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child development
YOUR 5-6 YEAR OLD
GETTING INTO THE SWING OF THINGS WITH PEOPLE, OBJECTS, LETTERS AND NUMBERS

KEY ACHIEVEMENTS
• Being in tune
– synchronising with others, time and space
• Controlling appearance – acknowledging that inner feelings and ideas do not have to be reflected outwardly
• Creating an output – doing the right thing, getting it done, doing things well
• Contextualizing – understanding that moods and behaviours can change over time and are influenced by places and situations
• Young investigators – making qualified guesses before trying out
• Fantasy reality – creating their own imaginary world to explore concepts of reality
• I show it, I tell it & I write it – capturing and casting the world

What to expect?
At this age, children love to get into the flow of things and in tune with people. Their improved mobility, self-awareness, and understanding of the world enable them to use both their bodies and objects to control actions and things. The children now understand that inner feelings can be different from appearances, or surface manifestations: i.e. what you see isn’t always what you get. 5-6 year olds take initiative and become very mindfully engaged in what they do. Increasingly, the children engage in more serious play as a way to learn about reality while practicing their newfound knowledge of letters and numbers.

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ME




USING OUR BODIES

What are 5-6 year olds interested in and able to do?

At this age, improved motor skills, agility, and balance allow children to stand on tip toe or on one foot for a few seconds, do two footed jumps and landings, walk backwards, and kick a stationary ball. The children also enjoy imitating others’ position and movements in games like ‘statues’. Movements have to be simple though, as the child is not yet fully coordinated. Movements from side to side or at a diagonal are too challenging at this age.
What specific things will 5-6 year olds like to engage in?
This is the age when children can dress and undress themselves. Many love to tie their own shoelaces. Spreading food with a table knife and using a pair of scissors to cut out simple shapes and bathing themselves are activities they can do well with supervision. In kindergarten they will learn how to write the letters of the alphabet, and copy basic geometric forms. Their drawings have become recognisable with increasing attention to ground, sky and size relations.

How to encourage and support 5-6 year olds’ interests and abilities?
A good way to stimulate 5-6 year olds’ understanding of their body is to play imitation games that involve other children. As they progress, let them invent their own versions of games like ‘statues’. Begin with static positions and progress to a version that is imitating ‘moving statues’. Hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills are enhanced by letting children build small models, draw, write and cut and glue activities. Even computer or video-games can be beneficial for improving hand-eye coordination

KNOWING OURSELVES

What are 5-6 year olds interested in and able to do?
This age marks a breakthrough in a child’s self-knowledge and self-control. 5-6 year-olds begin to realise that, indeed, a person’s inner states are often different from their outer expression. And, not surprisingly, that is when children themselves learn to control their impulses, and to realise that their own inner feelings can be kept to themselves. In other words, the child does not have to be transparent about their intentions at all times.

What specific things will 5-6 year olds like to engage in?
Being 5-6 years of age children begin to identify (themselves) with other people outside their family such as teachers, or cool peers in school or in their neighbourhood. They also begin to shape their identities through incorporating inspiration from books and TV in their pretend games like: Princesses, heroes and dragons. This exploration enables them to slowly acquire a more “objective” and forgiving, view on themselves. It is OK to have moods. I am not my worse mood. I swing back and forth between moods. We all do.

How to encourage and support 5-6 year olds’ interests and abilities?
Role-playing is an excellent activity to help children understand different moods and viewpoints. Try to put them in the shoes of others and get them to switch between roles when playing. For instance between have and have-not, hitters and receivers, wolves and princesses and then get them to explain what the different roles feel like. It will help them explore and make their own conclusions.

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US



RELATING TO OTHERS

What are 5-6 year olds interested in and able to do?
Beyond playing with others, which they always will, children this age like to take on challenges, pace themselves, set tasks, and carry them out. And one of the biggest rewards of their work is to be recognised by their parents, peers, and teachers. When this does not take place, 5-6 year olds may feel that they cannot live up to the expectation of others. Children’s desire to take initiatives and enjoy challenges cannot thrive if their efforts are not receiving any caring attention. 5-6 years old also like to share and compare performances. This tendency will further expand as they reach their 6th birthday.
What specific things will 5-6 year olds like to engage in?
Children this age are still dependent upon their parents, but they begin to pay closer attention to others outside their family, and make friendships in school or at the playground. When around adults, 5-6 year olds engage in conversations. They also begin to enjoy group activities like sports, scouts and take music or dance classes. The appreciation for being with peers also translates in to an enjoyment of board games and swap games—as long as they are winning!

How to encourage and support 5-6 year olds’ interests and abilities?
Engage children in activities that make them feel they contribute and make a difference. Make sure it is within areas that capture their interest and imagination. In order to make it a successful social experience, engage in activities that involve other children. Help the children to lose gracefully; teach them that sharing is caring. At the same time encourage children to share what they have learned in school, what they do together with their peers and what they learn when they watch TV or read books.

UNDERSTANDING OTHERS

What are 5-6 year olds interested in and able to do?
Around this age children’s capacity to reflect and express how they feel and think is growing rapidly. And so is their ability to understand that others may feel and think differently. The children are not always sure how a person sees things from their perspective, but they know it can be very different. This being said, they have become fairly good communicators. They know how to read moods, and to adjust “on the fly” their speech and the length of sentences according to the engagement, intents, age, and mood of the person they are speaking to.

What specific things will 5-6 year olds like to engage in?
Pretend and role play is at its height, at this age, allowing children to safely explore social relations, controlling their temper, playing out different personas, and putting themselves in other people’s shoes. Almost 6 years of age children develop more sophisticated make-believe play. The plots become quite elaborate and they incorporate different characters and roles, whose intentions, wishes and beliefs are all acted out. While they excel in play, the children also like to be taken seriously as a partner when they socialise with parents or when they take care of others.

How to encourage and support 5-6 year olds’ interests and abilities?
Create safe environments where children can express and communicate their feelings and experiences. A good way to provide children with an understanding of the consequences of certain emotional reactions is to make up potential situations through role play. Get the children to relate to both sides of the fence by putting them in the place of the giver and the taker, or the bad guy and the good guy.

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WORLD



EXPLORING THE WORLD

What are 5-6 year olds interested in and able to do?
5-6 year olds like to figure out how things work, and why things are the way they are. What is new at this age is that children’s explorations are increasingly inquiry-driven: Beyond “messing around”, that is, they investigate. They make guesses in addition to just trying out things, and they test their explorations against their guesses.
What specific things will 5-6 year olds like to engage in?
5-6 year olds are fascinated with everyday physics. e.g. they will not just ask questions like: “why does the moon follow me?” or ”Why is the grass green?” etc. Instead, 5-6 years olds will spend hours playing with the flow of water, undoing a clock, or “testing” the impact of gravity by swinging pendulums. At this age, children understand that pouring milk into a high thin glass or squeezing a ball of play dough will not decrease or increase its initial volume.

How to encourage and support 5-6 year olds’ interests and abilities?
Instead of focussing on correct answers, try to enable or facilitate children’s initiatives, exploration and curiosity. The type of questions they ask, and the ways they go about answering them, will provide a good indicator of how well they understand the world, and how you best can support their further growth. Play guessing games. Let them collect, group, order, and trade things, such as pictures, cards, and marbles.

MAKING SENSE OF FINDINGS

What are 5-6 year olds interested in and able to do?

At this age children begin to “see” the logic and patterns behind the surface of things. They are obsessed with quantities, measurements, and magnitudes. They will often ask questions like: “What happens after you count to 999?” or “what is the biggest number?” Despite being able to count out loud 5-6 years olds still miss a few important skills to grasp the mathematics behind counting. They do not possess one-to-one correspondence and will count the same item more than once and when asking for ten, they will give you a ten instead of ten of a kind.

What specific things will 5-6 year olds like to engage in?
5-6 year olds engage in ‘measuring’ and ‘quantifying’ the world, yet mostly they do so without the use of numbers. Instead they use their footsteps, fingers and other self-made techniques like stacking units of blocks to determine the size of a missing block when they play. Good tools for ‘measuring’ and ‘counting’ at this age are pattern blocks, DUPLO bricks Cuisenaire rods and Dienes blocks etc.

How to encourage and support 5-6 year olds’ interests and abilities?
Focus on the logic behind numbers, and not just on counting. To enhance the children’s logical thinking try to engage them in grouping or classifying exercises, or games – which things are similar, belong together—in nesting exercises —put them in order, from small to tall and ordering exercises – arranging elements according to time. Imagine other activities to help the children “see” hidden logic behind appearances and uncover underlying patterns .This is the essence of what thinking “logically” is all about.
 
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CREATIVITY




CREATING FORMS AND EXPRESSIONS

What are 5-6 year olds interested in and able to do?

At this age children enjoy pretend-play and role-play. Yet, one significant change, as compared with younger children, is that much of the actual play revolves around the talking about the play, and how to organise it. Mainly, children have discussions about possible scenarios, and who is to do what. This is also the age, when children like to tell jokes, which they do not always understand, just to make people around them laugh.
What specific things will 5-6 year olds like to engage in?
At this age children can deal with ideas about things and characters that are not present. A common statement could be: “I know a princess doesn’t wear a hat, but her sister does” or “I want to make that monster meaner and not just dress like a child”. Likewise, as they watch cartoons, their appreciation of what makes a funny story, or a cool plot increases (chain of events, incongruities, surprises). Dumbo the elephant might be sitting in a tree, and because he is not a normal elephant, he can fly away using his large ears as wings.

How to encourage and support 5-6 year olds’ interests and abilities?
Many parents and teachers fear that a vivid imagination may prevent formal learning in school. Instead, imagination is the bedrock itself for learning, understanding, and exploration in school and life. Keep in mind, that the most creative and innovative scientists throughout their career kept a childlike ability to imagine new things. Do not expose children to too much pre-packaged fantasy through excessive access to TV and movies. It may prevent children at a young age to develop their own imagination.

CREATING FORMS AND EXPRESSIONS

What are 5-6 year olds interested in and able to do?
In addition to building, play-acting, speaking, singing, and dancing, 5-6 years olds are at the brink of becoming literate in the narrow sense. They become increasingly fascinated with capturing (snap shots), recording (saving) and editing fleeting events, such as music, human voice, and movements. To accomplish this, they use any medium that records their marks, and allows them to tell their tales, and they come up with their own signatures, often a series of letters or an iconic letter standing for their name. Their drawings now become recognisable with sky and ground corresponding to size relations, and stick people have up to six or seven body parts. In kindergarten they will learn to model, to draw, to understand rhythm, and to copy geometric shape and letters.

What specific things will 5-6 year olds like to engage in?
5-6 year olds can express themselves verbally, they can nuance their voices according to purpose, and their spoken sentences get longer and more complex. They can write the alphabet using both uppercase and lowercase letters, and write numbers from 1 to 9. In kindergarten they can write their first name, copy shapes such as triangles and rectangles. They will ‘write down’ their favourite song by using strokes to reflect the rhythm and pace of the tune. Also, they display their ability to order story elements in a linear format.

How to encourage and support 5-6 year olds’ interests and abilities?
Combine reading and writing with other creative expressions, such as pretend and role play and dialogues. Establish bedtime storytelling rituals, which offer a comforting way into the new universe of being literate. Also, it may be helpful to have the children share what they learn in school, watch on TV, read in books, or what video games they like to play. A way for further elaboration of their experiences is through acting out some of the scenarios. In other words let the children express and develop their many languages while they still are learning how to write and read.

Click here to download the "Early School Years: Ages 4-8 Years".pdf from the Whole Child Development Guide.