During this stage of development, children are learning to become a part of the larger world through school, activities, and friends. Children become more independent, begin to understand cause and effect, and learn to reflect on their own actions. During this stage it is important to encourage development in these areas.
School age children are continuing to develop their coordination skills and stamina, and require 1 hour of physical activity a day. Children at this age also develop perceptions of body image during this time.
Younger children at this stage will use complete, simple sentences. Over time they will use more complex sentences and continue to develop and hone their grammar and pronunciation skills.
Children’s reasoning becomes more complex at this stage, as they are able to incorporate what they are taught and what they observe into how they make sense of their environment.
Reading, Writing, and Math Skills
Children learn the fundamentals of these skills in school. Focus shifts from letter and word identification to being able to understand the content of what is being read. Children also learn and develop long-term memory and their attention skills.
Physical play is highly important at this stage as children begin to master their bodies and develop their major muscle groups. Play with peers is also essential as being accepted and having friends becomes increasingly important.
Children begin to develop friendships at this stage and learn to be part of social groups. Additionally, school age kids begin to behave in ways that they feel will gain them acceptance by their friends, families and teachers. At times these behaviors can be at odds, so it is important to help guide school age children as they navigate these relationships.
Media and School Age Children
Media can be a wonderful addition to the lives of school age children; however, it is important to be aware of what media and how much media are appropriate and inappropriate at this stage of development.It is also important to note that the Academy of Pediatrics recommends that that parents set media limits for their children based on the individual child.
Television and Movies
School age children watch over 3.5 hours of video content per day. There are wonderful television programs and movies designed to educate children such as nature shows and historical documentaries. But while there are many educational and entertaining shows and movies for kids, too much of them can negatively affect a child’s health and development. Subsequently, CMCH recommends that parents work to find a balance between time for media and time for family, friends, school, and sleep.
It is important for parents to take the time to look at the quality and content of the television and movies their children watch. At this age, children are very vulnerable to suggestion. Seeing violence, alcohol, tobacco, and sexual behavior in the media can be harmful.
Parents also need to monitor how much time their children spend in front of the screen in order to avoid an increased risk of obesity and sleep deprivation. Since children of this age group are now in school, they understand the concept of time, as well as weekdays versus weekends. This is the ideal time to establish time limits for media.
Finally, advertisements in both TV and movies can have powerful effects on school age children (as well as adults). Try to eliminate exposure to commercials by watching commercial free programming (such as Netflix) or by recording shows and skipping through the commercials. This is also the perfect time to introduce media literacy to your children, as around age 7, kids are able to understand persuasive intent. They will feel empowered by knowing the “tricks” behind advertising.
Reading becomes even more essential to a child’s life once they enter school and are expected to read and comprehend what they read on a daily basis. Be sure to make time for reading, whether your child is reading on her own, out loud to you, or if you are reading to her. Talk about the stories and articles you read as this can help your child think critically about content.
In addition to reading the materials required by your child’s teachers, let her choose books that interest and challenge her. As with other media, endeavor to make sure that the books your child reads are developmentally appropriate.
Whether playing, dancing, listening or singing, music can play a large role in a child’s development. Research has shown that children who sing or play a musical instrument do better in reading, math and science.
Children of this age will likely enjoy listening to popular music on the radio and to music that they own. They may start asking for an mp3 player, or other personal music device. As with television, be aware of the content of the music they listen to by listening to the lyrics to make sure they are consistent with your family’s ideals.
As the majority of popular social networking sites require users to be age 13 or older, grade schoolers will most likely not be using social media. There are some social networking sites created just for children, but they are usually recommended for children 7 and older, and require both parental permission and supervision. If you choose to let your child use social media at this age, be sure to review CMCH’s Internet Safety Toolkit and model appropriate social media behavior.
Video games labeled by the ESRB as “E” for everyone may be appropriate for children in this age range, but parents should preview the game to ensure that it does not contain violent imagery or game play.
Playing video games with others (whether with their friends or family members) can be a social activity for children, which encourages cooperation and patience. Video games that include a physical or fitness component can also encourage children to be active.
Children in this age range may become more interested in mobile devices, and may start to request one of their own. Deciding whether to give your child a cell phone or tablet depends on their maturity level, as well as their level of independence. If you decide to give your child their own device, make sure that they are engaged in age-appropriate activities, and only connecting with people they know. This is a great time to set ground rules, such as charging all mobile devices in a parent’s bedroom overnight, leaving it off and away from the family dinner table, and always leave the lines of communication open when it comes to discussing any problems or questions your child may encounter when using the device.
Computers and the Internet
At this age, parents are likely to allow their children to use the computer without their supervision. While children can certainly benefit from the many possibilities the internet affords them, such as creating video, connecting with friends, playing educational games and conducting research for school, parents and children need to practice internet safety and time management to avoid the many risks of using the web. Parents should monitor their child’s computer and internet use by keeping internet connected devices in common rooms and asking kids to show them what they are doing online from time to time.
Developmental Themes Source: Behrman RE, Kliegman R, Schor NF, St. Geme JW, Stanton B, Nelson W. (2020). Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. Philadelphia, PA, Elsevier, Inc.