25 Milestones of the First 5 Years

For Older Kids...

Teach children to tie their shoes by kindergarten. According to Jody L. Jensen, PhD, kids should have the cognitive and manipulative skills necessary to start learning between the ages of 4 and 5, although mastery might not come until they're past their fifth birthday. But the more Velcro shoes you buy, and the fewer fine-motor skills you rehearse (writing letters, for example), the longer mastery will take.

Teach kids to ride a two-wheeler as young as age 4. While an older child may be more ready to have the training wheels removed (and may also show better judgment when riding), most 4-year-olds have sufficient balance and the motor development needed to pedal unassisted.

Sign up for swim lessons once your child turns 4. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend swim classes for children younger than 4, primarily because they aren't really coordinated enough to swim on their own yet, and parents may be less vigilant around water because they think their child can swim. Any swim classes for children younger than 4 should be thought of as an opportunity for enjoyment and adjustment to water -- not instruction.

Let your child answer the phone at age 4, because that's when 100 percent of a child's speech can be understood by strangers, according to Mark Widome, MD. If you want them to take a message, you'll have to wait until they can write and spell, even crudely -- probably not until age 7.

Let a child chew gum at age 5. "Before 3, a piece of gum could still pose a choking hazard. Between 3 and 4, chances are that much more gum will be swallowed than chewed, so age 5 is your best bet," says Dr. Widome.

Start giving a child an allowance during elementary school, when kids start to learn about money and want to spend it. "An allowance is a great tool to help teach a first-grader about saving, setting goals and priorities, and making choices, and it can help you pass on your family's values about money," says Corinna Jenkins Tucker, PhD.

Susan Brody is a writer in Milburn, New Jersey.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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