Growth & Development: 6-8 Years
Middle childhood brings many changes to a child's life. Developing independence from family becomes more important now. Events such as starting school bring children this age into regular contact with the larger world. Friendships become more and more important. Physical, social, and mental skills develop rapidly at this time. This is a critical time for children to develop confidence in all areas of life, such as through friends, schoolwork, and sports.
How to Support Your Child's Learning Process
- Show affection for your child. Recognize her accomplishments.
- Help your child develop a sense of responsibility—ask him to help with household tasks, such as setting the table.
- Talk with your child about school, friends, and things she looks forward to in the future.
- Talk with your child about respecting others. Encourage him to help people in need.
- Help your child set her own achievable goals—she'll learn to take pride in herself and rely less on approval or reward from others.
- Make clear rules and stick to them, such as how long your child can watch TV or when he has to go to bed. Be clear about what behavior is okay and what is not okay.
- Help your child learn patience by letting others go first or by finishing a task before going out to play.
- Encourage him to think about possible consequences before acting.
- Do fun things together as a family, such as playing games, reading, and going to events in your community.
- Get involved with your child's school. Meet the teachers and staff to understand the learning goals and how you and the school can work together to help your child do well.
- Continue reading to your child. As your child learns to read, take turns reading to each other.
- Use discipline to guide and protect your child, rather than punishment to make her feel badly about herself.
- Support your child in taking on new challenges. Encourage him to solve problems, such as a disagreement with another child, on his own.
Children develop at their own paces. These developmental milestones are meant to give you a general idea of the changes you can expect in the areas listed below when your child is between six and eight years. Remember - there is a range of development that is considered “typical” for children. If you ever have questions regarding your child's skills, please contact your pediatrician.
Social and Emotional Development
- More independence from parents and family
- Stronger sense of right and wrong
- Increased ability to engage in competition
- Beginning awareness of the future – children are learning to plan ahead
- Growing understanding about one's place in the world
- More attention to friendships and teamwork
- Start to have feelings about how they look and how they are growing
- Grow an average of 2.5 inches per year
- Start gaining weight faster at age 8 or 9
- Large muscles in arms and legs are more developed than small muscles - children can bounce a ball and run, but it is difficult to do both at the same time.
- Even though children are tired, they may not want to rest. You will need to plan time for them to rest.
- Rapid development of mental skills
- Greater ability to describe experiences and talk about thoughts and feelings
- Less focus on one's self and more concern for others
- Begin to think logically
Speech and Language
- Comprehension and use of language becomes more sophisticated
- Share opinions in clear speech
(adapted from kidshealth.org)
Kids this age are especially interested in pregnancy, birth, and gender roles — kids may play with (boys with boys) or across (girls with boys) genders. This is also the age where their peers and the media begin to have a bigger influence on sexual attitudes. If you aren't a reliable resource, your child may turn to a peer or perhaps an older child for information about sex, sexual organs, and reproduction — and chances are slim that the facts will be correct and that the words learned will meet your approval!
If your school-age child isn't asking you about sex, consider initiating some appropriate conversations. If you've previously said that a man and woman make a baby, now your child might want to know how. As always, be honest — kids of this age will jump to their own conclusions when they're missing information. It's not uncommon for kids in elementary school to assume that babies are made when a man and woman lie next to each other, sleep in the same bed, hold hands, kiss, or swim together.
This information was compiled by Sunindia Bhalla, and reviewed by the Program Staff of the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund.