University of Missouri Extension

GH6235, New September 2003

 Development During the School-Age Years of 6 Through 11

Amy Halliburton
MU Graduate Student
Sara Gable
State Specialist, Human Development and Family Studies

Illustration: ages 6 to 11 (by Dennis MurphyEach child grows and develops at his or her own rate. Children display developmental landmarks at different times. This guide presents characteristics that children between the ages of 6 and 11 will typically display as they grow and develop.

The school-age years (ages 6 through 11) bring new and exciting challenges and rewards for children. Using the initiative they established as preschoolers, the primary job of the school-age child is to develop a sense of personal competence. This means that children establish a sense of self or self-concept based on their abilities. This self-concept is influenced by how easily they learn new skills. Children use feedback from important adults, peers and their own self-evaluation to judge their competencies.

School-age children's style of thinking is concrete, meaning that their thinking and reasoning is more logical and organized than it was during the preschool years. For example, school-aged children can classify objects in different ways (such as sorting baseball cards by team, playing position, league, etc.). Furthermore, children are able to understand and express a variety of emotions. Friendships among school-age children blossom, as they become better able to take the perspective of others.

Adults play an important role in helping school-age children develop a sense of personal competence. You can contribute to a child's sense of self and help foster his or her self-esteem by:

Dennis Murphy art, communicationFurthermore, you can enhance a child's social and emotional development by encouraging your child to talk about his or her feelings and helping him or her develop problem-solving skills to use in friendships and other peer relationships. This guide offers general knowledge about children's development during the school-age years, including

Suggestions for how you can foster children's positive development are offered. Additionally, special attention is paid to several issues important during the school-age years, including personal physical fitness and peer relationships.

Dennis Murphy art, friendship

Relationships with peers

When most of us look back on our childhoods, we can recall a particular close friend or a group of classmates or other peers who were important to us. In fact, research on school-aged children shows that having positive peer relationships is related to many other aspects of positive adjustment. Children who have good relationships with classmates are less lonely, less depressed, miss fewer days of school, and report enjoying school more.

For these reasons, it makes sense that parents and teachers worry about children who have more problematic relationships with peers. It is important to keep in mind, though, that a child does not have to be the most popular kid in class to have good relationships with peers. In fact, peer relationship researchers have identified two major areas in which children can be successful in peer relationships:

Although it is wonderful for children to both be well-accepted and to have a reciprocal friend, most children who are either well-accepted or have a reciprocal friend would be considered relatively successful in their peer relationships. For example, a child may be well-liked by most of his or her classmates but not have found one classmate in particular with whom he or she has formed a close one-on-one relationship. Perhaps more importantly, a child who is having a tough time with his or her classmates in general can really benefit from having at least one close friend.

Sadly, some children are both not well-accepted by classmates in general and lack a close friendship. But there are ways that parents and teachers can help:

Parents and teachers should never underestimate the importance of children's relationships with peers. Through making and managing friendships, children are learning to build close, satisfying relationships with others who are not members of their own family. These are important skills that will serve them well for many years to come.

We extend our appreciation to Amanda J. Rose, assistant professor of psychological sciences at MU, for her expertise on peer relationships.

Physical activity

Dennis Murphy art, jump ropeBetween the ages of 6 and 11, children experience many physical changes. Children's arm and leg coordination increases, their ability to use their fingers and hands for crafts and writing improves, and their interest in games with rules and organized sports grows. Unfortunately, many of today's youths do not get enough exercise.

Did you know?

Parents, teachers and fitness professionals play important roles in promoting physical fitness among children. However, the parents' role is the most important. Children model their parents' behavior, so parents must be physically active too.

So, what can parents do to promote physical activity among their children?

Have fun, and get fit as a family

Developmental landmarks

Thinking and learning


Dennis Murphy art, girl blowing hornWhat can adults do?

Awareness of self and others


Dennis Murphy art, chores listWhat can adults do?



Dennis Murphy art, assist children in writing personal lettersWhat can adults do?


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GH6235 Development During the School-Age Years of 6 Through 11 | University of Missouri Extension

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