Emotional & Social Development Milestones for 4- & 5-Year-Olds

Updated April 17, 2017

Developmental milestones are a set of skills and tasks achieved by children within a certain age range. For example, most 4- and 5-year-olds reach important emotional and social milestones, such as asserting greater independence, interacting cooperatively with other children and learning to distinguish fantasy from reality. Milestones are guidelines for gauging a child's proper development. However, every child develops differently and reaches milestones at their own pace.

Emotional Milestones for 4-Year-Olds

By age 4, children are capable of viewing themselves as a whole person, with a mind, body and feelings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They also have difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality, resulting in unfamiliar images often being referred to as "monsters."

Social Milestones for 4-Year-Olds

Four-year-olds increasingly engage in fantasy play, in which they may imitate behaviours observed in their mothers and fathers. They also begin to assert greater independence from parents, including dressing and undressing themselves and attempting to negotiate solutions to problems. At this age, a child is able to cooperate with other children and make friends, possibly even a best friend.

Emotional Milestones for 5-Year-Olds

By age 5, children are capable of distinguishing between genders. They are also able to separate fantasy from reality. Five-year-olds may alternate between being demanding and eagerly cooperative, according to the CDC.

Social Milestones for 5-Year-Olds

Five-year-olds have a greater understanding of rules and are more likely to agree with them. They also begin to seek the approval of friends and prefer imitating the behaviours of friends instead of parents. By this age, a child may want to complete tasks alone, such as walking to a next-door neighbour's house.


While every child develops at their own pace, parents are often the first to notice developmental delays, such as failing to reach milestones or a loss of previous skills. These delays may be corrected if caught early. If you are concerned about your child's development, schedule an appointment with his doctor. The doctor can refer you to specialists and other resources to help with your child's development.

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About the Author

Kelly Smith has been writing professionally since 2010. She writes for various websites, specializing in health and literature. Smith is a certified pharmacy technician with more than five years of professional experience. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in multimedia communications from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia.