Five-year-olds get a charge out of riddles and jokes.

Intellectual Development for 5 Years Olds

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

If you are impressed with your early preschooler's brain power, you'll be tempted to notify everyone on your phone or email contact list about the vast improvements in the intellectual development of your 5-year old. The explosion in cognitive skills occurs at the age most kids start kindergarten. The ability to make up and share stories and recite his phone number and address only begin to scratch the surface of the average 5-year-old's mental capacity.


The typical 5-year-old may not be able to recite the "Pledge of Allegiance" quite yet, but speaking in sentences of at least five words but probably no more than eight is normal. As a natural story teller, you may notice your child's tales getting longer and more descriptive. A 5-year-old gets a charge out of being disagreeable and works hard to get his point of view across.

Identifying at least four basic colors like green, blue, red and yellow easily roll off the tongue of a child about to enter kindergarten. Tracing pictures and drawing roughly recognizable pictures of people, animals and organizing objects from smallest to biggest can be thrilling at this age. With a little prodding, a 5-year-old can recognize a few numbers and some letters of the alphabet.


A 5-year-old can understand an impressive 13,000 words or more, according to the National Network for Child Care. Clocks and calendars take on new meaning now that he has grasped the concept of time. He knows what you're talking about when you refer to yesterday, today and tomorrow. Comparative terms like good, better and best make sense at this age. A 5-year-old knows that stories have a beginning, middle and end. They can remember stories and are more than happy to give you a recap.

Being well aware of the usefulness of household items like stoves, refrigerators and the yummy food contained inside is common age at 5. Kids this age also know that money has value that can pay for candy, toys and other desirable items.


Don't pull your hair out if your child isn't developing at the rate provided in chart estimates. Intellectual growth like any other developmental milestone varies from child to child. Since each child is unique, it's impossible to know precisely when your 5-year-old will master certain intellectual skills.

Your child may be required to take a school readiness test before starting kindergarten. Such tests are not ironclad, but they can give you an idea on your child's intellectual development compared to other 5-year-olds.

Intellect and the Disadvantaged or Disabled Child

Delayed speech, speech impairments, behavioral issues like ADHD, poverty and minimal parental education can all affect a 5-year-old's learning abilities and increase her risk of problems in school, reports the Mayo Clinic. Boys may find school more challenging than girls.

Talk to your health care provider if your child is unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy; can't understand simple directives such as "Get the toy under the bed" or "Put the plate in the sink"; or can't recite his first and last name. Such issues can be signs of mental health problems or developmental delays that may require professional intervention.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

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