers. 

Your child will be able to understand the progression of a story. They will be able to indentify that stories have a start, plot, and end.  They will even be able to tell you the major parts of the story.  However, their imagination is great and they will even tell you their own stories.  Hopefully, they are just stories, but let me warn you, they become proficient at lying.  They will read the book from left to right and will also know that they should print or write from left to right across the paper.  Whereas, before they may have just been all over the paper.children readingCredit:

The little artist will be able to draw houses, trees, and persons, and it will actually start to look like houses, trees, and persons.  You will not have to pretend you know what it is anymore.  They will be able to build three dimensional objects such as cars, buildings or people using small blocks or Legos.  It, too, will look like cars, buildings and people.

They will be able to sort things by color and by size when they are 5.  They will also be able to sort things by two different simple characteristics such as size and colors.  For example they can but small, blue blocks in one pile, small, red blocks in one pile, big blue blocks in one pile, and big red blocks in another. 

Social Development

The 5 year old is still in the Initiative versus Guilt Stage, which we discussed in the Child Development:  3 year old article.  I do not want to cover it again here.  Please check out that article.  However, they may be making progress toward the next step that 6-8 years olds are expected to make.  Check that one out in the future, when it is completed. 

Your five-year-old will start to play games with your more often.  They will also make up games for you to play.  They will cheat so get ready to lose.  They will start to play make believe games with other children more than just with themselves.  Dressing up and playing superheroes is a more common one.  They will take turns and share but will not always be happy about it.  They will start to have “best friends” and will exclude other children from their play activities.  Boys will tend to play more with other boys and girls will tend to play more with other little girls.  Along with this play and with you, your child will tend to be very bossy.  Redirect them and set a good example to them and they will get out of this faster.Yes you canCredit:

They will be able to recognize with other people are sad or angry and will start to have some appropriate responses to these emotions.  That is, if you have had appropriate responses to them, when they were that way, and they were able to identify that you did.

The 5 year old will be bossy, we have already said that.  They will start to act like the grown ups in their life.  They will also start to brag about themselves and will try to assume the parent role with younger children.  They love giving and receiving praise to others, especially giving to younger children when they do as your 5 year old wants them to.  They love to give and receive things.  They will want to buy things for birthdays and Christmas for everyone.

They start to understand the difference between right and wrong.  They will often ask permission when an object is being used by someone else or belongs to someone else.  This is not always true though.  They will try to be sneaky.  Collecting things will be a hobby.  Rocks, bugs, leaves, baseball cards, stuffed animals, and dolls are the favorites.


You may fear the first empty nest syndrome, but your child will always be your child.  They will come home from kindergarten with smiley faces on their papers and you will be a proud parent.  They will play better with others and you will have more time to get the things done you need to.  However, they will still want you to tuck them in at night, kiss their forehead and tell them you love them.  They will tell you they love you too.

The mental, physical, and social development kicks into high gear this year.  Cherish it and do not dread it.  Remember, you are raising adults not children.  You want them to become viable adults and not remain dependent on you forever. 

Take care of yourself and each other.  Make today and everyday a great day. 

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