Meeting the Needs of 6 – 8 Year Olds
Knowing about the physical, intellectual, social, and emotional development of 6-8 year old children will help you to be better able to work with this group.
Children learn best when physically active, so plan activities that encourage physical activity such as running, playing games, or painting. A child’s motor skills are still developing, so children this age need time to practice the new skills you are teaching them, and the projects they do may end up messy. It is important that while working with youth this age to plan a variety of activities of short duration, and to plan activities where the child can use all five senses.
It is also important to consider the social and emotional development of 6-8 year olds. Because children this age are often more focused on the process, rather than the product, they may lose interest in an activity before it has been completed. Remember to focus on the activity itself and the learning that occurs, instead of the end result. They will play in mixed groups of boys and girls, but usually prefer playmates of the same gender, so structure activities to encourage them to work in mixed groups. Children ages 6-8 are beginning to think of others’ needs, but are still very selfish and are very concerned with what is fair. When working on a project, give all children the same materials, and gradually introduce the idea of sharing.
Young children are becoming independent, yet still need to feel the approval of adults, so point out and reinforce positive behavior often. Plan for children to work in small groups, to allow each child more individual attention. Six to eight year-olds are very sensitive to criticism and failure. Many playground games seem structured to ensure that the biggest, or fastest, always wins the game. Center activities around fun and cooperation, and not around winning and losing.
Don’t underestimate the importance of yourself to the life of a child. By understanding the needs of 6-8 year olds, you will be better prepared for working effectively with this group.
Information adapted from the "Ages and Stages of 4-H Youth Development" from Missouri 4-H Youth Development Programs.