PRIMARY CHILD DEVELOPMENT
Professor Emeritus, Human Development
University of Connecticut
YOU WILL LEARN:
- some activities to help five and six-year-old children grow and develop.
- what to expect from five and six-year-old children.
PRIMARY SCHOOL AGE CHILDREN
Five- and six-year-old children have started to attend kindergarten and first grade. They are often excited about going to school and their new responsibilities. Next to their parents you, as their day care provider, may be the most important person in the life of a five- or six-year-old child, so children of this age may be eager to discuss their achievements and their worries with you.
Children who come to your home after school will have different needs. Many children may seem tired and will need a snack because they have not eaten since lunch time. Children in this age group need a caring adult to talk to. While the children eat their snack, you can talk to them about their day. Five-year-old children may need a nap. Older children may need to run and jump to unwind.
Set limits and let children know what is expected of them. Do this with a soft voice. Be patient and kind. Provide clear and consistent discipline. Each child needs to feel special and cared about in your home. Children in this stage are very enjoyable. They like to be helpful, especially to adults.
Understanding this stage in a child's development will help you:
- plan activities that are fun, and that help children grow,
- feel good about what you do as a provider, and
- help children know they can do things and are loved.
This fact sheet lists some of the characteristics of five and six-year-old children. These characteristics are listed in three main areas: physical (body), social (getting along with others) and emotional (feelings), and intellectual (thinking and language) development.
- Growth is slow but steady.
- They have gained control of their major muscles.
- They enjoy testing muscle strength and skills. They like to skip, run, tumble, and dance to music.
- Most children have a good sense of balance. They can stand on one foot and walk on a balance beam.
- They can catch small balls.
- They can learn to tie their shoelaces.
- They can manage buttons and zippers.
- They use utensils and tools correctly (with supervision).
- They enjoy performing physical tricks.
- They can copy designs and shapes (including letters and numbers).
- They can print their names.
SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
- Many children have a best friend and an enemy.
- They tend to prefer playmates of the same sex.
- They play well in groups but may need some time to play alone.
- They do not like criticism or failure. It is best to have each child compete against himself or herself not other children.
- Children often tell on each other. This is done for two reasons: to help them understand the rules and to get an adult's attention.
- They think of themselves more than others until about age seven or eight.
- They can be helpful with small chores.
- They may enjoy taking care of and playing with younger children.
- They have a strong need for love and attention from their parents and providers.
- To them, "good" and "bad" are what parents, you, and teachers approve or disapprove of. They are starting to develop a moral sense (such as understanding honesty).
- They may become upset when their behavior or school work is criticized or ignored.
- They are beginning to care about the feelings and needs of others.
- They begin to develop a sense of humor and may enjoy nonsense rhymes, songs, and riddles.
- Their ability to speak and express themselves develops rapidly. This is important for success in school.
- During play, they practice using the words and language they learn in school.
- They talk to each other about themselves and their families.
- They can tell left from right.
- Most have a lively imagination. When they talk together, their stories seem very real.
- Their attention span is longer. They can follow more involved stories.
- They start to understand time and days of the week.
- They like silly rhymes, riddles, and jokes.
ACTIVITIES TO DO WITH CHILDREN
- Make time for running, hopping, skipping, jumping rope, and climbing. Do these activities with the children.
- Encourage children to dance or skip to music. Dance and sing with them.
- Set up a game of tug-of-war.
- Teach beginning tumbling skills on a mat.
- Serve healthy snacks (no junk foods). Let the children help prepare and serve the snack.
- Have games where children can play together. If necessary, change the rules of the game so everyone gets a chance to win.
- Give children things for make-believe and pretend play. Use clothes, small plastic cars, people, and animals.
- Play sorting games.
- Provide materials for painting, drawing, pasting, and molding clay.
- Teach simple weaving and basic sewing skills with a large needle.
- Encourage children to talk about their feelings while working on a project or playing together.
- Count things with the children. Have them identify numbers and letters on household objects.
- Read stories aloud (including humorous stories) to the children.
- Encourage the children to dramatize stories.
RESOURCES TO EXPLORE
*Growth and Development Booklet: Youth Ages 0-18* by Wilfred Pierrick and Howard Swonigan, University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension, Madison, WI 53706.
*The School-Age Child: 4-H After-School Program*, University of California Cooperative Extension, Berkeley, CA 94702.
*School-Age Children*, Michigan Department of Social Services, DDS Publication 91 (10-84).
National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Part of CYFERNET, the National Extension Service Children Youth and Family Educational Research Network. Permission is granted to reproduce these materials in whole or in part for educational purposes only(not for profit beyond the cost of reproduction) provided that the author and Network receive acknowledgment and this notice is included:
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Nuttall, P. (1991). *Primary child development*. (Family Day Care Facts series). Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts.
Any additions or changes to these materials must be preapproved by the author.
FORMAT AVAILABLE:: Available only on the Internet
DOCUMENT REVIEW:: Level 2 - Cooperative Extension Systems: Universities
of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut
ENTRY DATE:: July 1995