Interesting Observations About The Five Year Old

Those of you who have read this blog for a long time know I rather disagree with The Gesell Institute book “Your Five-Year-Old” where five is seen as the golden age.  To me, five actually can be rather quirky and some five year olds seem stuck back at four with exuberant, out of bounds behavior and still on potty words….or they can be forging ahead to the six/seven year change.  Either way, it seems anything but golden to many parents I speak with. 

I have been observing a group of five year olds recently and have  noticed some interesting behaviors for five.  For those of you with five year olds, do any of these things ring true for you?

  • There is a big issue with birthdays – hard time with sibling birthdays, very sad indeed.
  • The other issue with birthdays is that the older five year old/early six year old wants to play only with people of the exact age of the child herself.  So, therefore, it is really concerning when a friend has a birthday and therefore obviously won’t want to play with the child anymore (“Because now Fanny Friend will be SIX!”) or the child doesn’t want to play with a child  younger or older. 
  • Five is the height of nightmares, and usually the child will wake up and scream but can’t seem to get out of bed well or wake up well or go back to sleep well.  The Gesell Institute does note that bad dreams persist until about age 8, with a lull at age 8 and then a  rise again  at age 9.
  • Typically tensional outlets are at a low, but increase again around five and a half.
  • Five is not an exceptionally fearful age, but six is full of fear.
  • There is a rise in marked rise in appetite at four and a half to five….  Many of the children I have been observing seem to ask to eat all the time.

I have several back posts about the five year old that you may find helpful:

There are also many post if you use the search engine regarding the six/seven change. 

Many blessings,


15 thoughts on “Interesting Observations About The Five Year Old

  1. So grateful for this little post and for your backlinks (which I go to read now…). I finished the Gesell book a couple of weeks ago but currently, our 5 years and 3 months old son is anything but serene!

  2. I haven’t read the book you mention, but would have to say the potty words you mention and this line
    “Typically tensional outlets are at a low, but increase again around five and a half”
    are the only things that ring true on your list for either of our older two at five.
    Oh, yes, the appetite bit was the same.

  3. I have a 5-year old son who will turn 6 in June. We are blessed that he is a very happy boy with a special innocense. Birthdays are a big deal for him – his or anyone elses – however, he does not seem to care if others are older or younger than him. Perhaps this is because he has a 2-year old brother whom he enjoys very much. Our son is more of a follower than a leader and it simply doesn’t occur to him to make fun of others or exclude them from his play and he doesn’t understand when others do this to him.

    He has always had some fears and is therefor a cautious child, but, as you said, this year his fears have wained while his courage has risen. It will be interesting to see how the next year goes in that regard.

  4. Though we’ve noticed other changes in our daughter’s development, we haven’t seen any of those ones (thankfully) from ours. Except one, an increase in appetite! 😉

  5. I wonder how much of this is “natural” versus how much is culturally-induced? I ask because my 5 yo dd is a delight to be with and doesn’t seem to have the same hang-ups with birthdays/nightmares or even Disney princesses that other 5 yo’s seem to share. I think a big part of that is that being an AP’d, Waldorf homeschooled. only child, she has led a much more protected existence than her peers who go to preschool, watch television, etc. She isn’t obsessed with “getting older as quickly as she can” that marks so much of childhood, and it is hard to be obsessed with Disney princesses when you don’t know what they are. I also wonder how many nightmares are caused by little children’s inability to process the imagery of television … just some things I’m pondering. Blessings, Carrie, and thanks for your posts!

  6. I enjoyed reading this post. My 5 yo dd (10/7/05) is blessing and delight. She has her grumpy days but the are not often. The only “issues” at this age have been increased appetite. No potty words, no excluding others (although she does prefer girls), cautious but more outgoing this year.

    My daughter is an only child and has had a more sheltered childhood. Not much tv, but she has been exposed to some Disney princesses. She did attend a parent/child preschool for 1 yo before we decided to homeschool. She does some structured activities such as dance, swimming and gymnastics.

    I think she is so grateful to play with others that she does not notice the age difference. The friends we see most often range from 3 to 8.

    IMO, the potty words are not a problem if the children are not exposed to these words through media (or other children). When my daughter does hear such words, she does not seem to find them interesting. So, they are not repeated.

  7. Interesting!
    I read the Gessel books 2-3 years ago, when my older child was approaching 5. And about 50% of it rang true.
    But now my younger child is smack in the middle of five, and for this young man only the other 50% stands up!
    So… although I believe the Gessel project was worthwhile, and helpful for the big picture, it’s not always useful in the trenches, is it?
    My five year old is suddenly more conscious of other children’s ages, but he does not necessarily exclude children who are not equivalent. But he does suddenly have more interest in knowing his place in the pecking order.

  8. My little guy just turned 6 last month but I wanted to share his take on birthdays this year. My boys are 3 years and 6 days apart, with big brother’s birthday coming first. My little one actually said to us on big brother’s birthday “This is not fair, next year I want my birthday to come first!” One of the lovely moments came when they received their birthday gifts from their uncle. My little was jealous and I could tell so I just sat with him while he was gloomy and he said “I’m happy that he got that but I was feeling a little jealous. I know it’s not good to be so I am trying to stop.” I love that guy!!!

    He also went through a time during 5 when he was very invested in who he was older than. Oh, and he’s a big fan of potty talk as well!

  9. Just a note, if you don’t mind Carrie, in response to Allison’s mention of television etc…our eldest son stopped having night-terrors after three days of no television etc, when we first removed it from his life, and after about a month – no nightmares either. In our experience, it’s when the children are overwhelmed in some way (even too hot) that we get nightmares in our house.

    • Kloppenmum – And I have to add here the children I am observing are mainly homeschooled children with low media exposure, so I second your observation and don’t personally believe all night terrors and nightmares are related to media.

    • Cecily, Oh, you know, the variations of name-calling that involves bodily functions or just talking in a really silly way about bodily functions, usually at the dinner table. LOL

  10. Right…I guess I’ll have to tell the 45-year-old at the table that he can’t do that anymore either or our kids will never stop. Thank goodness!

  11. Pingback: This Will Keep You Busy: Links By Age « The Parenting Passageway

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