The Social and Emotional Stages of Development for 5 & 6 Year Olds
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Dr. Seuss
“Check this out!”
Stepping onto the mats at the start of Basic SKILLZ class one recent evening, I was met with an excited group of 5-6 year olds, ready to demonstrate their latest and greatest superhero moves with a Ninja twist!
One by one, I held space for their best “Spidey” hero moves, Hulk smashes, Iron Man moves and more. “Wow, you are all so amazing!” I exclaimed to a class full of beaming Ninjas, bursting with pride in their epic moves and abilities.
5-6 year olds are entering a unique season of growth and development at this age and stage of development, both emotionally and socially as their physical bodies and brains continue to evolve. Though their actions may seem silly or overexcited as they try to gain our attention, bear in mind that kiddos in this season of their journey are truly and genuinely seeking the reassurance and validation of being seen, heard and known by the trusted adults in their life.
What else is happening emotionally and socially during these incredible years of 5-6 years old?
5-6 Year Olds: Emotional Development
During the years of five and six, children often exhibit a higher sensitivity to criticism and an increased need for reassurance from trusted adults.
At this stage of our children’s emotional development, we tend to see:
· An increased level of maturation in their learned vocabulary when compared to their younger peers thus lending itself to expression of self in less physical ways.
· Speaking before thinking though with little to no filter!
· Due to an underdeveloped pre-frontal cortex in 5-6 year olds brains, their emotional responses tend to be more impulsive and reactive when compared to their older peers who are able to discern the moving parts of a situation with greater clarity and measured responsiveness.
Remember, 5-6 year olds tend to live entirely in the moment, without care or concern, worry or anxiety as we might see at higher levels in older kiddos and adults. With that said, it is important to also remember their developing mind and the accompanying development of their emotional response system is still very much under construction.
How we respond as parents to their tough moments is setting the stage for the ongoing nurturing, support and care of their emotional development.
5-6 Year Olds: Social Development
At this age and stage of development, children though expanding their knowledge and corresponding vocabulary base, still often think before they speak with little to no filter. This often lends itself to challenges in having good sportsmanship during group play.
Because of their lack of filter at times, saying what they think and feel may come off as harsh or unkind to friends and family. Again, bear in mind the amount of construction, learning, growing, developing and maturing the brain is undergoing at this age and stage of development. It. Is. A. Lot! And while the words come out and off as harsh at times, that is typically not at the root of their intention. Redirecting and prompting, “What’s a better choice of words?” is a key helper phrase often accompanying this age and stage of development.
Knowing what we know about the emotional and social stages of development for 5-6 year olds, how are our team of Pediatric Ninja Specialists supporting children on and beyond the mats to flourish in these areas?
1. The Safe Zone
You are your child’s #1. Period. You are their safest person to hold the safest space in the good moments and the hard ones. But on and beyond the mats, we create intentional space for these littles to be their authentic selves with us too! By creating a safe, supportive environment where it is okay to express themselves and their emotions, to make mistakes, to fall down and get back up, we are creating a safe zone, network of support that they are able to turn to as they continue to move through the developing years of adolescence. This is critically important as their social sphere expands, to have the tribe of support you desire for your child ready and accessible to them; one which is safe for them to run to in times of great joy but also challenges.
By encouraging activities where friends must work together, we are actively developing the teamwork muscle at a young age! This while certainly includes the physical, play element is also paying close attention to the verbal, social, interactive piece. Learning how to communicate effectively and in consideration of others thoughts, feelings and abilities takes practice. It is not a skill that we are born with, it’s learned! Holding space for friends to be able to learn how to talk to their peers in a spirit of encouragement and support is a huge focus of not only our Teamwork Basic SKILLZ Stripe but of the 5-6 year olds overall growth and development in general.
3. A job well done!
Growing up is a big deal! Our kids are literally transforming, evolving before our eyes every single day. Showing our care, our excitement and our genuine joy for their hard work, effort and accomplishments is vital at this age and stage of development. This is why you see our instructors jumping up and down, giving high fives, hugs and BIG praise for our Ninjas every time they conquer and achieve big things in their world! Because the lesson of taking pride in their accomplishments when learned at a young age will be the fire in their belly that is needed far beyond the mats when they are reaching for their greatest stars, goals and dreams down the road of their epic life’s journey.
Every part of why we do what we do is with the purposeful intention of ensuring the whole mind, body and spirit of your child is supported.
Wondering how you can support your child’s emotional and social development even more? Our team is standing by to help! Please do not hesitate to reach out. We are here for you every step of the way!
About the Author
Meg Klettke is the proud owner alongside her husband, Alex of Family Strong Sussex, a SKILLZ Lifetime Gold studio in Southeastern Wisconsin. With a background in traditional and alternative therapeutics, Meg is an active advocate for today’s youth. Her passion for supporting and nurturing the whole child resonates through all she does as a Proud Ninja Mom of two boys with special needs, Certified Pediatric Ninja Specialist and Content Creator for SKILLZ Worldwide.