What do I need to know about 5 year olds?

Between the ages of 4 and 5, your child will conquer one huge milestone: starting school. What speech, language, play and social skills do they need to know? We get asked by many parents whether they need to know their alphabet, or how to read before they get to school. Let’s see what communication and play skills 5 year olds should demonstrate and how you can continue supporting your child’s learning.

A 5 year old would exhibit these communication skills:

  • Carries out 3-4 step instructions (e.g., ‘Get your lunchbox, put it in your bag and wait at the door.’)
  • Understands time words and sequences (e.g., before, after, yesterday, morning, night)
  • Understand ‘why’ questions and respond appropriately
  • Understands complex sentences (e.g., The boy was chased by the dog because he took the dog’s food)
  • Understands and uses rhyming words and can tell you the first sound in words (e.g., ‘ball’ starts with a ‘buh’ sound)
  • Talks about events in the past and in the future
  • Tells a short story and can keep a conversation going
  • Says sentences using the correct grammar with only a few errors
  • Uses complex sentences using words such as ‘because’, ‘but’, ‘then’, ‘and’
  • Says most sounds correctly (except ‘th’)

A 5 year old would exhibit these play skills:

  • Pretend play is full of fantasy and drama
  • Wants to please and make friends
  • Plays cooperatively with others e.g., working together to build one big sandcastle
  • Prefers to play with others than on their own
  • Agrees with rules in games but can struggle when they don’t win
  • Demonstrates independence e.g., brushing their teeth, pouring milk
  • Can be sometimes very demanding and sometimes very cooperative

How you can support your 5 year old’s development:

  • Set aside some time for free play: even if your child has started school and other structured activities, play is still very important at this age. Let your child choose how he wants to spend this free playtime.
  • Talk about your child’s feelings: you can help your child work out why he’s feeling something and help him put words to these feelings. This will help him form friendships and show empathy.
  • Include your child in simple household chores: setting the table or helping you to put clean clothes away develops moving and thinking skills, while also teaching cooperation and responsibility. These skills are important for school.
  • Encourage moving: play different sports and do recreational activities together or with others. These teach social skills like taking turns, cooperating, negotiating, playing fairly and being a good sport.
  • Practise classroom behaviour: for example, you could give your child small tasks that keep his attention or that need him to follow simple rules or instructions. Have conversations about his favourite animal or book and encourage him to listen, respond and question. This all helps your child get ready for school.

How Little Birdie Books will nurture your 5 year old:


Although your 5 year old is in school, play continues to be important as it is how your child learns and builds language, social, emotional and thinking skills. Our play-based activities will give your child a boost in their oral language and early literacy skills. By doing these activities with your child, you are supporting their speech, language, reading, fine motor, gross motor and play skills in an engaging, interactive and fun way!

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Thanks for hearing our call,
Your Little Birdies
Language Disorders from Infancy through Adolescence: Assessment and Intervention (3rd ed.) by Rhea Paul, 2007.

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