Child development and milestones: Your 5-year-old child

Child development and milestones: Your 5-year-old child

Find out what your feisty five-year-old is going to amaze you with this month!

Look at your little one! He’s so big now, and all of 5 years old! This child of yours is so much more independent than last year, is a proper little chatterbox and social butterfly, and astounds you with his physical and cognitive growth. Let’s find out what developmental milestones you should look forward to in your 5 year old child.

*Please bear in mind that developmental milestones are not set in stone, and each child will develop at his/her own pace. If you are worried about any aspect of your child’s development, you should consult a doctor without delay. 

5 Year Old Development and Milestones: Is your child on track?

5 Year Old Development and Milestones

5 Year Old Development and Milestones

Physical Development

No more a clumsy little toddler, your 5 year old shows remarkable agility and speed, especially when he’s racing across a playground or around your house! His vision is now perfect at 20/20. He will gain close to 2kg this year, and grow around 6cm taller.

It’s not just your child’s gross motor skills that are developing, but also his fine motor skills. Let’s take a closer look at your 5 year old child’s physical development markers this month.

  • Has better coordination — he is able to make his limbs and body work together
  • Hops, skips and jumps with good balance
  • Peddles a tricycle
  • Balances on one foot with eyes closed
  • May start growing adult teeth
  • Can use eating utensils more proficiently
  • Holds a pencil with a good grasp and can copy a triangle
  • Can use a knife to spread soft foods


  • Bring your child to the playground or beach and let him run around and play. This is the best kind of physical activity to promote good growth and health.
  • Encourage your child to dress himself. Tasks like fastening buttons and pulling up zippers hone fine motor skills.
  • Teach your child the correct way of brushing his teeth. Encourage him to try on his own, under your supervision.
  • Limit screen time to an hour or less, and promote more physical activity.
  • Encourage your child to tackle new equipment at the playground. Not only does this give different muscle groups and good workout, but it also instills self-confidence in your little one.
  • Boost existing physical skills in your child with fun games. For example, get your child to balance on one leg for 20 seconds if he can only manage around 10 seconds.
  • Consider enrolling your child in a good swimming class if you haven’t already. Swimming is a great sport that teaches an essential survival skill, and also works out the whole body.
  • Ensure your child gets adequate sleep, which is essential to physical development. He needs at least 8-10 hours of sleep at night.

When to speak to your doctor: 

If your child:

  • Cannot balance on one foot for more than 10 seconds
  • Has trouble seeing or hearing
  • Constantly trips or stumbles while running
  • Cannot hold a pencil or other utensil
  • Is not interested in running or being otherwise physically active
Physical Development

Physical Development

Cognitive Development

Your 5 year old child is tremendously curious and inquisitive about, well, everything. This constant need to learn and know is a sign of your child’s incredible cognitive growth. Your child will also want to know about how things work. He will love sorting items by shape, size or colour, which shows how his brain processes and categorises items by various differing characteristics.

Here are some other cognitive developments in your 5 year old child that you can expect:

  • Understands the basic concept of time
  • Can focus on an interesting task for at least 10 minutes
  • Recognises and names at least four colours
  • Can count up to at least 10 and probably beyond
  • Recognises most or all letters of the alphabet
  • Names animals like “cat”, “dog” and “fish”
  • Might be able to write his name, some letters of the alphabet and some numbers


  • Avoid pushing your child to read and write if he is not ready for it. Your little one will hit these milestones at his own pace.
  • Don’t expect legible, neat handwriting just yet. Do praise your child for any reading/writing effort.
  • Continue reading to and with your little one. Make the reading session interactive and stimulating by asking questions, and also encouraging your child to point out different colours or shapes in the book.
  • Bring your child to museums, parks and other interesting locations as much as possible. Make these trips both fun and stimulating. For example, when you’re at a park, you could teach your little one the parts of a tree or a flower.
  • Give your child plenty of puzzles to play with. These are great at honing children’s cognitive skills.

When to see your doctor

If your child:

  • Can’t count to 10
  • Cannot tell you his name
  • Cannot identify the names of colours
  • Finds it hard to focus on a task for even a few minutes
Social and Emotional Development

Social and Emotional Development

Social and Emotional Development

Your 5 year old child is the life of the party and loves being at the centre of attention. His social skills have blossomed over the past few years and now, he really enjoys being around others and playing with his friends.

At age five, your child might even have a “best friend” and prefers peer-play to individual play. Your little one needs your love, affection, attention and approval. He will do things to please you and seeks emotional reassurance from you – still the most important person in his life!

While the tantrums have vanished or reduced, your child might still be probe to emotional outbursts complete with “It’s not fair!” and the stomping of tiny feet. This is okay, and you’ll notice this behaviour further reducing over the coming months.

What else can you expect on the social and emotional development front?

  • Your child might be quite bossy, especially when playing with friends
  • Is willing to share toys, even his favourites
  • May tell little white lies, if only to please you
  • Still likes occasional individual play
  • Is very chatty, and will hold long conversations with anyone who will listen
  • Loves going out, even if it’s just a quick trip to the supermarket
  • Enjoys imaginary play and might even talk to himself


  • Now’s the time to organise playdates with your little one’s friends. Your child will thoroughly enjoy the company while learning more important social skills.
  • Reinforce the importance of good manners. So while your little one might be bursting to tell you a “story”, remind him that he shouldn’t interrupt another person’s conversation. Teach your child phrases like “excuse me, please”.
  • While some bossiness is normal, if you notice that your little one is extremely bossy, talk to him gently about why this is not okay. At playdates, encourage games where every child gets the chance to be the “leader”.
  • Always give your child your full attention when he is talking to you. If you need to attend to something else, don’t ignore him or brush him off. Instead, tell your child you’ll be right back with him.

When to speak to the doctor

If your child:

  • Hates playing with other children
  • Prefers to be around much older kids
  • Is aggressive (verbally and/or physically) while playing
  • Still throws very frequent tantrums, toddler-style
  • Dislikes going out of the house

Speech and Language Development

Your 5 year old child’s speech and language capabilities have developed in leaps and bounds. You might even feel that he never stops talking and will want to chat about almost everything. And it’s no wonder because a child of this age will typically know around 2,000 words.

Here are some other developments on this front to expect.

  • Conducts a meaningful conversation with another person
  • Tells or talks about stories with good clarity
  • Can read two- or three-letter words
  • Can be understood by strangers most of the time
  • Uses the future tense: “Let’s go to the park tomorrow!”
  • Uses pronouns (“I”, “me”, “you”, “he”, “she” etc) correctly
  • Understands and follows three-step directives from you. Example: “Please tell your sister to come down, wash her hands and eat dinner.”
  • Understands story sequence (what comes first, next and last in a story)


  • Encourage your child to tell you about his day, remembering to ask questions afterwards.
  • Play word games with your little one like “I Spy”.
  • When you read to and with your child, point out some simple words as you read. This way, your child learns to associate the sound and “look” of the words with them, making it easier to eventually read and write these words alone.
  • Get your child to retell you a story after you finish reading. This boosts both speech and cognitive development, the latter because your child needs to draw on his memory in order to tell you the story.
  • Teach your child new songs and rhymes.

When to speak to a doctor

If your child:

  • Cannot be understood at all
  • Does not talk much to others
  • Doesn’t seem to understand directions or questions
  • Gets tenses completely muddled
  • Shows regression in what he already knows

Health and Nutrition

It’s crucial that your 5 year old child gets good nutrition to boost his health and development. As important is adequate rest and sleep. While your child might have dropped his naps by now, he needs around 9-10 hours of sleep at night.

While height and weight vary a lot, and are also affected very much by genetics, typically, a child of this age weighs around 18 kg and will be around 109 cm tall.

Here’s an example of what your 5 year old  child should be eating:

Daily Nutrient/ Ingredient Recommended portion size Meal ideas
Calories 1,200-2,000, depending on growth and activity level A cheese sandwich and a small apple, a small bowl of home-made chicken fried rice, a small portion of cheesy tuna pasta, 1 cup of milk
Proteins 0.5 cup Steamed fish (size of a child’s palm), a small bowl of mung beans or 1 boiled egg
Fruits 1-1.5 cups Chopped mixed fruits with cereal, or mixed fruits in yoghurt
Vegetables 1.5-2.5 cups Include fibre and iron rich veg like spinach, carrots, beetroots
Grains 3/4th cup Rice/ noodles/ pasta
Dairy 2.5 cups 1 full glass of milk + cheese/butter/yogurt through the day

Vaccinations and Common Illnesses

Your child is not due for any vaccinations this month.

Common illnesses kids of this age get include Hand, Foot and Mouth disease, as well as colds and the flu. While you can’t stop these, you can help boost your child’s immunity to fight these bugs better by giving him a balanced diet with plenty of fluids, fruit and vegetables. Basic hygiene practices like hand washing can also go a long way in protecting your little one from illness.

When to speak to a doctor

If your child:

  • Is severely underweight or stunted in height
  • Develops very high fever (39 degrees Celcius and above)
  • Has unusual rashes, lumps or bruises on his body

Reference: Web MD