It’s not uncommon for new parents to obsess over key development milestones for babies and toddlers. That being said, those early years are just a small part of their development path. From Kindergarten-age and beyond, children will continue to grow physically, mentally, and emotionally reaching new stages across all aspects of development.
Staying well connected to these changes and guiding them through the process is another great opportunity to positively influence your child’s development.
Your next question may be: what are typical developmental milestones at this age?
Around the age of four or five, children often get better at communicating their thoughts and emotions. They become more independent and self-confident, develop greater self-control, understand social rules, learn to cooperate, and master conversational skills. Your child’s thinking and language will progress and develop rapidly at this age.
School-age children are very mobile and enjoy engaging in various gross motor activities. Unstructured play continues to be an essential part of your child’s development, helping them to develop greater independence, fine and gross motor skills, language, cognitive abilities, and social-emotional skills.
Understanding your children's developmental milestones and behavior stages allows you to nurture their growth and spot potential developmental red flags. It’s not as simple as reading an early childhood skills list. In the following, we’ll explore some essential aspects of school-age development to keep an eye out for.
Cognitive Development Milestones in School-Age Children
According to Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist known for his work on child development, the most significant aspect of cognitive development in school-age kids is shifting from an egocentric standpoint to a more mature way of thinking.
Concrete Operational Thinking
Egocentric thinking represents a child’s inability to discriminate between their perspective and that of other people adequately.
Preschoolers tend to believe it is all about them, so they stick to their viewpoint. This is a normal part of your child’s development.
Piaget’s theory of cognitive development suggests that seven-year-olds’ thinking and reasoning reach the concrete operational stage. This phase is characterized by developing logical thought and shifting from an egocentric standpoint to a perceptive and imaginative way of thinking.
Specifically, first-graders learn the idea of conversation and begin to reason about mathematics. They can now solve simple logical problems and have a tangible sense of time.
By age eight, most typically developing kids can effectively solve conflicts through dialogue, make progress in gaining independence, and demonstrate enthusiasm for learning new concepts.
Before the age of ten, your child will be able to think about several elements of a particular topic. Their thinking will still be very concrete, though.
It is after age ten that children become able to understand more abstract and symbolic ideas.
This stage lasts until children reach the formal operational stage in thinking (about 11 or 12 years old).
Learning Style Preferences
At school age, your child may start showing a preference for different learning styles. For example, they may show a preference for visual learning methods such as diagrams, charts, maps, video games, and presentations with many images or videos.
Improved Fine Motor Skills
Your child may become more interested in more complicated school projects as their fine motor advances, and they become more skilled at using pencils, scissors, rulers, etc.
Formal Operational Thinking
Children complete the concrete operational stage around the age of 11 or 12 and enter the formal operational stage of development.
They can now use symbols to communicate ideas, manipulate ideas in their heads, and reason abstractly.
By age eleven, most children can successfully do math calculations, systematically and logically test solutions, and predict outcomes. They have strong problem-solving skills and can think creatively.
School-Age Children use Symbols to Communicate Ideas
School-age kids continue to develop creativity and imagination through imaginative play and artistic activities.
How to Boost Cognitive Development
Nurture your child’s creativity with various creative activities such as free play, dance, music and movement, drama, and visual art.
Experimenting and sharing creative activities and artworks encourages school-age children to create and enjoy the creating process.
Showing interest and getting involved in your child’s creative activities stimulates cognitive development and boosts your child’s self-esteem.
Language Developmental Milestones from 4-11 Years
Most five-year-old children can use simple but structurally complete sentences in everyday conversations. Your child now uses language to discuss ideas, ask questions, express feelings, and give opinions.
By the time they start first grade, most children typically have around 2500 words expressive vocabulary (words they can say) and receptive language (words they understand) of 20,000 words or more. When they finish elementary school, these numbers will have boomed to a receptive vocabulary of over 50,000.
When entering Elementary School, children can often follow simple two step instructions such as “go to your room and get your toy”. By age ten, most children will have the ability to follow five commands in a row.
Language Use at a Higher Level
Beyond the age of seven, communication skills and language developmental milestones include the child’s ability to use comparative words (and show that they agree or disagree). Children will begin to use more complex sentences, and engage in adult-like conversations.
By age eleven, most children have an extensive vocabulary. Tweens master different language styles, use language to share ideas, predict and draw conclusions, and understand other points of view. They might use a lot of slang when talking with friends but speak more formally when they are around adults.
How to Boost Language Development
By far one of the best ways to help your child develop their language capabilities is to encourage them to read. Exploring the works of new authors will expose them to a variety of writing styles and vocabulary that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
Engage in Conversation
Encourage young children to develop their language skills by engaging in conversation with them regularly. Asking questions that cause them to think and explain their reasoning will better equip them for the types of real world situations they’ll encounter later in life.
Social and Emotional Development Milestones
Social and emotional developmental milestones at school-age refer to a child’s ability to manage their emotions, build and maintain healthy relationships, and develop resilience.
Why are social and emotional skills so important for young children? Research has shown that children who are mentally healthy are on average happier, more motivated to learn, more excited about school, and more eagerly participate in class activities.
More critically, they perform better in school and get better grades than less mentally healthy children.
On the flipside, children who struggle socially have more of a hard time following directions and participating in learning activities.
School-age children’s emotional lives become more complex, as well as their interpersonal relationships. They will begin to develop deeper bonds with the children around them, including some friendships that may last beyond the school year. They may also build close relationships with caregivers or teachers.
Empathy and Self-Control
Around the same time as children arrive in elementary school, they begin to develop empathy and learn to recognize and control their emotions. Your school-age child starts developing a sense of morality, understands and respects social rules, and establishes independence and individuality. These traits may not all come at once and may come more slowly to some children than others.
Social Norms Understanding
Older school-age kids begin to question social norms and become very opinionated and highly sensitive to these rules. Peer relationships become more important, so your child may become highly sensitive to fitting in.
How to promote children's social and emotional competence
Establish a Trusting Relationship
Build a strong bond with a child, and they will feel confident to ask questions, try new challenges, and ask questions that will help them learn.
Teach Social Skills Intentionally
The school setting is an ideal place to teach healthy social interactions but there are also plenty of opportunities at home to develop social skills. Teach your child how to interact well with family, their elders, and other children by coaching them when opportunities arise.
Praise Success but don’t Punish Failure
Child psychologists have now well established though research that punishment and forms of negative reinforcement don’t result in long term learning in children. Instead, positive feedback for good behavior - sometimes overly positive - gives a child incentive to repeat that behavior and helps the lesson actually stick.
Physical Development Milestones: Entering Puberty
Older school-age kids mature physically and emotionally, so they become more interested and curious about gender roles, sexuality, and reproduction.
Physical Changes in Puberty
Puberty is a process of physical changes that commonly starts between the ages 8 and 13 for girls and 10 and 14 for boys.
Physical changes may cause confusion and concern, so it is essential to talk to your child about their physical growth and development.
Help Your Child Build a Strong Self-Esteem and Healthy Body Image
A healthy body image means that your child is comfortable and happy with their appearance.
The physical changes in puberty can severely affect the child’s body image.
While it is usual for teenagers to be conscious of their bodies, an unhealthy body image may lead to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and eating disorders.
How to Help Support your Child through Puberty
To boost your child’s body image and self-esteem, openly discuss body changes. Explain that it’s reasonable to feel confused and anxious, and highlight the importance of focusing on themselves as a whole.
More than anything, nurture a positive, caring relationship with your child because healthy attachment styles in childhood set the foundation for the child’s healthy development.
Conclusions on How to Nurture Your Child’s Development
To foster your child’s growth and help them reach age-appropriate development milestones, follow these simple steps:
- Encourage independent play
- Provide support by showing that you’re excited about them growing up
- Nurture curiosity and hands-on experiences
- Allow your child to gain knowledge through exploration and fun.
Help Children Develop a Love for Learning. Kids gain independence in learning through play and exploration.
Encourage your child to ask questions, use their senses, and experiment with different learning styles. Help them develop a sense of curiosity and intrinsic motivation for learning.
Support your child in reaching developmental milestones by participating in their learning process.
Focus on your child’s interests and provide play and learning opportunities based on them. Read books together, explore the outdoors, and assign age-appropriate chores.
Perhaps most important of all, praise your child’s efforts and encourage them to focus on their strengths.
By following some of these intuitive but crucial steps, you’ll be helping your child reach and succeed with their key developmental milestones beyond their early years. It’s an effort that will bear fruit for the rest of their lives.