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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Learning about growth and development in children ages 6 to 10 years:
Seeing a doctor:
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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.
You can expect children in this age group to progress in five major areas:
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.
By 6 years of age, most children:
By 7 years of age, most children:
By 8 years of age, most children:
By 9 years of age, most children:
By 10 years of age, most children:
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.
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.
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.
For more information about bullying, see the topic Bullying.
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.
Also, you can help your child in other general ways.
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:
As a parent or caregiver of children, it is also important for you to:
Talk to your child's doctor if you are concerned that your child:
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:
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 .
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.
- 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.
- Feigelman S (2011). Middle childhood. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 36–39. Philadelphia: Saunders.
- Kaplowitz P, et al. (2016). Evaluation and referral of children with signs of early puberty. Pediatrics, 137(1): 1–6. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2015-3732. Accessed January 11, 2016.
- 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.
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