Five starts off with an abundance of curiosity about the world around them. Five soaks up knowledge like a sponge, asking seemingly endless questions as they try to figure out how things work. She is always watching the people around her, hoping to grasp why they do the things they do. Five often mimics the tasks of mom and dad and their play might include such
behaviors like cooking, cleaning, building and/or fixing things. Five likes to be a “helper” and assist mom and dad in tasks around the house. Use this desire to increase connection time, allow them to help out and encourage them to be part of the family team!
Five is a time for transitions. Five’s brain is transitioning from being egocentric to focusing on understanding how their actions effect others. This shift leads to an increase in empathy and the development of more positive social behaviors, such as: sharing, comforting, helping, cooperating, and controlling their aggression. Five primarily depends on observable information to understand the world around them. However, they are also prone to drawing false conclusions about the behaviors they have observed because it is hard for Five to differentiate between fantasy and reality. Five is beginning to understand causality, but may not be able to discriminate between two events happening together and one as the cause for the other. For example, if Five disobeys his mom by not picking up his toys, and later that day mom does not talk much to Five, he may draw the conclusion that his mom no longer loves him because he didn’t pick up his toys. This egocentric logic is based on observable behaviors, and occurs even if mom is busy with other tasks and if mom reassures Five that she is not angry with him. Five struggles to understand, which can result in emotional meltdowns and sadness. Try not to talk too much, comfort Five physically, and reassure them that your love is available even in times of distress. Parents have a magical power of co-regulation. By being accepting, understanding, and calm in times of emotional distress, the parent can calm Five and others. You can do this by being present physically, limiting the language, and increasing understanding by answering the child’s questions when they are ready.
Five may also be transitioning to the start of Kindergarten. Children who have been in daycare may struggle less with the transition to full school days, yet still may feel that Kindergarten is an important milestone because it marks the start of feeling like “a big kid.” Five’s brain is growing tremendously at this time. By the time Five reaches Six, her brain is 90% of its fully grown size.
Five’s brain is growing rapidly as it improves short term memory and develops complex
memories. As Five’s memory improves, she is able to think in terms of categories, which makes it easier for her to recall what she is learning. Five is able to connect both the factual and emotional aspects of memories, which allows Five to understand her experiences and integrate them into a developing sense of worldview. Playing “school,” for instance, allows Five to process her new routine, structure, motor skills, and peer group interactions. Parents can help Five integrate her experiences into memory by actively listening and responding when she talks about an experience that may have conflicting feelings or messages. Allowing Five to talk and jabber can be a struggle because it is often non-stop, but remember it is them integrating their brain and finding understanding. Practice allowing Five’s communication to flow and following their cues for responses. This isn’t a time to teach or lecture, it is Five’s turn to find their own answers!
Five has an increased curiosity about people, what they’re up to, and how use their new-found ability to categorize. Five may categorize people by what they do, if they are parents or not, and what they look like. Five can differentiate people based on obvious physical characteristics, such as skin color or gender. Parents play an important role in healthy development by discussing differences in an educational way. Five’s curiosity about people allows him to be receptive to information about culture and traditions. Parents can help Five learn to respect and value all cultures and races equally by teaching and embracing other cultures with care and compassion. Encouraging polite behaviors and manners reinforces and supports the values of Five’s family and of other families. Community members respond well to politeness and it is rewarding for Five to get these kudos from non-family members. They light up!
Five has an understanding of gender based on genital differences and may notice (or point out) the physical characteristics between boys and girls. Five may be curious about where babies come from, their own body, and the bodies of similar-aged peers. It is important to be mindful that some behaviors are common in sexual development and it is important to respond appropriately to support the healthy development of the child.
Common sexual development behaviors for Five:
Desire to see others naked
Tendency to be modest; want more privacy
Mimic the “dating” behaviors of adults (kissing, holding hands)
Use “naughty” words (even if they don’t know what they mean)
Talk about private parts
Explore private parts with others (for example, when playing doctor)
Masturbating, purposefully, and perhaps in the presence of others
If you are uncomfortable talking about bodies and sex, seek out a counselor or medical professional to support you in talking to Five. This is the time to educate children, without shame, about their bodies and staying safe.
If you know Five, you may feel a shift in their behavior over the course of several months. Five may demonstrate increased coordination in writing or folding and cutting paper, and then seem to be challenged by those same tasks several months later as they become more restless and less organized. Five’s desire to be your big helper may dissolve as he is trying to figure out how to get what he wants. Five has likely learned many useful tools for getting mom and dad to do what he wants them to (think crying, screaming, arguing, refusing to move). As Five masters simple planning and organization skills, he will try to use these learned tools to get you to do what he wants. Remember that magical power of co-regulation that parents have? It works in times of pseudo-meltdown as well. Physical closeness and reassurance of your love for them will encourage connection at these times. Five needs caregivers to be their calm, so that they can develop and fine tune their own emotional regulation. It will benefit all of you in the long run!
Adapted from D. Ray (2016)
Look Alive 5 PDF here
5 and a Half pdf here