By Raising Children Network
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School is a great new adventure for most children. Play is one of the keys to working out how to get along with other children and how to fit in.

Boy riding scooter

What to expect

Between the ages of six and nine, your child will mature and develop markedly. Just by playing together, you encourage and enhance this process.

New hobbies or interests might develop now. These can be a great basis for self-directed learning. Your child might start to devour books and magazines on any subjects of interest, whether these are motorbikes or horses or bugs.

Your child’s social skills are also increasing. By nine, your child may have formed special friendships with one or two other children, probably of the same sex.

Your older child might revel in being independent. Playing together can keep you close. Just kicking a footy in the backyard helps to strengthen your bond and also develops your child’s physical skills.

Even though your child will probably enjoy the new adventure of school, your child will still need nurturing and support to deal with any anxieties or concerns that come up. Playing with your child will help keep the lines of communication open.

Structured play vs self-directed play

Your child’s day is now more structured to fit around school, with lots of rules to follow. Sometimes parents worry that their child isn’t doing enough structured activities after school.

In fact, self-directed play is really valuable, because it gives children time to:

  • let their thoughts and imaginations roam
  • explore ideas and think creatively
  • run around just for fun.

If you’re looking for more structured play activities:

  • playing board games helps to consolidate maths skills and teaches taking turns
  • reading together continues to extend reading skills and vocabulary.
When it comes to play and your school-age child, keep the focus on having a good time, rather than on learning. Let your child take the lead with play. Learning follows naturally when play is fun.

Play ideas for school-age children

Your school-age child might enjoy:

  • school sports and games – you might want to discuss physical play activities with your child’s school
  • riding bikes (with trainer wheels and a helmet), and other wheeled toys
  • threading beads and string, and other simple crafts
  • making puppets with old socks or paper bags
  • dress-up games and pretend play
  • jumping and dancing to a favourite piece of music
  • exploring interactive computer games and educational CD-ROMS
  • doing puzzles and jigsaws
  • building cubby houses
  • playing with musical instruments
  • gardening with you
  • helping to prepare dinner, using simple cooking ideas
  • trips to the local playground
  • painting and making prints with sponges or toothbrushes
  • simple card games or board games
  • watching a favourite TV show or video.
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  • Last Updated 24-03-2010
  • Last Reviewed 02-11-2009
  • Rubin, K.H., Bukowski, W., & Parker, J.G. (1998). Peer interactions, relationships and groups. In W. Damon & N. Eisenberg (eds), Handbook of child psychology, vol 3: Social, emotional and personality development (5th ed). New York: Wiley & Sons.