The Growing Child: School-Age (6 to 12 Years)

The Growing Child: School-Age (6 to 12 Years)

The Growing Child: School-Age (6 to 12 Years) | Johns Hopkins Medicine

As your child continues to grow, you will notice new and exciting abilities that your child develops. While children may progress at different rates and have diverse interests, the following are some of the common milestones children may reach in this age group:

  • 6- to 7-year-olds:
    • Enjoys many activities and stays busy
    • s to paint and draw
    • May lose first tooth
    • Vision is as sharp as an adult's vision
    • Practices skills in order to become better
    • Jumps rope
    • Rides a bike
  • 8- to 9-year-olds:

    • More graceful with movements and abilities
    • Jumps, skips, and chases
    • Dresses and grooms self completely
    • Can use tools (i.e., hammer, screwdriver)
  • 10- to 12-year-olds:

    • Remainder of adult teeth will develop
    • s to sew and paint

As children enter into school-age, their abilities and understanding of concepts and the world around them continue to grow. While children may progress at different rates, the following are some of the common milestones children may reach in this age group:

  • 6- to 7-year-olds:
    • Understands concept of numbers
    • Knows daytime and nighttime
    • Knows right and left hands
    • Can copy complex shapes, such as a diamond
    • Can tell time
    • Can understand commands with three separate instructions
    • Can explain objects and their use
    • Can repeat three numbers backwards
    • Can read age-appropriate books and/or materials
  • 8- to 9-year-olds:

    • Can count backwards
    • Knows the date
    • Reads more and enjoys reading
    • Understands fractions
    • Understands concept of space
    • Draws and paints
    • Can name months and days of week, in order
    • Enjoys collecting objects
  • 10- to 12-year-olds:

    • Writes stories
    • s to write letters
    • Reads well
    • Enjoys using the telephone

A very important part of growing up is the ability to interact and socialize with others. During the school-age years, parents will see a transition in their child as he or she moves from playing alone to having multiple friends and social groups.

While friendships become more important, the child is still fond of his or her parents and s being part of a family.

While every child is unique and will develop different personalities, the following are some of the common behavioral traits that may be present in your child:

  • 6- to 7-year-olds:
    • Cooperates and shares
    • Jealous of others and siblings
    • s to copy adults
    • s to play alone, but friends are becoming important
    • Plays with friends of the same gender
    • May have occasional temper tantrums
    • Modest about body
    • s to play board games
  • 8- to 9-year-olds:

    • s competition and games
    • Starts to mix friends and play with children of the opposite gender
    • Modest about body
    • Enjoys clubs and groups, such as Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts
    • Becoming interested in boy-girl relationships, but does not admit it
  • 10- to 12-year-olds:

    • Friends are very important; may have a best friend
    • Increased interest in the opposite gender
    • s and respects parents
    • Enjoys talking to others

Consider the following as ways to foster your school-aged child's social abilities:

  • Set and provide appropriate limits, guidelines, and expectations and consistently enforce using appropriate consequences.
  • Model appropriate behavior.
  • Offer compliments for your child being cooperative and for any personal achievements.
  • Help your child choose activities that are appropriate for your child's abilities.
  • Encourage your child to talk with you and be open with his or her feelings.
  • Encourage your child to read and read with your child.
  • Encourage your child to get involved with hobbies and other activities.
  • Encourage physical activity.
  • Encourage self-discipline; expect your child to follow rules that are set.
  • Teach your child to respect and listen to authority figures.
  • Encourage your child to talk about peer pressure and help set guidelines to deal with peer pressure.
  • Spend uninterrupted time together?giving full attention to your child.
  • Limit television, video, and computer time.


How Children Grow and Develop at Age 8

The Growing Child: School-Age (6 to 12 Years) | Johns Hopkins Medicine

For many children, third grade marks a growth spurt—physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Most 8-year-olds show great gains in their cognitive development and tend to be able to ask questions until they have enough information to draw conclusions about what they’re learning.

They’re also slowly budding into more mature children, making it an interesting year for both them and their parents.

Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

For 8-year-old children, physical development is more about refinement of skills, coordination, and muscle control rather than huge changes. They begin to look “big kids,” but puberty is still a couple of years away for most of them.

Children with natural athletic potential may show their abilities at this developmental stage as their physical skills become more precise and accurate. In fact, this is often the age at which children decide whether they are athletic or not and choose to participate in or avoid sports.

Either way, it's important for parents to encourage physical activity. Even if your child isn't an athlete, he or she can still enjoy running, swimming, biking, and many other types of non-sports-related physical fun.

  • More fluid combination of locomotor and motor skills (Kids can turn, spin and jump, and perform tasks that help them in sports.)
  • Coordination continues to improve.
  • Improved small muscle control continues to be refined, making activities such as playing musical instruments or using tools much easier and enjoyable.

Some 8-year-olds may become more aware of body image, and their confidence about their appearance may affect how they feel about themselves and their relationships with their peers. It’s important to talk about health, rather than appearance, and help your child find activities that help them feel good about themselves.

An 8-year-old may show more sophisticated and complex emotions and interactions. Most are able to mask their true thoughts or emotions to spare someone’s feelings. For example, a child who doesn’t a present may still smile and thank the gift giver.

This is also the time when your child may be developing a more sophisticated sense of themselves in the world. Their interests, talents, friends, and relationships with family members help them establish a clear self-identity. It's also the beginning of desiring privacy and flip-flopping between self-confidence and self-doubt.

  • May begin to desire more privacy
  • Seeks direct physical contact from caregivers when under stress, but may resist physical contact at other times
  • Becomes more balanced in coping with frustration, failure, and disappointment

Praise your child for coping with emotions in a healthy way. Say, “Great job taking a break for a minute when you were frustrated with your math homework.” Look for opportunities to keep teaching your child more sophisticated emotion regulation skills.

This is the phase of social development where many children love being a part of social groups. In general, 8-year-old children enjoy school and will count on and value relationships with a few close friends and classmates, and may gravitate primarily toward friendships with peers of the same gender.

Parents should be on the lookout for problems such as school refusal, as this may indicate learning difficulties or being bullied at school. This is also a good age at which to discuss respecting others.

You may begin to see a newfound sense of self-confidence in your 8-year-old child as they express their opinions about people and things around them. They may pay more attention to news events and want to share their thoughts on current event topics.

This is also the time that kids may begin to ask for sleepovers, although parents should not be surprised if some children want to go back home and do not make it through the entire night at a friend’s house. Many children are still attached to their mom, dad, and home at this age and may not yet be emotionally ready to handle being away from these comforts, even though they may wish to be.

Eight-year-old children are still developing an understanding of what is “wrong” or “right,” and lying or other behavior requiring discipline may need to be corrected.

  • Begins to understand how someone else feels in a given situation and will be more capable of placing themselves in another person’s shoes
  • Exhibits a wide spectrum of pro-social skills including, being generous, supportive, and kind
  • Desires to adhere strictly to rules and be “fair,” which can sometimes lead to conflicts during organized group play

By age 8, many kids develop gender stereotypes such as “boys become doctors” and “girls become nurses.” It’s important to pay attention to what your child is learning from media in this regard and to point out characters and people in their own lives who prove these blanket assumptions wrong.

Eight-year-olds usually make great gains in their cognitive development. Most of them begin to have an understanding of money, both literally and conceptually. While counting money can be a difficult skill to learn, kids often begin to understand that it takes money to buy items.

Your child’s ability to think will also be affected by their emotions at this age. They may have difficulty focusing when they're worried or may struggle to think about their options when feeling angry.

Most kids this age are able to tell time and exhibit a better understanding of how long time increments are. When you say, “You have 10 more minutes until we have to leave,” or “Your birthday is three days away,” your child will have a greater understanding of what that means than he might have before.

Most 8-year-olds continue to rapidly develop their vocabularies, with an estimated 3,000 new words learned during the year. Children who read a lot expand their vocabularies the fastest.

Children also begin to show the ability to play on words and they exhibit verbal humor. They develop a better sense of irony—the use of a word to convey the opposite of its literal meaning. 

The way kids play at age 8 depends greatly on the activities they’ve been exposed to. While some kids may love playing sports with their friends, others may find great joy in doing art projects or creating music. Many kids this age love to dance, perform, and sing.

  • Able to focus on a task for an hour or more
  • Understands more about their place in the world
  • Has a greater capacity to do mental math, as well as to work with abstract and larger (three-digit) numbers

Let your child use their budding problem-solving skills to tackle some of the challenges they encounter on their own. Whether they keep forgetting their soccer cleats for practice or don’t know how to complete their science fair project, encourage them to brainstorm potential solutions. Then, help them choose a strategy to try.

Your 8-year-old child is not quite an adolescent yet, but you may notice that they're increasingly more interested in their appearance. They may declare that they want to wear their hair longer or dress in a certain style.

Eight-year-olds may also show more interest in taking care of personal hygiene, and are developmentally capable of being responsible for personal care routines such as brushing their teeth and taking a shower.

You may want to supervise to make sure that they brush and floss well and clean all areas of their body thoroughly. But generally speaking, your child now has the coordination and motor skill development necessary to do a fairly good job cleaning and grooming their teeth, body, and hair.

While kids develop at slightly different rates, it’s important to keep an eye on your child’s progress. If your child seems to be behind physically, emotionally, socially, or cognitively, talk to your pediatrician.

If your child has serious difficulty managing their emotions (including anger), or if their social skills aren’t on par with those of peers, there may be a reason for concern.

Kids at this age who fall behind emotionally and socially may struggle to catch up without a little extra support.

Consider talking to your child's teacher or a child mental health professional to plan a course of action.

It’s best to err on the side of caution by expressing your concerns to a professional. From health issues to learning disabilities, early intervention can be key to a faster and easier resolution.

Watching an 8-year-old grow increasingly independent can be a joyful time for parents. And sometimes, it can bring about some sadness as you realize your baby is growing up.

But it’s important to promote independence as much as possible. Encourage your child to learn, grow, explore, and try new things. Provide plenty of support as they tackle new challenges. This is a great age to start letting them do things without parental involvement.


When Do Toddlers Start Self-Feeding?

The Growing Child: School-Age (6 to 12 Years) | Johns Hopkins Medicine

If your little one is getting ready to take a bite his babyhood by starting to feed himself, here's some food for thought about what to expect with this exciting milestone.

Your child is growing up and is continuing to hunger for a taste of independence. Each milestone a toddler meets is a move from stationary baby to a functioning little person. “A child being able to feed himself is an important aspect to his personal and social development,” says Jaeah Chung, M.D.

, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at Stony Brook Children's Hospital in Stony Brook, New York. “It helps him gain independence and build up a sense of autonomy.

” Another perk: “When a child is in control of feeding, he responds to natural cues for hunger and fullness,” says Tiffani Hays, director of pediatric nutrition at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore.

This is a huge help for parents, who can be anxious trying to figure out if the child has eaten enough. Plus, when a child gets the proper vitamins and essential nutrients, she will continue on the trajectory of growing and developing.

When your child starts to feed himself, he is tapping into his fine motor skills.

It can be a real giggle session watching your small fry learn to maneuver his way around a dinner plate, but every time he smashes bananas all over his face or spoons his favorite nibbles into his mouth, he's actually cementing muscle strength and coordination into his memory.

These skills will continue to improve far into childhood and help him with a lifetime of daily functions. Down the road, strong fine motor skills will help him write legibly, type on a computer keyboard, turn pages in a book, and brush his hair and teeth.

It can be exciting to have your sprout saddle up to the dinner table with you (now seating table for three!), but your child is not ready to feed herself until she can sit up comfortably and confidently on her own.

At around 8 to 12 months, your child will begin to use her thumb and index fingers to feed herself, Dr. Chung says. So, believe it or not, it's acceptable for her to start playing with her food using her fingers.

Between 13 to 15 months, she will start using a spoon, and by 18 months, she will start using her utensils much more consistently.

  • Boost Fine Motor Skills: 12-18 Months
  • Boost Fine Motor Skills: 18-24 Months

If your little guy starts reaching for your veggies and you notice his eyes focused on your food and your utensil movements, he's mentally prepping to start feeding himself.

And whenever he does start noshing on his own, prepare for — and expect — a mess! Your budding foodie will drop, spill, and smear food just about everywhere, so save the Emily Post dinner table etiquette for much later.

“Most children won't be able to feed themselves without spilling until 18 to 24 months of age,” Dr. Chung says. “And many children remain messy eaters into their third year.”

So when it comes to preparing the menu, start out with something small and soft, such as pasta, cooked vegetables, mashed potatoes, and scrambled eggs.

Gradually, as your tot's grip and grasp strengthen, you can give him a spoon and let him practice with thicker foods pudding, yogurt, and mashed potatoes. Stay away from foods such as grapes, peanuts, and popcorn, which could cause a choking hazard.

While your tot is strengthening his supper skills, mealtime can seem to last forever, so dish out a helping of patience.

Try to let him do it by himself, even if it seems there are more peas on the floor than in his mouth — it's important for your child to master feeding skills on his own. To prevent him from getting frustrated and giving up, make sure it hasn't been too long since his last feeding, so he's not overly hungry or tired, Hays says.

  • What to Expect at Age 1
  • What to Expect at Age 2

Your toddler may be at a risk for poor coordination of oral structures or delayed motor skills if he is:

– unable to eat food without gagging or choking

– has trouble moving food around in his mouth

– has difficulty chewing or swallowing

Watch out for any food intolerance or allergy, which can lead to a lack of interest in eating and feeding.

Rashes, hives, and wheezing are obvious signs that a food allergy may be to blame, but also look for subtler signs, such as a runny nose, circles under the eyes, swollen lips, and waking up with a stuffy nose.

If no one else in the house has a cold and the symptoms seemed to start after you introduced a certain food, your child may be having trouble with a particular item in his diet. If you notice any of these issues, discuss them with your pediatrician.

  • Gather Fun Utensils to Encourage Self-Feeding

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Why Autism Diagnosis Can Change as Children Grow Up

The Growing Child: School-Age (6 to 12 Years) | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Children with autism tend to also have other disorders, such as a learning disability or depression, which affect them in different ways as they age, a new study finds.

The findings may explain, in part, why children with autism often see a change in their diagnoses as they grow older, the study suggests.

The study was 1,366 children who had taken part in a national health survey who either were currently diagnosed with autism, or had been in the past but no longer had the diagnosis.

“Parents should have their child checked for other conditions to make sure an autism diagnosis is properly determined,” said study researcher Li-Ching Lee, a psychiatric epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“That way, a more appropriate intervention for the child can be planned as early as possible,” Lee said.

The study is published today (Jan. 23) in the journal Pediatrics.

Making a proper diagnosis can often be difficult

Autistic spectrum disorders — including autism, Asperger's syndrome and other developmental disorders — affect a child's ability to communicate and interact with people.

About 1 in 110 children in the U.S. is currently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Boys are four times more ly to have autism than girls.

Symptoms of co-existing medical conditions, such as learning disabilities, hearing and speech problems, depression and anxiety, have been shown to overlap with symptoms of autism, often making it difficult for doctors to make a proper diagnosis.

Previous studies have shown that children with autism have higher rates of co-existing conditions than normally developing children, and those with developmental delays who don't have autism.

How long an autism diagnosis lasts seem to vary over time. One study found that more than 10 percent of children diagnosed with autism at age 2 no longer had the disorder at age 9.

“We're not saying that a child who was diagnosed with autism at age 2 won’t have autism later in life,” said lead author Heather Close, a researcher at the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“But there are other mechanisms at work that we don't know about that could take place,” she said.

More than one diagnosis is ly

The new study included 2007 data from the National Survey of Children's Health. Parents were surveyed about their child's physical and mental health, current and past medical, behavioral and developmental diagnoses and health care needs.

Researchers looked at data for children in three age groups, including young children who were 3 to 5 years old, children who were 6 to 11 years old and teenagers who were 12 to 17 years old.

They found that young children with a current diagnosis of autism were 11 times more ly to have a learning disability, and nine times more ly to have another developmental delay, than young children diagnosed with autism in the past who no longer had a diagnosis.

Of those in the 6- to 11-year old group, children with a current diagnosis of autism were almost four times more ly to have a past speech problem and suffer from anxiety than those who no longer had a diagnosis.

And among teenagers, those with a current diagnosis of autism were almost four times more ly to have speech problems, and 10 times more ly to have epilepsy than those who no longer had a diagnosis.

“This study looks at a broader population of kids,” than previous work, said Tristram Smith, a behavior specialist at the University of Rochester, who was not part of the study.

“It shows that developmental delay and seizures are what can increase the lihood that autism will stay in someone who has a current diagnosis,” Smith said.

Smith said he recommends that parents learn to understand that diagnoses can change, or there can be more than one.

“Parents are often looking for that one answer,” he said. “Reality is, it's a moving target, and it's complicated. It can be more than one diagnosis at one time, or it can be different diagnoses at different times too.”

Pass it on: Certain co-existing conditions could ly lead to a change in autism diagnosis.

This story was provided by MyHealthNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience. Follow MyHealthNewsDaily on @MyHealth_MHND. Find us on .


The Age of Reason

The Growing Child: School-Age (6 to 12 Years) | Johns Hopkins Medicine

The first few years of parenting are all about commemorating our children hitting big milestones. We celebrate their first birthdays (and our surviving a full year on less sleep!) with smash cakes and a huge party. We mark the start of their first day of kindergarten with tons of photos. We make a giant fuss the first time the tooth fairy drops by for a visit.

But there’s another big milestone our kids cross on the path towards adolescence that not many parents are aware of — when a child reaches the developmental stage known as the “age of reason.”

Around the age of seven, give or take a year, children enter a developmental phase known as the age of reason.

“The age of reason refers to the developmental cognitive, emotional, and moral stage in which children become more capable of rational thought, have internalized a conscience, and have better capacity to control impulses (than in previous stages),” explains Dana Dorfman, PhD, psychotherapist, and co-host of the podcast 2 Moms on the Couch.

It’s the time when a child starts to truly grasp the difference between right and wrong, and begins to realize that other people have their own feelings that might not match his or hers.

Yes, your stellar parenting deserves some credit for your child’s new-found abilities to listen when you ask her to clear her breakfast dishes or to stop using the cat as a soccer ball. But a lot of what’s causing these big changes in the way your child thinks and behaves has to do with biology — especially in how her brain is developing.

“Around age seven, there is significant neurological growth in the temporal and frontal lobes, both of which contribute to cognitive capacities,” explains Dr. Dorfman. “The lobes increase in connectivity and connection to each other, paving new neural pathways; these connections allow for increased ability to process emotion.”

The term “age of reason” was first described in a 1976 article by child psychiatrists Theodore Shapiro and Richard Perry titled “Latency Revisited: The Age of Seven, Plus or Minus One.”

But the age of seven has been considered the age where common sense and maturity start to kick in, for centuries. In Medieval times, court apprenticeships began at age seven.

Under English Common Law, children under seven weren’t considered responsible for their crimes.

Turning seven can even be symbolic within a child’s religious upbringing, as it’s the age around when the Catholic Church offers first Communion.

One way to figure out if your child has reached this age of development is keep an ear open for any suspicious questions about fairies, Santa Claus, or the monster his older brother swears is living in the basement. While your child's imagination can still roam free, his belief in make-believe may start to fade.

“Despite their wish to maintain childhood wonder, latency age (7- or 8-year old) kids are increasingly able to problem solve, identify patterns and apply logic to questions,” explains Dr. Dorfman. “Thus, their beliefs in imaginary characters, Santa and monsters diminishes during this time.”

Preschoolers can be real sweethearts — most of the time. They’re big fans of giving hugs and kisses, but when you ask them for their opinion, they’ll give you the unfiltered truth, no matter how harsh it is. (My ego still hasn’t recovered from the time my then 4-year-old told me my bright orange sweater made me “look a pumpkin.” He wasn’t wrong, but still — oof!)

This “no-filter” mode shuts off as kids approach age seven, thanks to your child’s increased capacity for empathy. “With their newfound conscience and ability to differentiate between reality and fantasy, they are more capable of ‘concealing’ the truth — to protect themselves or others,” says Dr. Dorfman.

This developmental stage also finds kids looking at the concepts of good and bad as distinct issues. “Their sense of right and wrong is inflexible and concrete.

 They are unable to sense subtlety, nuance and gray; they are dichotomous (good/bad, right/wrong) and linear in their thinking,” explains Dr. Dorfman.

For example, If the dog typically isn’t allowed on the couch they might get quite upset if they see the dog sitting there, even if mom or dad okayed it, as it’s “against the rules.”

I’m sure I’m not the only mom who gets a little weepy at the idea of her littles starting to ask question about Santa Claus. But there’s a bright side to the little adult your child is becoming.

“They've developed an internalized sense of right and wrong and are not as reliant on external forces to guide them,” says Dr. Dorfman. These newfound skills make it easier for kids to compromise on their own, meaning less tug of war over toys on the playground, and being able to say, “I’m sorry,” and actually mean it.

Understanding and respect for rules starts to happen around this time too, making it possible to play a round of Uno without it ending in tears if your kid doesn’t win.

“Increased cognitive capacities allow them to understand and execute multi-step directions and sustain focus for more prolonged periods. In most cases, they are less distractible and have longer attention span,” explains Dr. Dorfman.

(Wait, this mean they can help out more with chores, doesn’t it? Score!)

Some children will take their new reasoning skills in stride. Others may struggle more as they realize that situations that used to seem simple now have more nuance to them. Open communication is always key to helping out kids process these tricky emotions. If you’re having trouble getting the conversation started, trying using a kid-centered show or book as a jumping off point.

“Social stories, or stories with characters having similar experiences or characteristics of a child, can be very helpful during transitions,” explains Jennifer Katzenstein, PhD, ABPP-CN, Director, Psychology and Neuropsychology at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. “These social stories can provide an excellent starting point for parents to discuss these situations, make parallels as to how this impacts the child’s life and point out options for how to react to experiences.”

If your child is struggling with a sibling, try snuggling up for a screening of Frozen to get her to open up about her troubles. If it’s a parent and child issue, maybe the relatable themes of Moana will get him chatting.

If story time is when she's more ly to share their troubles, try a series My Weird School Daze and the Junie B.

Jones books to help her discuss conflicts with classmates, or Amber Brown Is Feeling Blue to help her navigate family troubles. 

While it’s hard not to compare our own kids to their classmates or our friends’ kids, aim to be patient with your child’s growth.

“I think it is important for parents to remember that development varies across children, and that one age (such as age 7) is not the end of development, or a ‘deadline’ for developing reasoning skills,” Dr. Katzenstein reminds us.

“Cognitive develop continues into adulthood, and as parents, it is our responsibility to continue to challenge and support our children.”