Your child at 4 to 5 years old is moving out into the bigger world. He questions, creates, imagines, explores, and expands his world. He does not always recognize his limits, and thus he needs and feels most comfortable with consistent rules, routines, and home structures. He may have a hard time regulating his behavior and requires his parents and caregivers to set limits without shaming or harshness. Your child is beginning to recognize the feelings and needs of others and can sometimes share, take turns, accept not winning, and accept not being first in line (he may need reminders!).
Children between these ages should be free from day time accidents and be able to dress themselves with the exception of some difficult fasteners. They should be engaging in pretend and role playing games, interacting with other children, and organizing games. They may have imaginary playmates, and they may tell stories or lies to please or amuse their caregivers or to avoid consequences. Gross motor skills like running, jumping, climbing, and throwing are continuing to develop and become more refined as are their fine motor skills like threading beads, making representational drawings or marks, and coloring (it does not have to be in the lines). Four to 5 year olds love to ask a lot of questions, and they often unknowingly ask or say embarrassing things. They should engage in conversation about a lot of things, express their ideas, and be able to be understood by most others. Some speech sounds may not be completely clear (“th” for “s” or “w” for “r”).
Four and 5 year olds can be quite bossy, have a few tantrums when denied their own way, and be boastful, noisy, and exuberant. They should be able to separate from their parents with little distress, and they should be striving for more independence. Children at these ages are discovering humor and are still learning when it is not OK to laugh. “Potty” language and bathroom humor seem to be hilarious, much to your frustration!
It’s often difficult to know whether your child’s development is normal or if your child’s behavior requires intervention. General guidelines can give you information about expected age ranges for the development of certain skills, but development is very individualized and often uneven between areas.
You should definitely have your child checked if he or she loses skills or understanding they previously had, seems uninterested in their surroundings and in other people, constantly asks for things to be repeated, does not speak clearly enough for others to understand, appears to be behind other same aged children’s development in some areas, squints or has pupils that do not always look in the same direction, has tantrums frequently lasting for more than 30 minutes, or has excessive fears, worries, or continued difficulties separating from their caregiver.
Common reasons for seeking treatment:
- Developmental delays
- Social skills deficits or difficulty with peer relationships
- Cognitive difficulties
- Behavioral problems, such as aggression or tantrums frequently lasting for more than half an hour
- Excessive fears, worries, or continued difficulties separating from caregivers
- School problems
- Parenting issues
- Adjustment concerns
If you have any concerns or just a “feeling” that something is not as it should be, it is worth getting consultation from a development professional (psychologist, pediatrician, speech-language pathologist, nurse practitioner etc.).