Growth and Development, Ages 6 to 10 Years

Overview

Children usually move in natural, predictable steps as they grow and develop language, cognitive, social, and sensory and motor skills. But each child gains skills at their own pace. It's common for a child to be ahead in one area, such as language, but a little behind in another.

At routine checkups, your child's doctor will check for milestones. This is to make sure that your child is growing and developing as they should. Your doctor can help you know what milestones to watch for as your child gets older. Or you can look for sources of information and support nearby. Public health clinics, parent groups, and child development programs may help. Knowing what to expect can help you spot problems early. And it can help you feel better about how your child is doing.

Talk with your doctor about any concerns you have about your child's health, growth, or behavior. Do this even if you aren't sure what worries you.

Your relationship with your child will change as your child gains new skills and develops independence. As your child's world gets bigger, you can help your child grow in healthy ways. Here are a few things you can do. Spend time together. Be a good role model. Show your child love and affection.

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What to Expect

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.

Physical development.
Children ages 6 to 10 usually grow in spurts. Growth averages about 7 lb (3 kg) and 2 in. (6 cm) each year. Your child will also lose about four baby teeth each year. These are replaced by permanent teeth.
Cognitive development.

From ages 6 to 10, your child develops a more mature and logical way of thinking. Children this age gradually learn 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 are things that they can identify with their 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." They still can mostly consider only one part of a situation or perspective at a time. So children of this age have trouble fully understanding how things are connected.

Emotional and social development.

When children enter school, they leave the security of home and family. They now are part of a larger pool of school and friends. Here, they learn some crucial skills, such as how to make friends. They can use these skills for the rest of their lives. Children this age also compare themselves to others.

Children's self-esteem (their sense of worth and belonging) is fragile. It can change quickly, depending on what happens 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.

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 understand 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. Over time, children become more skilled at more complex activities, such as dancing, shooting a basketball, or playing the piano.

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Common Concerns

A lot is happening in the brains and bodies of children ages 6 to 10. Common concerns of parents usually relate to physical growth and development, problems in school, and social situations.

Children this age are growing stronger and more social. And most children slowly gain critical thinking skills and a basic understanding of complex issues. Children also are becoming more aware of their bodies and how they look. Some may have a gender identity that doesn't match the sex they were assigned at birth. This can cause distress.

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's easy for parents to be alarmed when their child has lapses in behavior or judgment now and then.

Try to encourage your child's independence while you show your unconditional love. A child who feels that they have a strong safety net at home is better equipped to try new things. And it helps them grow and develop in healthy ways.

Issues related to physical appearance and skills

The rate of growth varies a lot among children. Some are small for their age. 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.

Some children may enter puberty before their peers. The physical changes of puberty may make them feel self-conscious or embarrassed. Some have a gender identity that doesn't match the sex they were assigned at birth. This can cause distress.

  • Help your child understand that everyone grows at their own pace.

    Assure your child that they can handle problems related to size, appearance, or athletic skill.

  • Promote a healthy body image.

    Help your child feel accepted and comfortable with who they are. Stress the importance of being healthy, rather than focusing on looks. Be aware of the things you say about how you and other people look.

  • Encourage and model healthy eating and 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 isn't meeting general cognitive development or language development milestones, talk to your doctor. Here are some other tips for dealing with school issues.

  • Keep an open mind about having your child evaluated.
  • 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.
  • Help your child deal with his or her emotions.

    Children in this age group often have a wide range of emotions. Their emotions can change very quickly depending on what happens 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.

Socialization

The ages between 6 and 10 are a confusing and exciting time for children. They make new friends often.

Most children in this age group are starting 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. And 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 learning these qualities.

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Promoting Healthy Growth and Development

From the ages of 6 to 10, your child may seem very independent at times. But your child still needs your constant guidance. Being present and available gives your child a sense of security and helps your child grow in healthy ways. Your child's world is expanding, but you remain their main influence.

You can do many things to help your child grow and develop.

  • Foster a healthy body image.

    Talk about and show how it's important to accept people of all colors, shapes, and sizes. Some children have a gender identity that doesn't match the sex they were assigned at birth. This can cause distress. Help your child feel accepted and comfortable with who they are.

  • Promote cognitive development.

    Be involved in your child's school. Volunteer if you can. 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. But be careful not to pressure your child. Simply spending time together is an important part of setting the stage for cognitive growth.

  • Promote social and emotional development.

    Be aware of sibling rivalry, which can become a problem around this age. Also help your child learn social skills. For example, show your acceptance of others. Don't gossip or say mean things about other people.

  • Promote physical development.

    Encourage and model healthy eating habits.

  • Promote sensory and motor skill development.

    Encourage 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, and riding a bike can help build muscle skill and endurance. And encourage your child to create art projects, such as cutting with safety scissors and stringing beads. These types of activities help improve eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills.

  • Deal with fears.

    Understand that your child may become very interested in scary subjects or images. This can be a way to overcome their fears about them. Help your child as much as you can by answering questions and giving reassurance as needed.

  • Discourage physical violence.

    Show your child ways to deal with anger without being violent. Protect your child from violent media as much as you can. Children who watch a lot of violence may start 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. Music lyrics affect children's behavior and emotions, too. Monitor the type of music that your child is exposed to. And be aware of the music your child buys.

  • Set limits.

    Setting limits shows children that you love and care about them. Make sure that your rules are reasonable and that your child understands them. It's important to follow through on any consequences you have set for not following the 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 your child practice printing letters.

  • Recognize your child's curiosity about the body and sexuality.

    You can help your child gain basic knowledge and a healthy attitude toward these issues by being willing to listen and discuss them.

  • Talk about drug use.

    Before your child starts middle school, teach them how to resist using tobacco and other drugs.

You can 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? The past 6 months? The past 3 months?
  • What tasks can I encourage my child to do for themself? How can I encourage my child?
  • 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?

Learning parenting skills

Here are some important things to do when you are caring for children.

  • Use effective parenting skills.

    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.
  • 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 can help you with child care or other services you need. Call a doctor or local hospital to find out about a place to start. Some communities have respite care facilities for children. They provide temporary child care during times when you need a break.

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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 your child's age.
  • Has signs of 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.
  • 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 hyperactivity, that are causing problems at home or school.
  • Seems withdrawn or depressed. Some children are more likely 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 the child liked in the past may be depressed.

Sometimes school counselors or teachers identify children who are having trouble doing schoolwork, taking part 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

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. The doctor can compare them 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 shots are given or scheduled.
  • Talks with your child. For example, the doctor may ask about your child's friends, favorite activities, and most interesting school subjects. From this conversation, the doctor will briefly assess your child's language skills and hearing and maybe your child's 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 and school performance. Other questions include how your child handles problems and what activities your child is involved in.

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 a good idea 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 trouble talking about with the doctor if you are in the room.

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Credits

Current as of: February 28, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.