Your child at five years

We all know toddlers come in two flavours, but for the sake of clarity we'll refer to your five-year-old as a 'she'.

There are few things in life more gripping than your child's development. From their earliest moments, we obsess about what our children are learning and how they are changing. Do remember, though, that milestones of development are not carved in granite but widely variable (see our behaviour/development Talk forum). 

Your child at five years

Your 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.

How she thinks

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 are violently sick or are openly weeping (she won't necessarily pick up more subtle clues).

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).

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).

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

How she behaves

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. 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.

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 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.

Her physical achievements

To some extent these will vary depending on what she's like, some children are more physical than others are. But she is 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.

She is now highly competent at construction, using blocks to make 3 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, I have no idea.

How she speaks

She now knows 2000 words and can repeat sentences of 10 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 10 and 15.

What she likes to play

She is keen on playing real life games such as mummy and daddy or teachers, using her dolls or teddies 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?

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.

Last updated: almost 2 years ago