Five year olds are a delight because they feel so much more confident about their peer relations and their decision making, and so the mind is open to incredible opportunities for intellectual development. To watch a child decide he or she is ready to read is a wonderful benefit of parenting. Not every child will accept this at five, but most of the key developmental phases are accumulating, and if not this year, it is coming soon. Once a child determines they can "read", they will attempt to read anything – boxes, signs, newspapers, books – you name it. Of course often they are not "reading" in an adult sense of the word, but they are memorizing the combinations of symbols and sounds they see everywhere. This is an important milestone, and again it cannot be pushed. A child who is pushed to read before he is ready will be heard to say "I don’t want to read" or "it is too hard", and it is too hard if their development has not caught up with their environment. Teachers and parents alike want reading to be a wonderful thing, not something associated with pain or dread.
On the other side of reading is writing – not just interpreting someone else’s words but actually communicating our own words. The ability to label things with our own name and discern others’ names, is fascinating and fun. You will often find the first words children want to read and write over and over again are their own names and those of their friends and families. Be patient and give them lots of paper!
Math concepts also take a large leap this year as children find the usefulness of counting, in particular. Children often find great pleasure in calendars, lists, and directions at this age, insisting that actions are completed in the correct order. A home calendar with special days marked in colors or with stickers helps children "count down" to events and gives them a sense of control over their environment. They often want to check over and over – how many days until the special day? Let them count, and then mark it off! Let them help make checklists and grocery lists and mark off completed items, counting how many more days are left. Franklin Covey and the DayTimer manufacturers know you start learning these skills very early and that it is human nature to want to have a sense of our accomplishments and goals.
The five year old year is also about increased responsibility for our actions, our words, our work and our belongings. Letting your child take care of his or her "things" is very important. This is the perfect age to let them forget something and learn the consequences. If you rescue your child every time, you will still be doing it in middle school and college, when it is much more disastrous. Missing a meal or not getting to do something because we have the wrong clothes or shoes is hard to accept at first, but these are lessons that will last a life time.