Going to school is the major milestone for 5 year olds. It is a time of great excitement, fear, and change for many 5 year olds. Every child demonstrates different levels of school readiness. In addition to formal education, children learn important social skills.

Safety

  • Car: Use an appropriate-sized booster seat in the back seat of the car. Children should be in a booster between 4 and 8 years old, and 40-60 lbs. Seat belts alone should not be used until the belt fits securely across the child’s hips; and the belt should not come up on the stomach at all. The shoulder strap should cross at the collarbone, not the face or neck. Note: Do NOT use products that adjust the shoulder strap on a car vehicle. Most children will not fit this size until about age 9.
  • Strangers: Teach stranger safety (e.g., never opening the door to strangers, getting in stranger’s cars)
  • Emergency Numbers: Teach your child emergency phone numbers (e.g., 911).
  • Playground: Teach playground/street safety.
  • Smoking: Make sure your home and cars are smoke-free zones. Also, check smoke alarms to ensure that they work properly, and change batteries annually.
  • Water: Teach your child to swim. Do not allow children to swim unattended. Use sunscreen.
  • Helmets: Wear a helmet on all things a kid can ride (e.g., bicycles, tricycles, scooters, ATVs, as passengers on adult bicycles).
  • Guns: Guns must be unloaded and locked. (Disturbing Fact: More children are killed from guns every year than are intruders.)
  • Household: Keep matches, cleaners, chemicals, and toxic household products out of reach. (TIP: Post poison control’s number near your phone: 1-800-222-1222.)

Sleep

Children this age need 10-12 hours of sleep at night. If your child is cranky or falling asleep during the day then he/she is probably not getting enough sleep at night.  Try gradually moving bedtime a little earlier.

Nutrition

  • Provide 3 meals and 2 nutritious snacks a day.
  • Limit the number of fats and sweets your child gets in a day. In addition, your child does not need juice, it is essentially fruit sugar. If you choose to give juice to your child, do so in limited quantities (e.g., 4 oz a day). There is no place for soft drinks/soda in a child’s diet.
  • You choose the menu. I am a firm believer in good nutrition at an early age to build good lifetime eating habits. Consider the fact that you are fueling your child’s growing brain. It is my opinion that we as a society are propagating this notion of “kid food” (e.g., mac n’ cheese, hot dogs, French fries, chicken nuggets). These “kid foods” have very little nutritional value. Instead, offer meats with good protein, fruits and vegetables with good vitamins, etc.
  • Dairy products should be low in fat; this includes all milk. (If your pediatrician is concerned about your child failing to thrive, he or she may direct you otherwise.) All members in a family over the age of 2 should be drinking low fat milk.
  • Eat meals together as a family, and turn OFF the television. Not only does eating together as a family develop good nutritional habits, it also has multiple lasting effects on the social support of a family.
  • Model good eating habits.
  • Keep in mind that it is very difficult to eat healthy when eating out (especially at fast food restaurants).

Oral Health

  • Continue to brush twice a day (with a fluoridated toothpaste), and floss teeth once a day.
  • Schedule an appointment to see a dentist every 6 months.
  • Fluoride supplementation depends on the level of fluoride in the drinking water in the city where you live. (Your pediatrician or dentist can prescribe fluoride, if needed.)
  • If your child sucks his or her thumb or fingers, now is the time to gently intervene.

Milestones

  • Copies a square or triangle.
  • Can count on fingers.
  • Draws a person with a head, body, arms, and legs.
  • Recognizes letters of the alphabet and can print some.
  • Plays make-believe.
  • Can get dressed without help.
  • Knows address and phone number.
  • May be able to skip.

Other

  • Media Exposure: Limit total media time (e.g., TV, movies, video games) to no more than 2 hours a day, ideally less than 1 hour. Watch programs together so you know what information your child is receiving.
  • Sexual Education: Expect normal curiosity. Use correct terms. Answer questions frankly. Teach that certain body parts (those covered by a bathing suit) are private and should never be touched without the child’s permission.
  • Social Interactions: Praise your child for accomplishments. Encourage your child to talk about feelings and experiences at school and with friends. Provide opportunities for your child to interact with other children. Help your child to resolve conflicts without anger.
  • Learning Experiences: Read together. Visit libraries, parks, museums.
  • Discipline: Set limits. Be consistent. Ensure your child knows the house rules (e.g., bedtime rules, respect for others). Use “time out” and teach consequences for unacceptable behavior.
  • Chores: Give your child some age appropriate chores and household responsibilities (e.g., help set the table, keep own room clean).
  • School: Meet with your child’s teacher, tour the school together, become involved with school.