Sunday, February 05, 2006

What should I expect from my five year old?

(updated Dec 2006)

Many children are able to go far beyond these concepts, others are barely able to master these. This is a list of what is generally expected from a five or six year old child. (I used this when I taught Kg in the US public school system)

Language Arts

Master name and sound of all letters in alphabet

Print all letters of the alphabet- capital and lower case on UNLINED paper

Print first and last name (1st half of year teach first name, 2nd part of year, teach last name)

Color within the lines of a given picture

Know how to hold a book upright and understand where the beginning and end is located

Recognize that sounds make up words

Understand the difference between a letter and a word.

Begin to blend simple words together using "invented spelling."
(I agree with case studies and from my own experiences that invented spelling is not detrimental to a child's later ability to spell correctly when it is allowed during the brief period a child is learning to read.)

Write simple words (dog, cat, mom, dad, etc...)

Read aloud very simple words.

e.g. dog, cat, the, love...

Retell a story

Understand author, illustrator

Social Studies

Understand what is a globe

Know what is a family

Know complete name

Know address and phone number

Understand major holidays and their meanings


Count to 30

Recognize numbers to 30

Write numbers 0 to 10 on unlined paper

Understand 'before and after', opposites.

Sort various objects by color, size and shape

Know major colors and shapes

Understand addition and subtraction of combinations to five using objects and stories, but it is not necessary to know how to write it in symbolic form

e.g. A child may understand, "I had five cookies, but I ate two cookies. Now I only have three left. However, a child may not understand the symbols 5-2=3. Although, towards the end of the year you should introduce sums in written form.

Introduce money and it's value- nickel, dime, penny

Make a simple patterns (AB, ABC, AAB, AABB) using collections ( buttons, blocks, beads, etc)

Compare same/different, large/small, long/longer/longest, under/over, in/out


Know how to keep a simple beat (clapping)

Hop on one foot


Throw a ball/Kick a ball


Understand basic needs of plants and animals

Explore -insects, birds, other animals, trees and flowers


Know the three primary colors

(Experiment with mixing food coloring)

Most of this is learned informally in the home through every day experiences.


  1. "Print all letters of the alphabet- capital and lower case on UNLINED paper"


    I was curious about why unlined paper. Is lined paper bad for some reason?

  2. Melanie, I have taught a few hundred Kindergarteners how to write (while a public educator) and found that most children at this age are not developmentally ready to write on lined paper due to immature fine motor skills. They may be able to do it eventually, but it is difficult and frustrating for many, especially boys.

    Of course, there are always exceptions to a principle, but I think generally speaking, it is better to wait on using lined paper and just work on basic recognition and formation. I recommend having the child write the letter large size- about the size of their hand.

  3. Thanks, Linda, that makes a lot of sense.

  4. Anonymous21.9.10

    I have a beautiful little 5 year old daughter who is very smart. She counts to 100+ in english and about thirty in Spanish. She can ride a two wheel bike and is learning basic addition and subtraction and is spelling writing. It is too early to expect her to remember when I give her instructions. She will to the exact think I tell her not to do 5 seconds later. Am I expecting too much? Should she remeber that mommy told me not to do something and remember not to do it? HELP
    It's really frustrating me.