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. Keep reading or listen to the blog below:

Listen to this blog HERE

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)
  • 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’)
  • Can be understood by 100% of unfamiliar people in conversation

A 5 year old would exhibit these emergent literacy skills:

  • Breaking words into syllables
  • Judging and producing rhyme
  • Matching initial sounds in words
  • Begin to recognise some letters

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:


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!

Our Little Language Lunchbox is perfect for any little ones who may be starting school next year with books and activities to support 5 critical areas of early language and literacy: Vocabulary (WordPLAY), speech sound awareness (SoundPLAY), narrative genre (StoryPLAY), imaginative play and print concepts (PrintPLAY) and creative thinking (BoxPLAY).
Check out all our available memberships and book boxes on our Shop page.

Your Little Birdies,
Janice and Tania

References: Pepper, J., and Weitzman, E. (2004). It Takes Two to Talk: A Practical Guide for Parents of Children with Language Delays (4th Ed). Toronto: The Hanen Centre. The Communication Trust. (n.d.). Universally speaking: The ages and stages of children’s communication development from birth to 5 years. Retrieved 2017 from http://www.thecommunicationtrust.org.uk/universallyspeaking The Communication Trust (2014). Early identification and why it’s important for pupils in your school. Retrieved 2017, from http://www.thecommunicationtrust.org.uk/media/253193/1_4_early_identification_final_july_2014.pdf Paul, R., and Norbury, C. F. (2012). Language disorders from infancy through adolescence (4th Ed). St. Louis, US: Elsevier Mosby. Roth, F., and Worthington, C. (2011). Treatment resource manual for speech-language pathology (4th Ed). NY: Delmar.