All children develop at their own rate, generally in the same sequence but at completely different times. Many things influence a child’s development – genes, environment, temperament, relationships, nutrition, health and physical activity. Some of these things you can control such as diet and environment, others you cannot.
Most children will start school around the age of 5, when they are ready to learn and develop their physical, mental and social skills. Generally, around this age children are independent enough to be separated from you during the day, but some children will still struggle with separation anxiety and may need to be supported throughout this transition.
Physical Development & Motor Skills
By the time your school age child turns 5, they may be running around with ease, seemingly fuelled by boundless energy without ever seeming tired. Children at this age tend to prefer active play and busy environments over quiet time, and they have enough energy to play for longer periods of time.
Below are some of the major physical milestones most children may face during their initial school years:
- Dexterity and coordination are improving.
- By the age of 6 school age children may be more balanced and able to jump and land steadily on one or two feet.
- Can combine running, jumping, landing and rolling.
- Rhythm is more easily recognised – many children enjoy moving to the beat of music.
- Ball skills are improving.
- The ability to balance themselves when moving quickly – may be more poised and able to hold a balancing position for a short time (10-20 seconds).
- Finer motor skills greatly improving - hitting nails with a hammer, tie shoelaces or zipping and buttoning clothes.
- Generally, by the age of 6 most school children have a preferred hand to write with
- More interest in personal hygiene and may be cleaning and grooming themselves appropriately, with assistance or reminders.
- By 8 years children generally place a great deal of emphasis on their physical strength and skills. Physical achievements can affect a child’s status and/or sense of confidence, especially for boys and sports skills.
- May be climbing and swimming and riding a bike without training wheels.
- Generally, sleep more easily with less fuss, but nightmares may be a result of their busy school days.
Social & Emotional Development
Children between the ages of 5 and 8 are busy gauging their feelings and understanding and adapting to social situations. They are discovering and refining their skills – building their confidence and are learning to be independent and self aware.
Socially, your school age child may be showing more interest in group and team activities and may initiate games and play and show signs of cooperation and an understanding of rules. From the age of 5 children start to seek acceptance and friendship, sometimes requiring reassurance that he/she is considered a friend or is a valued contributor. Peer-group acceptance generally becomes more important and some need for approval is positive and important for their self esteem.
From around the age of 5 your school age child may show preference for friends of the same sex. Some harmless stereotyping of children of the opposite gender is completely normal and nothing to be concerned about.
Negotiating and compromising skills are continuing to develop and are important lessons to learn. Your child will be constantly evolving and devising strategies to cope with things and will generally attempt to solve minor problems themselves by this age but may still need help from you to resolve their conflict. While they are developing their sense of empathy and compassion, they are still learning to understand things from another person’s point of view.
Emotionally your school age child may be regulating their feelings and reactions to things more independently. For instance, your child may be disappointed at losing a game, but still able to feel happy for the winners and congratulate those involved with your encouragement. This ability is still developing, and your guidance may still be often needed to help your child cope with outcomes and/or disappointment.
As your school age child moves from baby and preschool speech into more clear and concise communication, speech impediments such as Lisps are common. Most children grow out of these as their speech matures, but do not hesitate to see a healthcare professional for advice if you are concerned about your child’s language skills.
By the age of 7 or 8 most school age children can speak clearly and easily, using both simple and complicated sentences and in past, present or future tense. They are generally reading books on their own, but as with children of practically any age, will love being read to. School age children may also enjoy telling jokes, stories or riddles, and speaking on the phone.
Children at this age tend to enjoy computer games and activities, especially with the vast majority of schools and preschool centres equipped with computers/tablet devices to assist in their educational and creative development. Writing and word programs are effective means of further developing your child’s language skills, but a healthy mix of both screen and active play are necessary for optimal wellbeing and positive healthy development in children.
raisingchildren.net.au. (2020, May 7). 5-6 years: child development. Retrieved from https://raisingchildren.net.au/school-age/development/development-tracker/5-6-years
raisingchildren.net.au. (2017, November 27). Language development: 5-8 years. Retrieved from https://raisingchildren.net.au/school-age/development/language-development/language-5-8-years