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Social Development in Five-Year-Old Children

Updated on March 12, 2011

Most five-year-old children view family life at home as the center of their world. The primary caretaker, who is often Mom, is the focus of most activities. They like to please Mom, do things with her, and, generally, just be around her. Although five year olds are strongly connected to Mom, their relationship with Dad is generally pleasant. They look forward to and get great enjoyment out of special occasions with Dad.

At five years of age your child may have strong feelings for the family as a whole and especially enjoys celebrations, such as birthday parties and holidays. Relationships with grandparents are important at this age, especially if they live nearby and have frequent contact. Children this age are able to play reasonably well with younger siblings, and girls, especially, tend to be more protective, kind, and motherly. Typical episodes of teasing and taking toys are often seen when chil­dren are alone with their younger siblings.

Play skills with other children are fairly well developed at this age. Children often show a preference for playing out­doors. Cooperative play is generally limited to three children: more than three can be a source of conflict. As children learn to coordinate activities, true interaction and cooperation can happen. Between the ages of five and six, children begin to choose their own friends. They can engage in cooperative play with other children and play competitive games. Play takes on purpose and direction at this age. Games become more com­plicated, and social traits, such as leadership, aggression, and cooperation, become more apparent. Conflicts arise over who likes whom, who will play with whom, and who will be included or excluded. As a rule, friends change quickly among five year olds. Girls get into more verbal conflicts; boys tend to be more physical.

Boys and girls are generally able to play well together, although at this age there is often an interest in exploring sex differences. Children may play doctor to compare themselves to children of the same sex or to learn what the opposite sex looks like under their clothing. Parents should not overreact to this but attempt to redirect play to a more appropriate activity. Later, when you are alone with your child, a discussion of the differences between boys and girls is helpful. You should also include a discussion of body parts, emphasizing that there are public parts of our bodies that are okay for other people to see and private parts of our bodies that aren't okay for others to see. Follow your child's lead for the amount of information you need to provide. Some children are satisfied with very little information, and others have more questions and want more details. The important thing to remember is that your child's behavior is based on normal curiosity.

Five-year-old children are often very content with their world. They live very much in the here and now and like to please the people around them. They generally behave and, at five, are usually truthful.

Five year olds can have difficulty differentiating between right and wrong, however, and "lying" usually occurs for very specific reasons. Many of the lies told by five year olds are to gain attention from the adults around them. If there is some­thing going on at home that is occupying your attention, telling a lie may be your child's way of redirecting that attention back to her.

Children around this age may also tell lies as a way of gaining parental approval. If your child feels she has done something that is not up to your standard, a lie can often seem like a good way of avoiding your response.

Fear of punishment is the third common reason for lies at this age level. If a child is concerned about harsh discipline, it may be time to reevaluate your discipline techniques. Make sure the punishment fits the crime, and remember that there is no clear distinction between right and wrong at this age. Five year olds have great imaginations, which may sometimes be mistaken for lying.

Finally, as parents, it is important to avoid double stand­ards. Children who hear Mom tell a phone caller that Dad is not home (while he is sitting at the table) won't understand why they are being punished for doing the same thing Mom does!


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  • chiefmomofficer profile image

    chiefmomofficer 6 years ago from Massachusetts

    Very useful hub. I have a five year old daughter, and you hit so many things directly on the head. Thanks for sharing your insights!