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Development Tracker Age 5-6


Research shows that if children start school with a strong set of attitudes and skills that help them ‘learn how to learn’, they will be better able to take advantage of educational opportunities. While some learning skills come naturally to children, others can be developed through a supportive environment.
Five-year-olds are creative and enthusiastic problem-solvers. They offer progressively more imaginative ideas for how to do a task, make something, or solve longer-term or more abstract challenges. As they participate in a variety of new experiences, five-year-olds ask more analytical questions and weigh their choices. They are also more social as they learn new things and prefer activities that involve other children.
Initiative, engagement and persistence
  • Deliberates and weighs choices (e.g. may spend a long time thinking about whether to go to the shops with mum or to stay home and help dad).
  • Can maintain focus on a project for a sustained period of time (e.g. spends a rainy day building a complicated fort made out of chairs and blankets, complete with props and signs). Is able to return to an activity after being interrupted.
  • Persists in longer-term or complex projects, with supervision. Can return to projects begun the previous day. Uses self-talk and other strategies to help finish difficult tasks and assignments from adults (e.g. a school project to make an alphabet book).
  • Chooses and follows through on self-selected learning tasks. Shows interest and skill in more complex self-help skills (e.g. decides to learn to swim, zips jacket, prepares a snack).

Curiosity and eagerness to learn
  • Tries an even wider range of new experiences, both independently and with peers and adults (e.g. goes on a camping trip with grandparents, tries to learn to play piano like older brother). May deliberately take risks when learning new skills.
  • Asks higher-level questions; for example, ‘What would happen if we had no food?’ or ‘Why was Raymond mad at me?’
  • Expands verbal and nonverbal enthusiasm for learning new things, including academic (e.g. reading, writing) and physical skills (e.g. riding a bike).

Reasoning and problem-solving
  • Is increasingly able to think of possible solutions to problems. Can use varied and flexible approaches to solve longer-term or more abstract challenges (e.g. when planning to have friends over on a rainy day, thinks about how to deal with a limited space to play).
  • Analyses complex problems more accurately to identify the type of help needed; for example, ‘I think I know how to play this game, but I think you'll have to help me get started. Then I can do the rest’.
  • Continues to benefit from hands-on experiences to support more abstract thinking skills (e.g. makes a book about a holiday, complete with sections for each place visited, drawings and labels written with adult help).

Invention and imagination
  • Collaborates with other children in extended and complex pretend play, taking on more varied roles and situations (e.g. acts out roles of lions, hunters, rescuers, and other animals in a dramatic and sustained scenario).
  • Offers increasingly creative, unusual ideas about how to do a task, how to make something, or how to get from one place to another; for example, ‘Let's use these old boxes to make a spaceship! Where's some paint?’.


Five-year-olds have a varied repertoire of music and are able to compose and arrange music within specified guidelines. They create realistic art with recognisable subjects and more detailed settings. They also recognise that art can tell a story. The movements of children this age show mature form and an increased ability to balance and coordinate actions. The dramatic play of five-year-olds is pre-planned, elaborate and sustained. They are able to perform simple plays, do pantomime and perform puppet shows.
  • Infuses music into routines and activities (e.g. sings to self while putting together a puzzle).
  • Performs vocal and instrumental music of age-appropriate songs from memory and creates music from own imagination (e.g. makes up new songs, sings accompaniments to music, sings rounds with a group).
  • Uses music to help tell a story (e.g. composes music to accompany a puppet show or play).
  • Uses music for specific purposes (e.g. puts on marching music for outside play, sings a lullaby to a baby doll).
  • May recognise how rhythm, tempo and tone are used in different types of music from around the world; for example, ‘Polka music is fast, so you have to dance fast’.

  • Creates art that is more realistic and includes many details of objects, places, animals or people (e.g. draws a picture of a person and includes fingers and hair). The subject of a piece of art is typically recognisable to others and has mostly realistic proportions.
  • Uses art to help tell a story (e.g. makes a backdrop for a class play on ‘The Three Little Pigs’).
  • Uses increasingly sophisticated planning, tools and techniques to create art (e.g. uses fine-bristled brushes to paint dots and thin lines with water colors). Is able to expand knowledge of art to include stitchery, woodworking and scupting with papier-mâché.
  • Can describe and imitate the style of favourite artists (e.g. uses Cezanne’s painting of fruit bowls as a model for a drawing).

  • Is able to perform planned and improvised movements and dance sequences (e.g. participates in a routine physical activity that involves squatting and touching toes).
  • Is able to describe why a certain dance movement has been chosen (e.g. dances to a rap song and provides a rationale for the choreography).
  • Seeks active games and environments as a part of daily activities (e.g. asks teacher when it will be time to play on the playground).

Dramatic play 
  • Is able to learn about other people and cultures by performing simple plays (e.g. participates in a school holiday pageant featuring stories about Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa).
  • Creates skits that express personal thoughts, ideas and emotions (e.g. performs a short skit about the birth of a new sibling and the ‘horrors’ that event brings on).
  • Creates own props to support dramatic play (e.g. makes costumes and scenery to make the dramatic play come alive).


The language skills of five-year-olds are well developed. They pronounce words clearly, speak in complex and compound sentences, use correct grammar for the most part, and have good-sized vocabularies that continue to grow rapidly. Children this age enjoy initiating conversations, can wait their turn to speak during group conversations, and are typically able to include appropriate details when sharing personal experiences.
Receptive vocabulary (words recognised when heard or seen)
  • At 60 months, knows 4000-5000 words. Acquires 3000 additional words during this year. Some children acquire 4000 or more.
  • The average child has the capacity to acquire 6-9 words per day, given access to new words in his daily experiences.
  • Continues to learn words when adults name objects, and increases ability to infer word meanings from context. Many new words are also learned through new experiences and from hearing picture books read aloud. Informational books become increasingly important.
  • Learns specialised words for particular areas of interest (e.g. dinosaurs, snakes, birds, plants, dolls, sea animals). Also, increases the number of category name words (e.g. cooking utensils, construction tools, sports equipment, things that produce light, medicines, flowers, jewellery, tools for keeping track of time, computer-related items, planets, insects, rodents, shellfish, reptiles, weather-related words).

Language comprehension (when several words are spoken at once) 
  • Expands understanding of figures of speech and begins to understand some idioms (e.g. ‘a change of heart’ and ‘in the ballpark’).
  • Learns to follow multi-step directions in instructional situations.
  • Increases ability to understand verbal explanations of phenomena that are not directly experienced, as long as the child has had similar experiences.

Speech sound perception 
  • Perception of speech sounds that aren't used in native language continues to decrease.
  • Exposure to a second or a third language helps children to continue to perceive a wider range of speech sounds, making learning a second language easier.
  • Shows skill at using different voice level, phrasing and rate of speech appropriate to the audience, purpose and occasion.
Expressive/productive vocabulary (words used when speaking or writing)
  • From age three on, it is difficult to measure actual productive vocabulary, but the number of words that children understand is always larger than the number of words they actually use. As children understand more words, there will be changes in the nature of the words children use for speaking and writing.
  • Continues to fill in gaps in vocabulary with known words that are more general or are descriptions of contexts. Sometimes, the absence of a detailed vocabulary results in children using words that sound like another, so that usage is a bit peculiar. For example, when referring to the floor the child lives on in an apartment building, the child says, ‘I live on the 4th layer’ not ‘... on the 4th level or floor’. When referring to magnets with which he is playing, a child says, ‘These are magics’.

  • No pronunciation errors in the average child.

Grammatical development
  • Speaks mostly in complex and compound sentences, and uses ‘if’ statements to express conditional relations, such as, ‘If you play with me, I'll be your friend’ or ‘If you eat that, you're gonna get sick’.
  • Makes occasional mistakes with irregular words in the past tense and in plural form. May continue to make errors with words heard infrequently.

Sharing personal experiences 
  • Is more skillful at sharing personal experiences. Stories include essential events with appropriate details in the first telling. (The skill of sharing personal experiences is highly dependent on practice, and on how well adults provide guidance in current and previous years.)
Conversational skills
  • Initiates conversations frequently.
  • Finds it easier now than in previous year to wait for his turn in a group conversation.
  • Topic maintenance has improved considerably, and continues to improve. Children sometimes ask questions when taking a turn, and understand that conversations need not depend on already knowing something about the topic.Is able to converse much better on the telephone due to an increased ability to talk about events in the recent past, as opposed to things in the ‘here and now’.


Five-year-olds abound with energy and seek active games and environments. Their increased abilities to balance and coordinate movements allow them to ride a bike with training wheels, swim, jump rope and perform most ball-related skills. They show mature form in walking and running, and are able to vary the direction, speed and quality of their movements. They can also use their fingers flexibly to control writing and painting tools, dress and undress dolls, and manage zips and buttons.
Motor skill development
  • Demonstrates mature form in walking and running. Walks backward quickly. Maintains an even gait in stepping.
  • Skips and runs with agility and speed. Most girls skip well; some boys, based on maturation and normal development, lag behind in skipping until as late as eight years of age.
  • Demonstrates clear contrasts between slow and fast movement while traveling. Begins to be interested in games of chasing and fleeing. Can incorporate traveling skills into a simple game (e.g. ‘tag’).
  • Climbs and hops well. Can coordinate movements for swimming or bike riding.
  • Is able to move in a variety of pathways to the beat of specific types of music. Moves with an awareness of others and the general space available.
  • Can hold a balanced position for 8-10 seconds.
  • Is able to maintain balance while moving quickly (e.g. while playing ‘tag’).
  • Is comfortable balancing in inverted positions and on more narrow bases. Walks easily on a five-centremetre-wide balance beam.
  • Rides a bike with training wheels.
  • Can maintain balance when transferring weight from feet to hands.
  • Jumps over objects and lands without falling. Can combine jumping, landing and rolling.
  • Begins to perform most ball-related skills (e.g. throwing, kicking, bouncing, catching, striking) correctly and more frequently. Because skills are still not automatic, there is still the need to concentrate intensely on what she is doing.
  • Can throw and catch. Tosses a ball and catches it before it bounces twice. Can bounce a tennis ball on the floor once and catch it with one hand. Can stand 3½ metres from the wall and hit a target two out of three times using an overhand throw.
  • Has difficulty tossing a ball in the air to herself and then striking it with a bat.
  • Kicks a stationary ball using a smooth continuous running step. Can kick a ball and strike a stationary target.
  • Attempts to throw, kick, and catch appear more consistent, and repetitions look somewhat alike.
  • Displays high energy levels and rarely shows fatigue. Finds inactivity difficult and seeks active games and environments.
  • Thinks her abilities are greater than they are (e.g. may think she can jump to the other side of a small stream, but lands in the middle instead). May act overly confident at times, but accepts limit setting and follows rules.
  • Is able to jump rope, and can do so for extended periods.
  • Should accumulate at least 30-60 minutes of physical activity (appropriate for this age and developmental level) on all, or most, days of the week.
  • Hits nails with hammer head, uses scissors and screwdrivers unassisted.
  • Builds three-dimensional block structures.
  • Likes to disassemble and reassemble objects and dress and undress dolls.
  • Can lace cards, arrange small coloured pegs in a peg board, and sew with large yarn needles and burlap in hoops.
  • Uses drawing and painting tools with efficiency. Gains skill at colouring within outlines.
  • Copies shapes, draws persons, and prints some letters crudely, but most are recognisable by an adult. Prints first name.
  • Dresses quickly. Can zip coat, button and unbutton skillfully, and tie shoes (with adult coaching).
  • Can effectively perform tasks related to grooming and eating.
  • Begins to use computer keyboard and mouse.
  • Shows a clear preference for being right-handed or left-handed.

Health status and practices
  • Shows awareness of personal hygiene needs (e.g. cleans up or grooms when appropriate).
  • Can dress self, but may not put clothes on in the right order or facing the right way. Undressing is still easier than dressing.
  • Goes to bed easily, but is prone to have nightmares.
  • Has toileting in control, but may need an occasional reminder if preoccupied. Some may still wet at night.
  • Is able to feed self, but tends to dawdle.
  • Is able to follow basic health and safety rules, and improves ability to respond appropriately to potentially harmful objects, substances and activities.


The significance of social and emotional development is seen in every area of a child’s life. A child will have a strong foundation for later development if she can manage personal feelings, understand others’ feelings and needs, and interact positively with others. Differences in social and emotional development result from a child’s inborn temperament, cultural influences, disabilities, behaviours modelled by adults, the level of security felt in a child’s relationships with adults, and the opportunities provided for social interaction.

Five-year-olds can manage feelings and social situations with greater independence. They might decide on their own to go to another room to calm down, or try strategies like negotiation and compromise to resolve a conflict before seeking adult help. They also have improved skills for forming and maintaining friendships with adults and other children. Being accepted by ‘the group’ is becoming more and more important.
Emotional development
  • Continues to expand her circle of trusted adults. At the same time, maintains a closeness to a few special people. For example, she might say, ‘I love my teacher, Mrs. Benotti!’
  • Gains self-esteem from feeling capable and demonstrating new skills; for example, ‘I know how to read this!’ Is increasingly aware of her own characteristics and skills.
  • Uses more complex language to express her understanding of feelings and their causes; for example, ‘I sort of want to try riding on that, but I'm sort of scared, too’.
  • Uses physical, imaginative, and cognitive resources to comfort self (e.g. goes to her room voluntarily when upset) and to control the expression of emotion; however, continues to need adult guidance in this area.

Social development
  • Enjoys interacting with other children and adults. Has developed a broader repertoire of social entry skills (e.g. suggests something to do together, joins in an existing activity, shares a snack). Engages in more complex and sustained cooperative play, including pretend play and simple games with rules; for example, ‘How about if we play draughts. I'll give out the pieces’.
  • Continues to establish and maintain friendships with other children. Seeks others' acceptance and friendship; for example, ‘We're friends, right?’ May join a group to exclude others.
  • Uses a wider array of words or actions to demonstrate awareness, understanding, and concern for what others are feeling. For example, goes over to a child whose block building has fallen down and says, ‘Don't worry, Vince. I'll help you build it up again’.
  • Uses a broader repertoire of strategies, including negotiation and compromise, to resolve conflicts before seeking adult help. For example, ‘I have a great idea, Henry! You be the bear, and I'll be the lion. Then we can switch!’ Still has difficulty at times.


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