September 11, 2014 | 10:18 am

Five things to Know about Your Five-Year-Old

Last year I wrote a newsletter article about our amazing five-year-old members. We have a population surge, all vintage 2009, and they are all entering kindergarten this year. With that in mind, here are some key things to know about our fantastic fives:

(Adapted from The Secret of Play: How to Raise Smart, Healthy, Caring Kids from Birth to Age 12 by Ann Pleshette Murphy)

  1. Kindergartners are still growing their internal moral compass. They are "preoccupied with rules, fairness, good guys, and bad guys”. Murphy notes that “Five-year-olds who ‘cheat’ at games are figuring out a moral code.”
  2. Kindergartners need times during the day to be bored. “Unstructured and unrushed time—plain old boredom—encourages your child to invent, create, and explore his/her interests at his/her own pace.” And Murphy gives this great tip that goes against our natural instincts: “Most importantly, leave your child alone when he is really engrossed in something. Experts call this ‘flow,’ being so totally wrapped up in what you’re doing that you lose track of time. This state of mind is a very satisfying place, so try not to interrupt, even if that occasionally means skipping a bath."
  3. In the fifth year of life, your child is beginning to make sense of family connections, studying other families, and noticing differences and similarities. You can help your child understand their support system by explaining links to the important adults in his/her life. These may not be biologically related family members, especially in our urban, transient culture, but Murphy notes that studies indicate that “the more caring adults your child has in her life, the better off she’ll be."
  4. Kindergarten is a common place to see self-soothing behaviors. Transitioning from pre-school to kindergarten can be a tough experience, and our five-year-olds often cope by nail-biting, thumb-sucking, nose-picking, and other habits.The Secret of Play recommends that we keep those little hands busy with small toys, modeling clay, and other fidgets. It is also important to deal with the underlying stresses that increase such behaviors. Kindergarten is a great age to teach basic yoga, breathing techniques, and other ways of managing anxiety.
  5. Five-year-olds walk. Unlike their younger siblings, five-year-olds don’t get the benefit of cruising in a stroller anymore and this brings new safety challenges to the forefront. Five-year-olds need constant reminders about street safety including cars, crossing intersections, strangers, subways, and simply getting lost. Murphy suggests playing games together that require the child to “freeze” on command. Attune your child to that word. Our children hear the word “stop” all day long and often ignore it. But if they “freeze" on command, then they may react more quickly in a real time of danger.

The Secret of Play is available in my office and offers some great ways to engage your child’s growing mind. For more tips, check it out!