Last Updated: Jan 10th, 2011 - 11:11:15
| Children: How They Grow, Elementary School Children Ages 6 to 8
By Karen B. DeBord
Apr 3, 2008, 11:55 PST
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How They Grow, Elementary School Children Ages 6 to 8
Karen B. DeBord
Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Missouri-Columbia
The early elementary school-age
child (6 to 8 years) has moved from being a preschooler closely tied to the family
to the expanded world of middle childhood.
There are three great "outward journeys" of middle childhood:
of the home and into the friend group;
into the world of games and school;
the world of adult ideas, logic and communication.
These journeys form the
basis for pre-adolescence. Gaining early success in these areas is extremely
important for positive self-esteem.
Listed below are characteristics
of each of the three legs of the journey the 6- to 8-year-old child must travel.
Social and emotional development
- Attachment to friends
grows during this stage. Children want to continue to play with friends and
don't like to be interrupted. Try to give them a 5- or 10-minute warning before
they really have to leave.
- Most have a "best friend"
and often an "enemy." Much activity centers around how to stay with friends
and identify who is "not wanted."
- Friends are likely to
be the same sex. Activities are becoming sex separated girls don't
want boys to interfere with their games and vice versa.
- Tattling is a common
way to attract adult attention and to help learn the rules. Give your child
lots of positive feedback for good behavior, and let your child help define
the rules. This will not only build self-esteem, but will cut down on the
negative behavior of tattling.
- To win, to lead or to
be first is valued. Children in this age group are competitive, they try to
boss and are unhappy if they lose. Encourage noncompetitive games and help
your child set individual goals.
- Children in this age
group often become attached to an adult other than their parents such as a
teacher, club leader, caregiver or neighborhood teenager. They may quote their
new "hero," try to please him or her and compete with other children for this
- During the years from
6 to 8, children have a strong desire for the affection and attention of parents.
There is much "reporting" of activities to family. Parents need to set aside
time specifically to listen and talk to children with no interruptions.
- Good and bad are defined
by what's approved or disapproved of by the family.
- Children in this age
group release tension through physical activity. For example, children may
be extremely active when tired. Adults need to encourage quiet play (board
games, painting, puzzles) before bedtime or when children are overly tired.
- More realistic fears
replace the common preschool fears of ghosts, witches and creatures in dark
places. These new fears revolve around school, social relationships and disaster.
Adults need to give children measured doses of realistic information to help
them handle fears. Never tease or joke about ideas that frighten them.
- A positive self-concept
continues to develop with successful experiences. Help children celebrate
their positive achievements. For example, take a picture of your 7-year-old
finally riding a two-wheeled bike. Have your 6-year-old call a grandparent
when he or she learns to read a new book.
- Children in this age
group are sensitive to personal criticism and do not know how to accept failure.
Concentrate on your children's successes and teach them how to learn from
criticism. Ask them, "Can you learn how to do it differently next time?"
- Experimental and exploratory
behaviors are a common part of development. Children often try out a new behavior
just to see how it feels to imitate a friend. If it is not dangerous, parents
should ignore such behavior or comment, "That's interesting to try. What did
- Inner control (conscience)
is being formed. Talk with your children about why self-control is important
and why they should learn to be patient, share and respect the rights of others.
- Growth rate at this stage
is slower than during infancy and early childhood but steady. Weight ranges
from about 40 pounds to 65 pounds. The normal rate of weight increase is 3
pounds to 6 pounds per year. Children's need for food may fluctuate with activity.
- Childhood diseases such
as measles and chicken pox are likely to occur at this time because children
interact with large numbers of peers on a daily basis in school. Children
who were in day care may have already had these diseases or have built up
resistance. Adults need to be prepared for school absences due to illness.
- Baby teeth begin to come
out, and permanent ones come in. If a child loses a permanent tooth in an
accident, try to find the tooth and take it and the child to the dentist.
The dentist may save the permanent tooth.
- Muscle coordination and
control is uneven and incomplete. Large muscles (used to move the arms and
legs, for example) are easier to control than small muscles (used to move
fingers). Encourage your child to participate in activities using high energy.
Intense activity may bring temporary exhaustion. Children of this age need
10 hours to 12 hours of sleep each night.
- Hand skills and eye-hand
coordination needed for activities such as writing and shoe lacing continue
to develop as children gain small motor skills. Projects will often appear
messy as children work to polish these skills. Encourage children to work
briefly with small motor tasks, and then switch to running and jumping
tasks that use their more skilled, large muscles. Building both skill areas
is important for physical development.
- Around age 7 or
8, children begin to think about their own behavior and about things they
can easily imagine, such as sharing with a friend or going on a drive. Adults
can do simple reasoning with children now. Asking "what if" or "how could
we solve this" questions will help your child develop problem solving skills.
- Children in this age
group begin to form ideas mentally, and they can group things together that
belong in one category (babies, fathers and mothers are all people). The next
level of mental development is sequencing and ordering, preparing the way
for math skills.
- During the early part
of this stage, children cannot be expected to read and write skillfully, but
should be quite self-assured in these areas by the end. During this stage
children form a basic understanding of numbers. Encourage these skills by
letting them read signs, make lists, count or write prices of objects they
- They can think through
their own actions and situations to understand causes of events. For example,
a 7-year-old generally knows why he or she was late to school.
- At this age, children
tend to talk as they learn, and they learn best if active while learning.
For example, 6- to 8-year-olds will learn traffic safety rules more easily
by manipulating a landscape of blocks, toy cars and figures than by sitting
and listening to an adult explain the rules.
- The interest span of
6- to 8-year-olds is short about 20 minutes. Don't expect them to spend
much more than 20 minutes alone on any task.
- They understand the value
and uses of money, they can begin to plan for their allowances and learn to
use money for items they want.
- The process of work is
more interesting to children in this age group than the resulting product.
They may begin many projects, but finish few. Teach them to use new tools
and materials and to enjoy exploring. Don't be worried about completing everything.
- They may take on the
role of an admired adult in fantasy or dramatic play.
- At this age, children
begin to learn the value of "work." They need regular, realistic chores at
home and school. Charts with pictures to check-off chores help children remember
what to do.
- They show some independence
in the youth community (school, church and youth organizations). Adults should
encourage these positive experiences in a caring community.
How does this relate to
Typical behaviors of children
in the years from 6 through 8 are listed on the following page. The list is by
no means complete, and it is likely that many children will exhibit characteristics
listed under several ages. For instance, Ricardo may be 8 years old, but he might
behave like a 7-year-old in some ways and like a 9-year-old in other ways.
Study the list of characteristics shown for your child's age, and check off
the behaviors you see your own child displaying. Look forward and backward to
see what characteristics of older and younger children your child exhibits.
Can you more clearly see your whole child?
- Highly active
- Dislikes losing
- Usually not modest
- Works in spurts
- Seeks to be center of
- Has positive attitude
- Proud of self and skills
- More ready to give than
- Often competitive with
brothers and sisters
- Sensitive about being
called names, but calls others names
- Often pairs up and has
best friend; tends to enjoy leaving out a third child
- Interested in games with
rules and action but lacks skill
- Enjoys rough-housing
but does not know when to stop and may end up hurt, upset or exhausted
- Learning to write letters
and numbers, often backward
- Has a very difficult
time making choices and decisions, hesitant, indecisive
- Is active
- Likes to know rules
- Sees teacher as authority
- Worries about being liked
- Complains of unfair treatment
- Listens as well as talks
- Enjoys activities alone
as well as with others
- Relates equally to brothers
and sisters but this depends on age (closer in age, more fights)
- Very sensitive to reactions
- Wants to do things right
erases and tries again and again
- Is beginning to enjoy
reading as a pastime if there has been success learning this skill
- Begins to show politeness
and consideration; less opinionated and stubborn
- Begins to be modest and
concerned about "private parts" or sexual organs
- Shows friendship by sharing
possessions, secrets and time together
- Begins to understand
games with rules and relates rules to socially appropriate behavior
As you look over this list,
do you see social skills, physical skills and thinking skills your child is learning?
- Enjoys dramatic play
- Often demanding of parents
- Curious about nature,
things and people
- Talks with adults rather
than to adults
- Concerned about the reasons
- Likes to help when in
- Makes collections of
all kinds of things
- Seeks new experiences;
tries out new behaviors sometimes including swearing or challenging rules
- Attitude toward opposite
sex a combination of liking and hostility
- Discovering parents are
human and make mistakes
- Often more polite away
from home than at home
- Begins to select friends
on basis of personal qualities or for a reason, not always positive
- Keen sense of privacy:
"This is my room keep out!"
- May be very self-critical
- May show anger by sulking
rather than using harsh words or fighting
Sources for additional
Collins, N. (1984). Development
During Middle Childhood. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Schaefer, C.E. and Millman, H.I. (1981). Helping Children with Common Problems.
New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
Elkind, D. (1989). The Hurried Child. Reading, MA: Adison-Wesley.
Available through your local
University Extension center or by calling (573) 882-3840.
Mirrors (self-esteem support for children)
A Special Time (children with parents)
Meeting Developmental Needs (the role of school age child care)
Home Alone (preparing your children)
Pals (dealing with peer pressure)
Other MU publications
At Home Alone
From a guide originally
written by Mary McPhail Gray and Terrie Foltz.
1999 University of Missouri. Published by University
Extension, University of Missouri-Columbia. Please use our feedback
form for questions or comments about this or any other publication contained
on the XPLOR site.
Issued in furtherance
of Cooperative Extension Work Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation
with the United States Department of Agriculture. Ronald J. Turner, Director,
Cooperative Extension Service, University of Missouri and Lincoln University,
Columbia, Missouri 65211. University Extension does not discriminate
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