5 Years

Caring for Your 5-Year-Old

Family Interaction and Development

  • Help prepare your child for school. Read books about starting school and talk about what your child can expect. Help your child learn the alphabet and identify letters.
  • Encourage your child to tell you about his or her day and to tell you if someone is hurting or bullying him or her at school.
  • Be patient while your child forms thoughts in sentences. Try not to interrupt. Find opportunities to model behaviors like patience, respect and remorse, when appropriate.
  • Limit screen time to two hours or less each day. Be careful about the programs and advertising your child sees. Instead of TV, encourage your child’s creative imagination with drawing and playing. Children should not have a TV in the bedroom.
  • Set aside time to actively play with your child. Regular physical activity is fun and healthy for the entire family.
  • Children this age are encouraged to contribute around the house. Assign reasonable chores to your child (tidy the bedroom, dust, set the table), and offer praise when the job is done well.


  • Plan for regular family mealtimes. Offer healthy, kid-friendly options at every meal to minimize struggles over eating.
  • Limit candy and junk food. Avoid soda, tea, coffee, sports drinks, juice and flavored drinks.
  • Offer fruits and vegetables at meals and as snacks. Be sure your child is drinking milk or eating milk products to maintain healthy bones and teeth.

Routines and Discipline

  • Never slap or hit your child; it will teach him or her to hit others.
  • Remember to praise your child for good behavior.
  • Set reasonable and consistent limits. When using discipline, the priority is to teach and protect your child, not to punish.
  • Predictable routines help your child feel safe. Make bedtime a calm and loving time. Read with your child and talk about the next day to help prepare your child.

Oral Health

  • Help your child brush his or her teeth twice a day with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste with fluoride. Flossing is also encouraged.
  • See the dentist every six months for routine checkups.


  • Always supervise your child in the house, car, yard, and when at play near driveways and streets.
  • Use sunscreen on your child when playing outdoors.
  • Watch your child carefully around water. Swim lessons are encouraged.
  • Helmets must be worn when riding a bike, even with training wheels, and scooters, skateboards and roller skates.
  • Teach your child about stranger danger and how to be safe with other adults.
  • No one (outside of trusted caregivers and physicians) should ask to see your child’s “private parts” or ask for your child to see theirs. Teach your child not to keep secrets from parents.
  • Some communities offer “Safety Town” classes to children entering kindergarten.
  • If you have a gun in your home, be sure the ammunition is kept separately from the weapon and that these are both kept safely locked away.
  • Have a working smoke alarm on each floor of your home, and a carbon monoxide detector in the hallway near each sleeping area.
  • All children should be in a belt-positioning booster seat in the back seat of the car.

This document contains general parenting information based on American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations and is not meant to replace the expert advice of your pediatrician.