4–5 years old: Social development

4–5 years old: Social development

Your child’s social development at 4–5 years old. Follow your child’s development step-by-step.

Social development allows children to build harmonious, positive relationships with others. As kids develop socially, they learn how to communicate and manage their emotions, consider other points of view before acting, resolve conflicts, cooperate, and participate in society. A child’s temperament, primarily determined by genetics, influences how they interact with others from an early age. However, they continue to develop social skills as they grow, learning from personal experiences and the people around them—namely, their parents and family members.

Social development: 4–5 years old

At this age:

  • Your child is able to play games with simple rules.
  • They cooperate with other children.
Remember that not all children develop the same skills at the same speed. The material on this website is for general information purposes only. If you’re concerned about your child’s development, speak with a doctor.
  • They get attached to their playmates, although these relationships remain superficial.
  • They become interested in gender differences and may play games that involve undressing with other children.
  • They enjoy role-playing games with other children.
  • They start to understand the concept of sharing because they’re better at recognizing the needs of others.

Over the next few months, your child will begin to do the following:

  • Explain the rules of a game or activity to others.
  • Work with 2 or 3 children to plan a game with a common goal.
  • Learn good social behaviours, such as apologizing for things they did without meaning to.
  • Understand the difference between right and wrong.
  • Listen when people speak to them and understand their thoughts, wishes, goals, and feelings.
  • Show empathy (e.g., be able to put themselves in another person’s shoes).
  • Resolve conflicts with other children on their own.
Find out how to support your child’s social development through books. (In French)

How can you help your child progress?

Each child is different and develops at their own pace. That said, you can help foster your child’s development by adopting the Comfort, Play, and Teach parenting approach, which can easily be integrated into your daily routine. The table below outlines small, age-specific actions you can take that will benefit your child’s social development.

When you encourage your child to make up stories by drawing pictures or telling them to others,
they begin to use their imagination.
When you tell your child that you’re proud of them every time they show that they are able to do the right thing,
they feel proud of themselves and gain awareness of their strengths and abilities.
When you encourage your child to play make-believe by providing them with items they can use to pretend they’re visiting a restaurant, grocery store, or doctor’s office,
they get to practise solving problems, making decisions, and holding conversations.
When you provide your child with plenty of opportunities to interact with other children their age,
they get to develop their social skills as they play with their peers.
When you encourage your child not to give up when they’re playing or working with others,
they learn to stick with it, especially when others are counting on them.
When you create opportunities for your child to play with younger children,
they discover their leadership skills.


Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Annie Goulet, psychologist
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: March 2020


Photo: GettyImages/FatCamera



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  • Ferland, Francine. Et si on jouait? : Le jeu au coeur du développement de l’enfant. 3rd ed., Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2018, 240 pp.
  • Ferland, Francine. Le développement de l’enfant au quotidien : de 0 à 6 ans. 2nd ed., Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2018, 264 pp.
  • Passeport Santé. “L’enfant de 4 ans : tout ce qui a changé depuis la naissance.” 2017. www.passeportsante.net
  • Passeport Santé. “L’enfant de 5 ans : qu’est-ce qui change à cet âge?” 2017. www.passeportsante.net
  • Canadian Paediatric Society. Caring for Kids. “Your child’s development: What to expect.” www.caringforkids.cps.ca
  • Université de Montréal. “Portail enfance et familles : Les étapes de développement de l’enfant de la naissance à l’adolescence.” www.portailenfance.ca