5 Years

Does your 5-year old

  • follow group directions – “half the class gets a toy”?
  • understand directions involving “if…then” – “If you’re wearing runners, then line up for gym”?
  • describe past, present and future events in detail?
  • seek to please  friends?”
  • show increasing independence in friendships (e.g. visiting a neighbour without supervision)?
  • use almost all of the sounds of their first language with few to no errors?
  • know all the letters of the alphabet?
  • identify the sounds at the beginning of some words – “Pop starts with the ‘puh’ sound?”


If your child does not do one or several of the above, speak with your child’s Primary Care Provider (doctor, nurse), contact your child’s school for support or contact Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 or 613-PARENTS for more information.



Also, look out for any of these red flags:

  • Limited eye gaze and/or limited shared interest in others
  • Repeats exactly what you say instead of responding to questions or comments
  • Lack of interest in or contact with other children of the same age during play
  • Does not look at you when listening or speaking
  • Makes noises or uses gestures to show what they want instead of using words or sentences
  • May talk but remarks may not be relevant to the conversation
  • Repetitive  play or movement behaviours
  • Limited sequenced pretend play
  • Any loss of any social and/or language skills


If you have noticed any of these red flags, your child may be dealing with a developmental issue as well as a language delay and will need more support.  An immediate referral to the Children’s Treatment Centre (CTC) for a developmental assessment might be required. Contact the CHEO Access Team at 613-737-2757.


Here are a few quick strategies to help your 5-year old learn to communicate:

  • Encourage your child to start a conversation and follow their lead by asking questions, adding new information and waiting for an answer.
  • Model correct sounds and grammar for your child.
  • Cook with your child.  Give simple cooking tasks like washing the apples or tearing the lettuce.  Talk about the steps involved.
  • Look for letters in books, on DVDs and on street signs.  Make the sounds for the letters (e.g. “T” sounds like “tuh”)
  • Check out our “Strategies” and “Learning Tools” sections for other strategies and resources!