University of Illinois Extension

Ages & Stages – School Age Children

Young School-Age Children

Five, six and seven-year-old children are often excited about going to school and their new responsibilities. Their parents are still the most important persons in their lives.

With school-age children, it is important to set limits and let children know what is expected of them. Do this with a soft voice. Be patient and kind. Provide clear and consistent discipline. Each child needs to feel special and cared about in your care. Children in this stage are very enjoyable. They like to be helpful, especially to adults.

Physical Development - Growth is slow but steady. They have gained control of their major muscles. Most children have a good sense of balance. They can stand on one foot and walk on a balance beam. They enjoy performing physical tricks. They enjoy testing muscle strength and skills. They like to skip, run, tumble, and dance to music. They can catch small balls. They can manage buttons and zippers. They can learn to tie their shoelaces. They can print their names. They can copy designs and shapes including numbers and letters. They use utensils and tools correctly with supervision.

Social and Emotional Development - They think of themselves more than others until about age seven or eight. They play well in groups but may need some time to play alone. Many children have a best friend and an enemy. They tend to prefer playmates of the same sex. Children often tell on each other. This is done for two reasons: to help them understand the rules and to get an adult's attention. They do not like criticism or failure. It is best to have each child compete against himself or herself not other children. They can be helpful with small chores. They have a strong need for love and attention from their parents. They are beginning to care about the feelings and needs of others. They may enjoy taking care of and playing with younger children. To them, "good" and "bad" are what parents and teachers approve or disapprove of. They are starting to develop a moral sense such as understanding honesty. They begin to develop a sense of humor and may enjoy nonsense rhymes, songs, and riddles. They become upset when their behavior or school work is criticized or ignored.

Intellectual Development - They can tell left from right. Their ability to speak and express themselves develops rapidly. This is important for success in school. They talk to each other about themselves and their families. During play, they practice using the words and language they learn in school. They start to understand time and days of the week. They like silly rhymes, riddles, and jokes. Their attention span is longer. They can follow more involved stories. They are learning letters and words. By six, most can read words or combinations of words.

Older School-Age Children

Physical Development - They are very active with lots of energy. Their fine motor and large motor skills have become much better.

Social/Emotional Development - They have a strong need to feel accepted and worthwhile. They show their ability to be independent by being disobedient, using back-talk and being rebellious. They prefer individual achievements over competition. They like encouragement and suggestions over competition. They still look to adults for approval. They begin to take responsibility for their own actions. They like to join organized groups. They prefer to be with members of their own sex. They look up to and imitate older youth. They are beginning to build and understand friendship. They want to be accepted by the peer group.

Intellectual Development - They need opportunities to share thoughts and reactions. They see things as either "black or white." They have interests which change often. They are easily motivated and eager to try new things. They usually do best when the work is done in small pieces. They need guidance from adults to stay at a task to achieve their best.