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In the ‘middle years’, your child will be becoming more aware of the world outside his home. He’ll be gaining confidence and starting to make real friends, but will still need you to step in and help him with  his problems from time to time.            

Social and emotional development

Over these middle years, you’ll see the gradual development of your child’s social skills, and an increasing ability to relate to others. Your child might have a great desire to fit in and be accepted by her peer group – some degree of peer group acceptance is essential for her self-esteem.

At this age, many children want to play with children the same sex as them, and can sometimes stereotype members of the opposite sex. This is normal, and offers you the opportunity to point out that both sexes are capable of doing lots of different things, not just ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ things.

Although children of six and seven share activities and enjoy each other’s company, it’s usually not until they’re eight that they begin to be capable of imagining what it’s like to be another person, and to form sustained friendships. Because of your child’s emphasis on sticking to ‘the rules’, his efforts to play with others can still go astray. Adult guidance and assistance can help keep play positive.

In the middle years, your child might:

  • have some understanding of rules (around age six) and might want to add some rules of her own (around age seven)
  • be starting to like team games (at around eight years)
  • start to understand another person’s view of things (usually around eight or nine)
  • be more careful with his own belongings (at about nine years)
  • be full of bravado and confidence or, conversely, full of doubts about herself – this varies for different ages and personality types
  • be beginning to show signs of being more responsible
  • like to win at games, but might not be able to lose cheerfully
  • tell lies or steal, and might not yet have fully developed a proper understanding of right and wrong
  • like going to school, unless he has a problem there
  • have problems with friends – this is normal for most children from time to time
  • enjoy going to a sleepover at a friend’s house.
Each age in the ‘middle years’ tends to have its own special characteristics – for example, six can be a bit bossy and demanding, seven tends to worry and take life seriously, eight is enthusiastic and outgoing, and nine is independent and rather rebellious. These are, of course, big generalisations, but you’ll probably see an emphasis on these qualities in your child at these ages.

Developing understanding

At this age, children are often very excited by and genuinely interested in the outside world. Your child will be able to absorb information with enthusiasm and frequently remember remarkable detail about subjects that interest her.

By nine, your child might already be developing preferences for certain subjects at school, or particular areas of interest. He has beginners skills in reading, writing and maths, and the capacity to express relatively complex ideas.

Your child’s thinking processes are subject to her emotions and self-esteem. If she’s worried or unhappy, she won’t be able to concentrate or ‘think properly’, and generally won’t have the strength to overcome this until her worries are sorted out.

Similarly, if your child’s self-esteem is low he might be reluctant to try new tasks in case he fails. Cognitive development in these years has a lot to do with feeling settled and supported to try new things and to extend himself.

In these years, your child might:

  • begin to have some understanding of money (around six years)
  • understand that Santa isn’t real (at about 7-8 years)
  • be able to tell the time (by 7-8 years)
  • read to herself
  • start to plan ahead
  • know left from right
  • like to have collections (stamps, games, cards and so on).

Physical development

In these years, many children place great emphasis on the development of their own physical ability. Activities such as hitting a ball, riding a bike fast and doing a handstand will often carry considerable status within a peer group, particularly for boys. Your child will really appreciate you watching his efforts with an encouraging attitude.

Generally speaking, energy levels will be high, and your child will:

  • be able to draw a picture of a house, and will include the garden and sky 
  • be able to ride a two-wheeler bike 
  • like to climb and swim 
  • be able to throw and catch a ball.

Speech and language development

By seven, your child should be speaking clearly and easily in the language you use at home. She’ll be expressing a range of ideas and describing complicated events.

Sometimes a child will still have a lisp or ‘bump’ in his speech as it matures from ‘baby speech’. If it’s embarrassing or socially awkward, you might want to consider seeking a professional assessment.

At this stage, your child will:

  • be confident using the telephone (around age eight)
  • know the different tenses (past, present and future) and be able to use them appropriately in sentences
  • like to tell jokes and riddles
  • enjoy reading a book on her own.

What you can do

Children in the middle years are often well-behaved and keen to fit in. For this reason, they can be the last to get attention in busy families.

Your child might now have many social and emotional issues to work out at school and with his friends. Sometimes he’ll need your help to sort out problems that arise, but he won’t always tell you about his troubles unless he feels that you have the time to listen. Taking the time to listen and take an interest  is the most helpful thing you can do for your school-age child.

Other ways you can help your child include:

  • reading to her – this is special for children at any age
  • encouraging her to get a good mix of screen time and physical activity
  • providing small, special fun times in the week’s routine
  • providing realistic encouragement every day – children respond well to positive feedback at every age
  • not letting let her worry about ‘grown-up’ matters too much – for example, bills and adult relationships
  • giving her plenty of time for free play – try not to structure or program her day too much.

Activities for kids aged 6-9 years

There are lots of fun and engaging activities that you can do with or set up for your child:

  • Provide a variety of computer, board and word games. Join your local toy library for free resources.
  • Provide simple building kits, children’s tool kits, craft and art supplies and dolls for creative play.
  • Provide opportunities to listen to music together and to dance.
  • Provide bats and balls, and play with your child.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to help in the kitchen. He can help you with simple recipes, such as biscuits or salads.
  • Provide opportunities to join sporting groups or other clubs.
  • Encourage your child to try activities that are stereotypically enjoyed by members of the opposite sex – for example, girls might have a lot of fun kicking a football around with you, while boys might love cooking.

What to watch out for

It can be a good idea to take your child to a doctor, or to speak to a teacher at school, if you notice that your child:

The information in this topic is a guide only. Children develop at different rates and in different ways. If you’re worried about your child’s development, or his development is very different from other children of the same age, talk to a health professional. If there’s a problem, getting in early will help – and if there isn’t a problem, the reassurance will save you some worry.
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  • Allen, E.K., &  Marotz, L. (1999). Developmental profiles (3rd edn). Delmar.

    Bowler, P,. & Linke, P. (1996). Your child from one to ten. Camberwell, Victoria: ACER.

    Charlesworth, R. (1992). Understanding child development. Delmar.

    Ilg, F., Ames, L., & Baker, S. (1992). Child behaviour. Harper Collins.