Growth and Development, Ages 6 to 10 Years
What kinds of development occur between ages 6 and 10?
Children ages 6 to 10 are more independent and physically active than they were in the preschool years. They also are more involved with friends and are learning to think in more complex ways.
Progress in the major areas of development—physical, intellectual, emotional, and social—is gradual. But the changes you will see in your child from one year to the next can be dramatic.
How will my child change physically?
Strength and muscle coordination improve rapidly in these years. Many children learn to throw, hit a baseball, or kick a soccer ball. Some children may even develop skills in more complex activities, such as playing basketball or dancing.
How will my child change intellectually?
From ages 6 to 10, your child develops a more mature and logical way of thinking. He or she gradually becomes able to consider several parts to a problem or situation. This is a change from the simplistic thinking of a preschooler.
Even though their thinking becomes more complex, children in this age group still think in concrete terms. This means they are most concerned with things that are "real" rather than with ideas. In general, these things are those that can be identified with the senses. For example, actually touching the soft fur of a rabbit is more meaningful to a child than being told that an object is "soft like a rabbit." Because they still can mostly consider only one part of a situation or perspective at a time, children of this age have difficulty fully understanding how things are connected.
How will my child change emotionally and socially?
When children enter school, they leave the security of home and family. They become players on the larger stage of school and friends. Here, they learn some crucial skills—including how to make friends—that they can use for the rest of their lives.
Children's self-esteem, which is their sense of worth and belonging, is fragile and can change rapidly depending on what is happening around them. At times, children of this age seem like little adults as they march off to school with backpacks full of responsibilities. But at other times, they can be as unreasonable as toddlers.
How can I manage this active time?
Parents often overestimate their children's ability to make good decisions. Children of this age need firm and consistent rules that are explained clearly and compassionately. Effective parents are able to give their children enough independence to learn from their successes and failures and at the same time provide consistent direction and unconditional support.
Try to check in with your child every day. Ask him or her about the good and bad things that happened. And help your child learn from those experiences.
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What to Expect
Although children from ages 6 to 10 display a similar range of physical abilities, mental strengths, and social behaviors, they develop at their own pace. Even within families, differences between children can be extreme. One sibling may be outgoing and popular, while another is shy and awkward. Some children make progress in one area, such as reading and writing, while making little or no progress in another skill, such as math. Focus on helping your child enjoy and learn from activities rather than on measuring the outcome.
General development from ages 6 to 10
You can expect children in this age group to progress in five major areas:
- Physical development. Children ages 6 to 10 usually grow in spurts, averaging about 7 lb (3 kg) and 2.5 in. (6 cm) each year. Your child will also lose about four baby teeth each year. These are replaced by permanent teeth.
- Cognitive development. Thinking and reasoning skills, called cognitive skills, mature rapidly between ages 6 and 10. As these skills develop, so does a child's ability to solve problems. But reasoning remains simple in that most children only understand concepts as they relate to the here and now. Concepts such as the distant past are usually too abstract for children at this age to grasp.
- Emotional and social development. Children ages 6 to 10 are developing friendships. Self-esteem, which is a person's sense of worth and belonging, becomes increasingly important as your child interacts more with people outside of his or her immediate family. Children this age also compare themselves to others.
- Language development. At age 6, most children know the meanings of about 13,000 words. From ages 6 to 10, they gradually think in more complex ways. For example, children advance from understanding simple sentences to being able to interpret complicated content within a paragraph. They grow from writing a few words at a time to composing complex stories and reports.
- Sensory and motor development. Children between ages 6 and 10 make major gains in muscle strength and coordination. Most children within this age range develop basic motor skills, such as kicking, catching, and throwing. Gradually, children become more skilled at more complex activities, such as dancing, shooting a basketball, or playing the piano.
Growth and development milestones are roughly grouped by year of age. Use age-specific guidelines as one of many tools to assess your child's overall development. Many things, such as inherited genetic traits, health, personality and temperament, cultural norms, and home environment, influence a child's pace at reaching milestones.
Milestones by age
By 6 years of age, most children:
- Have gained enough muscle strength and coordination to hop and skip, and they can catch a ball.
- Begin to understand cause-and-effect relationships. "Magical thinking" typical of preschoolers quickly fades around this age. But your child keeps an active imagination.
- Focus on only one issue at a time when solving problems.
- Begin to understand how combinations of letters and sounds form words. They recognize some written words and may even have started reading simple text.
- Become increasingly social with their peers. But they depend on caregivers for most personal interaction.
By 7 years of age, most children:
- Begin to show a preference for a certain learning style, such as hands-on or quiet reflection.
- Develop friendships, usually with other children of the same gender.
- Like to be involved in some group play but need time alone too.
- Enjoy arts and crafts and physically active play.
By 8 years of age, most children:
- Generally think of things as "either-or." Things are either great or awful, ugly or beautiful, right or wrong. Children focus on one part of an issue at a time, which makes it hard for them to understand complexities.
- Are reading.
- Enjoy being around their friends. Some enjoy group activities, such as team sports.
- Have rapidly changing emotions. Angry outbursts are common. Many children of this age are critical of others, especially of their parents. They may seem dramatic and sometimes rude.
- Have well-developed speech and use correct grammar most of the time. Many children have well-developed conversation skills.
By 9 years of age, most children:
- Think more independently and are developing good decision-making skills. This reflects their increasing critical-thinking skills and ability to consider more than one perspective at a time.
- Have caring, solid friendships.
- Have gained a strong sense of empathy, which is understanding and being sensitive to the feelings of others.
- Are curious about relationships between boys and girls. Few will admit to this interest. And most will insist that they are horrified by the opposite sex.
- Speak well and pronounce words clearly.
- Become increasingly interested in team sports.
- Like to draw, paint, make jewelry, build models, or try other activities that use fine motor skills.
By 10 years of age, most children:
- Know the complete date (day of the week, day of the month, month, and year).
- Enjoy being with friends and often have a "best" friend of the same gender.
- Continue to enjoy team and group activities.
- Continue to insist that they are not interested in children of the opposite sex. But they may show off, tease, or act silly as a way of interacting with them.
- Have speech patterns that are nearly at an adult level.
- Sometimes seek out magazines and books in subjects of special interest.
- Have good control of large and small muscles. Some children enjoy activities that use all these skills, such as basketball, dancing, and soccer.
A lot is happening within the brains and bodies of children ages 6 to 10. Along with growing stronger and more social, most children gradually gain critical thinking skills and a basic understanding of complex issues. Also, children are becoming more aware of their bodies and appearance.
This is a time of trial and error. Children in this age group are figuring out how the world works and what their place is in it. It is easy for parents to be alarmed when their child has occasional lapses in appropriate behavior or judgment.
Try to encourage your child's independence while you demonstrate your unconditional love. A child who feels he or she has a strong safety net at home is better equipped to try new things and to grow and develop in healthy ways.
Common concerns of parents usually relate to physical growth and development, difficulties in school, and social situations.
Issues related to physical appearance and skills
The rate of growth varies a lot among individual children. Some children are small for their age, and others are large. It can be hard for a child who falls outside the range of "normal." A small child may find it hard to succeed in sports. Children who are tall for their age may have problems when people think they are older and expect them to act that way. Also, some children, particularly girls, are "early bloomers" and may enter puberty before their peers. This can lead to self-consciousness and embarrassment.
Help your child understand that everyone grows at his or her own pace. Assure your child that he or she can handle difficulties related to size, appearance, or athletic skill.
Also, encourage and model healthy eating and physical activity habits for your child. Staying at a healthy weight and eating healthy foods helps children to feel their best not only physically but also mentally and emotionally.
Difficulties in school
Children ages 6 to 10 develop at different rates not only physically but also intellectually. If your child seems to be struggling in certain subjects and is not meeting general cognitive development or language development milestones, talk to your doctor. Keep an open mind about having your child evaluated instead of waiting for him or her to "grow out of it." Of course, be mindful that there is a fine line between being concerned and over-reacting. Talk to your child's teacher and other school staff about your child's strengths and weaknesses. Keep a friendly and supportive relationship with your child's teachers to help build your child's confidence. Working as a team also is likely to result in a more consistent approach. A child is more likely to know what to expect and be more assured when parents and teachers are helping each other.
Work on ways to strengthen your child's self-esteem. Help your child recognize and nurture his or her own talents. Children in this age group often experience a wide range of emotions that can change very quickly depending on what is happening around them. Try to show your child how to see the big picture. Talk about all the successes he or she has had, such as doing well on a test, learning new spelling words, or making an impressive art project.
The ages between 6 and 10 are a confusing and exciting time for children. They make new friends frequently.
Most children in this age group are beginning to understand and be sensitive to the feelings of others—a trait known as empathy. But they are still self-centered. Their feelings are easily hurt. Likewise, they can casually hurt others' feelings. You can help your child learn how to be more empathetic and to understand the importance of healthy friendships. Talk about and list the qualities that make a good friend. Talk about how your child can work on developing these qualities.
Bullying may start to become a problem for some children near age 10 years. Take an active role in preventing and educating your child about ways to deal with this type of behavior.
- Equip your child with ways to deal with and avoid being bullied.
- If your child engages in bullying behavior, address the problem right away. Talk about how his or her words and actions affect other people. You play an important role in making your child aware of others' feelings.
- Involve parents and other adults who are around where the problems occur. For example, talk to staff and teachers at your child's school in situations that include classmates.
For more information about bullying, see the topic Bullying.
Promoting Healthy Growth and Development
Although your child between the ages of 6 and 10 may seem very independent at times, he or she still needs your constant guidance. Being present is the most important thing you can do to help your child grow in healthy ways. Knowing that you are "around" and available provides him or her with a sense of security. Although your child's world is expanding, you remain his or her primary influence.
You can do many things to help your child grow and develop.
- Promote physical development by encouraging and modeling healthy eating habits. Also, foster a healthy body image by talking about and showing how it is important to accept people of all colors, shapes, and sizes. For more information, see the topic Healthy Habits for Kids.
- Promote cognitive development—thinking and reasoning skills—by being involved in your child's school. Volunteer if possible, cultivate good relationships with teachers and other staff members, and show your interest in what your child is learning. Also, work on skills at home, such as simple math problems, money handling, reading, and writing. Age-appropriate workbooks are widely available. But be careful not to pressure your child. Simply spending time with him or her is an important part of setting a foundation for cognitive growth.
- Promote language development by reading to your child every day. Make reading a routine, even as he or she gets older and seems to lose interest. Set aside time that you and your child can look forward to and talk about stories, words, and ideas. Visit your local library and try finding books with new subjects that you think might interest your child.
- Promote social and emotional development by being aware of sibling rivalry, which can become a problem around this age. Also help your child learn social skills, such as by showing your acceptance of others and not gossiping or saying mean things about other people.
- Promote sensory and motor skill development by encouraging exercise every day. It doesn't have to be highly structured: the main point is to move around and limit TV time and other screen time. Practicing somersaults, playing catch, going to the park, or riding a bike are all helpful in developing muscular skill and endurance. Also, encourage your child to create art projects, such as drawing, cutting with safety scissors, gluing, and stringing beads. These and similar activities help improve eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills. For more information, see the topic Physical Activity for Children and Teens.
Also, you can help your child in other general ways.
- Deal with fears. Understand that your child may become extremely interested in scary subjects or images as a way to overcome fears about them. Help your child as much as you can by answering questions and providing reassurance as needed.
- Discourage physical violence and show your child ways to deal with anger without being violent. Protect your child from violent media as much as you can. Some TV programs, movies, video games, and websites show a lot of violent acts. Children who watch a lot of this violence may come to believe that such behavior is okay. This can make them more likely to act violently themselves. It can also lead to nightmares, aggression, or fears of being harmed.1 Music lyrics affect children's behavior and emotions, too.2 Monitor the type of music that your child is exposed to, and be aware of the music your child buys.
- Establish limits. Set limits for your children to show them that you love and care about them. Make sure your rules are reasonable and that your child understands them. It is important to follow through on any consequences you have established for failing to follow rules.
- Recognize and develop special talents. Help your child discover interests and practice skills. For example, kick a soccer ball around the yard with your child or help him or her practice printing letters.
- Recognize his or her curiosity about the body and sexuality. You can help your child gain basic knowledge and a healthy attitude toward these issues by showing a willingness to listen and discuss them.
- Before your child starts middle school, teach him or her how to resist using tobacco and other drugs.
You can also help your child through each stage of development by evaluating your relationship from time to time. In many ways, you have to "get to know" your child over and over again. Think about:
- What do I like most about my child?
- What could be triggering difficult behavior? Are any of these new triggers?
- What new skills has my child developed within the past year? Six months? Three months?
- What tasks can I encourage my child to do for himself or herself? How can I encourage him or her?
- When am I happy about how I treat my child?
- What don't I like about some of our interactions? When do these episodes tend to occur?
As a parent or caregiver of children, it is also important for you to:
- Learn and use effective parenting and discipline techniques and avoid the use of corporal punishment. Parenting classes are offered in most communities. Ask your doctor or call a local hospital for more information.
- Learn healthy techniques to resolve conflicts and manage stress. For more information, see the topic Stress Management.
- Ask for help when you need it. Call a family member or friend to give you a break if you feel overwhelmed. Find out about community resources that are available to help you with child care or other necessary services. Call a doctor or local hospital to find out about a place to start. Some communities have respite care facilities for children, which provide temporary child care during times when you need a break.
When to Call a Doctor
Talk to your child's doctor if you are concerned that your child:
- Is not meeting growth or development milestones for his or her age.
- Has signs that he or she is entering puberty at a very early age (before 8 for girls, and 9 for boys).
- Exhibits unusually aggressive behavior or shows signs of bullying others. Boys, especially, may behave aggressively when they are faced with a difficult situation. Girls are more likely to shun other girls and gossip about others.
- Struggles to understand or use spoken or written language. Having learning problems in school could be a sign of a learning disability or a vision problem.
- Shows signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as inattention, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity, that are causing problems at home or school.
- Seems withdrawn or depressed. Girls are more likely than boys to react to problems quietly. This behavior can make it hard for parents and teachers to recognize that they are troubled. A child who loses interest in friends or activities that he or she liked in the past may be depressed.
Sometimes school counselors or teachers identify children who are having difficulties doing schoolwork, participating in gym classes, or socializing with other children. They can recommend a course of action that may involve a family doctor or pediatrician.
As your child becomes more involved at school and with friends, sports, and other activities, your skills as a parent will be tested. You may want to talk with your doctor if you feel overwhelmed. Also, classes that are often offered by schools, churches, or community groups can help you learn valuable parenting skills.
Routine checkups (usually once a year) allow your child's doctor to keep a close eye on your child's general health and development. You also can discuss any concerns you have at these appointments. Routine dental care is important for your child too.
During the well-child visit, the doctor typically:
- Measures your child's weight and height. These measurements are plotted on a growth chart and are compared to previous and later markings to make sure the child is growing as expected.
- Checks your child's body mass index, blood pressure, hearing, and vision, and examines your child for any visible problems.
- Reviews your child's immunization record. Needed immunizations are given or scheduled. For more information, see the topics:
- Talks with your child. For example, the doctor may ask about his or her friends, favorite activities, and most interesting school subjects. From this conversation, the doctor will briefly assess your child's language skills and hearing and also perhaps his or her social skills and other developmental issues.
- Observes how you and your child interact, to assess emotional and social development. The doctor will ask you questions about your child's behavior, school performance, how your child handles difficulties, and what activities your child is involved in, among others.
Routine checkups are a good time for you to ask about what to expect. Ask your doctor about your child's health, growth, development, or behavior. It may help you to go to your child's checkup with a prepared list of questions (What is a PDF document?).
Sometimes it may be appropriate to have your child spend part of the visit alone with the doctor. This can give your child a chance to talk about issues that he or she has difficulty discussing with the doctor if you are present.
Other Places To Get Help
|Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (U.S.)|
- Basic Dental Care
- Child Car Seats
- Choosing Child Care
- Depression in Children and Teens
- Energy and Sports Drinks
- Fitness: Getting and Staying Active
- Growth and Development, Ages 11 to 14 Years
- Health Screening: Finding Health Problems Early
- Healthy Eating for Children
- Learning Disabilities
- Protecting Your Skin From the Sun
- Talking With Your Child About Sex
- Council on Communications and Media, American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Policy statement: Media violence. Pediatrics, 124(5): 1495–1503.
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Policy statement: Impact of music, music lyrics, and music videos on children and youth. Pediatrics, 124(5): 1488–1494.
Other Works Consulted
- American Academy of Pediatrics (2001, reaffirmed 2005). Sexuality education for children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 108(2): 498–502.
- Combrinck-Graham L, Fox GS (2007). Development of school-age children. In A Martin, FR Volkmar, eds., Lewis's Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 4th ed., pp. 267–278. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
- Dixon SD, Stein MT (2006). Encounters With Children: Pediatric Behavior and Development, 4th ed. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.
- Feigelman S (2011). Middle childhood. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 36–39. Philadelphia: Saunders.
- Newman BM, Newman PR (2012). Middle childhood (6 to 11 years). In Development Through Life: A Psychosocial Approach, 11th ed., pp. 288–332. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
- Rappley MD, Kallman JR (2009). Middle childhood. In WB Carey et al., eds., Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 4th ed., pp. 50–61. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
- Strasburger VC, et al. (2010). Health effects of media on children and adolescents. Pediatrics, 125(4): 756–767.
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2013). Screening for primary hypertension in children and adolescents. http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspshypechld.htm. Accessed January 11, 2014.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||John Pope, MD - Pediatrics|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics|
|Current as of||March 11, 2014|
Current as of: March 11, 2014
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