Understanding 5 and 6-year-old children:
This is an exciting but challenging age for children as they are often moving from an unstructured pre-school environment to a structured kindergarten or 1st-grade program. It is also when they start to feel like a “big kid”.
Physically: They have developed basic coordination of the arms, legs, and core but often lack strength. They are also developing better balance but may frequently trip and fall because they are still developing their fine motor skills. When we observe this age group in classes, we understand that they will struggle to do some techniques with precision, and will encourage them when they put forth their best effort.
Intellectually: By this age children have developed 60-80% of their vocabulary and while they are capable of having long conversations, that doesn’t mean that they understand what they are saying or hearing. For this age group, the most effective way to ask them to perform tasks is to limit the number of instructions we give them at one time. At home, this means that instructions like “Put your PJ’s on, brush your teeth and get ready for bed” will result in those tasks actually getting done. When we work with these students we try to keep our instructions short and to the point.
Emotionally: Children in this age bracket are generally in tune with their emotions, they are motivated by making parents, teachers and other “authority” figures proud. Their confidence in themselves is a by-product of the feedback they receive from their “authority” figures which is why it’s important to get them refocused without yelling or scolding them. Many times they will interrupt adult conversations, not because they lack self-control, but because they are trying to connect to us or relate to what we are saying. As instructors, we are aware of the power of our words and mindful of them when re-focusing students.
Socially: 5-6-year-olds love the spotlight, which is why they are excited when they win and downcast when they lose. It is also why they sometimes cheat to be the first one done. We encourage fair play by reminding students “it’s more important to complete the task correctly, then to be the first one done”, “If you win, don’t brag about it, congratulate the other students for doing their best”, “If you lose don’t be upset with yourself, be happy for the person who won and congratulate them.”
Please remember that the Stages of Development are general guidelines and as all children are unique, where they are in their development will vary from child to child.