Your child at five years

five, girl, years, old, child, developmentYour five year old will now be going to big school, leaving you wiping away a tear as you leave the playground. She will be taller, slimmer and have so much energy you wonder if it's all those pre-cooked meals she's been eating.

She may need an earlier bedtime, so she won't be around so much in the evening. You see it does go quickly, doesn't it? Blink and she'll be leaving home.

Cognitive development

  • Emotions and empathy

She feels more independent and has a wider range and control over her emotions - but still not much. She will be able to put herself in your shoes - just for a little and may show sympathy when you're violently sick or are openly weeping (she won't necessarily pick up more subtle clues).

  • Arguments and self-confidence

While her arguments with you may be less frequent and she will probably have stopped having tantrums, she has other people to argue with - typically children her age or her siblings.

She will compare herself to other children, sometimes heart-breakingly so, if she feels less attractive or popular than her friends.

More likely though she will describe their packed lunches as being superior to hers (how dare parents manage to produce things like home made bread with freshly churned cheese and fruit trifle every day) and their bedtimes as being later than hers (this is almost always a fib).

  • Fears and anxieties

She may still have some big fears that are not so much of ghosts but of being separated and lost from you. She may also be scared of the dark, of thunder and lightning, insects and snakes. She'll grow out of many - if not all - of these. But being stung by a wasp guarantees hysterics on hearing a buzz for years afterwards (from both you and her).

  • Gender awareness

She realises she's a girl, understands what happens when girls grow up and that she isn't, without hormonal manipulation or surgery, going to grow up a man.

  • Memory and dates

Her memory has expanded - she can now recall events of about a year ago, especially Christmas and birthdays.



She likes to do proper grown-up things, such as hand over the money for shopping and choose her clothes. But she'll have an unerring knack for picking the most overpriced thing in the shop and will be entirely resistant to what's on the sale rail.

  • Personal tastes and sense of humour

She takes pride in what she wears and it's sweet to see her develop her own style.

She will be able to understand humour such as slapstick on television and get verbal jokes, after they've been explained in mind-numbing detail. She may then repeat them and expect you to laugh like a drain. And then tell it again. She will also make jokes up herself although she has no idea what makes a joke so isn't even close to being funny. Still, you're her mum, so you have to smile.

  • Independence

The desire for responsibility looms large; with "I can do it" being a constant refrain. "It" can be cooking the supper or doing the ironing - it's usually a huge amount more than she can manage just yet.

But she may surprise you by how grown-up she is sometimes, the way she sits looking through books or playing on her own without calling "mummy" for some serious amount of time (over 20 minutes).

When this first happens and you have a moment to yourself, you wonder what on earth you used to do all day before you had kids.

Physical development

To some extent these will vary depending on what she's like, some children are more physical than others are. But she's likely to run around a lot and play games in which she swings, dodges, stops and twirls round suddenly.

She may enjoy skipping and cycling (still may not be able to do two wheels) and gymnastics, such as the dreaded hanging upside down from bars in the playground, which is terrifying.

  • Drawing and building

She is now highly competent at construction, using blocks to make three dimensional buildings. She will also proudly announce beforehand what she will draw and it may even be recognisable. If she draws a human it will have details now like buttons and hair. She can also now draw a triangle - why this is harder than a circle, which she could do last year, we have no idea.



  • Vocabulary

She now knows 2,000 words and can repeat sentences of ten syllables. She can make up a story and tell it although it may not be a story, as you would normally know it, as it is missing a plot. She can read her own name and will ask what words mean. Sometimes these words will be rude.

She may know her alphabet, particularly if you have kept repeating it to her. She will be able to count to between ten and 15.


She is keen on playing real-life games such as mummy and daddy or teachers, using her dolls as pupils. You may be reassured to see she is much harsher on her children than you are.

She will love playing with sand, digging and making tunnels and making models out of playdoh. She can master a simple board game, where you take turns and observe rules, and have the patience to play it for a while but will be in despair if she loses. She will also want to change the rules to suit her. But then who doesn't?

  • Playing with other children

She will have about five close friends. This is the age of the sunny disposition, where she is keen to enjoy life and see the best in people. Borrow or buy a video camera. This is the stuff you'll want to be playing back when she's left home.

A word about our development calendar

Please remember, not all babies and children develop at the same time and in the same way, so our development calendar may not always match your child. Development milestones vary widely. It's not uncommon to have isolated pockets of late development, such as late walkers and talkers, and some babies are slower to develop because they were born prematurely or because they're twins (or triplets). But a minority of babies and children do have delays in development that may need specialist help. If you are at all concerned, go and see your GP. No health professional should ever trivialise a worry you have about your child. If your child has special needs, you can get advice from other parents in our special needs Talk forum. We've also got pages with advice about diagnosis, support and benefits, plus our Special needs webguide.

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Last updated: almost 2 years ago