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Research shows that if children start school with a strong set of attitudes and skills that help them ‘learn how to learn’, they’ll be better able to take advantage of educational opportunities.

What to expect

Five-year-olds are creative and enthusiastic problem-solvers. They offer progressively more imaginative ideas for how to do a task, make something, or solve longer-term or more abstract challenges. As they participate in a variety of new experiences, five-year-olds ask more analytical questions and weigh their choices. They’re also more social as they learn new things, and prefer activities that involve other children.

Initiative, engagement and persistence

At this age, your child will deliberate and weigh up choices. For example, he might spend a long time thinking about whether to go to the shops with mum or to stay home and help dad. 

She can now maintain focus on a project for a sustained period of time. For example, she might spend a rainy day building a complicated fort made out of chairs and blankets, complete with props and signs. 

He’ll persist in longer-term or complex projects, with supervision. He can return to projects he started the previous day, and he can also return to an activity after being interrupted. Your child will also use self-talk and other strategies to help him finish difficult tasks and assignments from adults – for example, a school project to make an alphabet book. 

Your child can choose and follow through on self-selected learning tasks. She’ll show interest and skill in more complex self-help skills. For example, she might decide to learn to swim, zip her jacket or prepare a snack.

Curiosity and eagerness to learn

At 5-6 years, your child will be trying an even wider range of new experiences, both independently and with peers and adults. For example, he might go on a camping trip with his grandparents, or try to learn to play the piano like an older sibling. While learning new skills, he might deliberately take risks. 

She might ask higher-level or follow-on questions – for example, ‘What would happen if we had no food?’ or ‘Why was Raymond mad at me?’

Your child will show verbal and nonverbal enthusiasm for learning new things, including academic skills (such as reading and writing) and physical skills (such as riding a bike or using a skipping rope).

Reasoning and problem-solving

Your child is now increasingly able to think of possible solutions to problems. He can use varied and flexible approaches to solve longer-term or more abstract challenges. For example, when planning to have friends over on a rainy day, he might think about how to deal with having only a limited space to play in.

She’ll analyse complex problems more accurately to identify the type of help needed. She might say things like, ‘I think I know how to play this game, but you’ll probably have to help me get started. Then I can do the rest’. 

He’ll continue to benefit from hands-on experiences to support more abstract thinking skills. For example, he can make a book about a holiday, complete with sections for each place visited, drawings, and labels written with adult help.

Invention and imagination

Your child is learning to collaborate with other children in extended and complex pretend play, taking on more varied roles and situations. For example, this could include acting out the roles of lions, hunters and rescuers in a dramatic and sustained scenario.

She’ll offer increasingly creative, unusual ideas about how to do a task, how to make something, or how to get from one place to another. 

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  • Last Updated 18-02-2011
  • Last Reviewed 14-04-2012
  • © 2002-2006 Public Broadcasting Service.  Reprinted from www.pbsparents.org with permission of the Public Broadcasting Service.

    Unicef. (2009). Early Learning and Development Standards for Children from 0-6 Years