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Child Development Guide: 5-6 Years

— Washington State Department of Social and Health Services
Updated on Nov 12, 2009

Developmental Tasks

  • To learn to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
  • To become comfortable with own gender.
  • To make connections and distinctions between feelings, thoughts, and actions.
  • To solve problems by initiating and creating.

Indicators Related to Developmental Lag

  • Excessive fears; extreme separation anxiety; bedwetting; shyness; threatening or bullying peers; inhibited play; ritualistic behaviors, especially around food; persistent speech problems; toileting problems; excessive fear of strangers; lack of interest in others.

Note: Although these tasks and indicators may be present during ages 3 to 7, each may be more observable at specific times.

PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT: Five to Six Years
Normal Characteristics Suggested Behaviors for Effective Parenting
Can dress and undress self. Allow independence with clothing.
May be farsighted, a common condition, causing hand and eye coordination problems. Have child's eyes examined if problem persists. Accept awkwardness as a normal condition at this time.
Is able to care for own toilet needs independently.  
May have stomachaches or vomit when asked to eat disliked foods; prefers plain cooking but accepts wider choice of foods; may have larger appetite. Offer appealing varieties in food, but don't force child to eat anything.
Physical Development for Four to Five Years Physical Development for Six to Seven Years
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INTELLECTUAL DEVELOPMENT: Five to Six Years
Normal Characteristics Suggested Behaviors for Effective Parenting
May stutter if tired or nervous; may lisp. Do not emphasize language disturbance, since it is probably only temporary.
Tries only what he/she can accomplish; will follow instructions and accept supervision. Reinforce mastered skills and give children opportunities to be successful in new, simple activities.
Knows colors, numbers, etc.; can identify penny, nickel, dime; may be able to print a few letters; a few children learn to read on their own. Provide opportunities for child to make change (e.g., in restaurants, stores) and to print own name and short names of favorite people and objects.
Intellectual Development for Four to Five Years Intellectual Development for Six to Seven Years
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SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT: Five to Six Years
Normal Characteristics Suggested Behaviors for Effective Parenting
May fear mother won't return, since mother is the center of the child's world. Avoid leaving until the child is prepared for mother's departure and return.
Copies adults and likes their praise. Child needs reassurance.
Plays with boys and girls; is calm and friendly; is not too demanding in relations with others; can play with one child or a group of children, though prefers members of the same sex. Rejoice and give opportunities for group play.
Likes conversation during meals. Allow and respond to child-initiated conversation.
Knows differences in sexes and is more modest. Don't shame child for interest in sexual differences or for touching self.
Is interested in where babies come from. Offer simple, accurate explanation.
If doesn't like school, may develop nausea and vomiting. Encourage child to find enjoyable activities at school.
Is experiencing an age of conformity; is critical of those who do not conform. Help child learn the value of individual differences.
Social Development for Four to Five Years Social Development for Six to Seven Years
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EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Five to Six Years
Normal Characteristics Suggested Behaviors for Effective Parenting
In general, is reliable and well-adjusted. Be grateful.
May show some fear of the dark, falling, dogs, or bodily harm, though this is not a particularly fearful age. Don't dismiss fears as unimportant.
If tired, nervous, or upset, may exhibit the following behaviors: nail biting, eye blinking, throat clearing, sniffling, nose twitching, and/or thumbsucking. Try not to appear overly concerned, since an increase in nervous habits is temporary and normal. Deal with the cause of the tension rather than the habit exhibited. Help the child structure time to include quiet play and rest. Read the child a story.
Is concerned with pleasing adults. Show your love by recognizing positive behaviors.
Is easily embarrassed. Be sensitive about embarrassing things and help child avoid them.
Emotional Development for Four to Five Years Emotional Development for Six to Seven Years
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MORAL DEVELOPMENT: Five to Six Years
Normal Characteristics Suggested Behaviors for Effective Parenting
Is interested in being good, but may tell untruths or blame others for wrongdoings because of intense desire to please and do right. Do not be shocked by the child's untruthfulness. "Lying" is not a trait to come down hard on at this age. Help the child learn to accept responsibility for own action in a positive, caring manner.
Wants to do what he/she believes is right and avoid what is wrong. Acknowledge child's attempt to act in accordance with own beliefs. Don't punish for inability to always behave properly.
Moral Development for Four to Five Years Moral Development for Six to Seven Years
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