How Children Learn and Develop:

6-8 Years

From ages six through eight, kids’ thinking, feeling and growth will continue to develop. As they transition into kindergarten, their learning will be more formal and focus on the subjects categorized in Colorado’s Academic Standards:

  • Comprehensive Health and Physical Education: Kids need to get enough rest and exercise. At this age, they should be able to follow directions and understand how to stay safe.
  • World Languages: Learning a new language and about different cultures helps students to learn more about their own culture and experiences.
  • Reading, Writing and Communicating: Kids may start to write the alphabet in kindergarten and write complete thoughts by third grade.
  • Mathematics:  Kids start learning their numbers and shapes in kindergarten. By the time they are in third grade, they may begin using those numbers to add, subtract, multiply and divide.
  • Science: Kids learn about the earth, living things and the world around them.
  • Social Studies: Kids will learn about history, geography, economics and government.
  • Music, Dance, Visual Arts and Drama: Kids learn how to express themselves and build confidence through performance and the arts.

Every child learns and grows at his or her own pace. This page describes typical development but all children are different. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s development, talk to your child’s health care provider.

Loving relationships are the building blocks for healthy development.

Strong relationships support healthy social-emotional development, which leads to strong mental health!

Loving relationships teach children how to make friends, understand and communicate their feelings, and overcome challenges. Strong, loving relationships help children develop trust, compassion for others and a sense of right and wrong.

Children this age are experiencing a lot of changes. They enjoy more independence from their parents, and friendships become more and more important in their lives. Physical, social and mental skills are developing quickly. This is an important time for children to build confidence in all areas of life — relationships, school, sports, etc.

Tips to support social-emotional development at 6-8 years:

  • Give your child responsibilities. Ask children to help with household tasks, such as making their bed or setting the table. These tasks help children develop a sense of responsibility. 
  • Help your child grow and mature. Talk to your child about friends, school and what she looks forward to. Help them learn patience by requiring them to finish a task before doing something they want. Praise good behavior and encourage your child to take on new challenges.
  • Set clear rules and stick to them. Be clear about what behavior is OK and not OK. Encourage your child to think about the consequences before acting.Continue to read to your child. Do fun things together as a family, like playing games and going to community events. Continue to read with your child. Take turns reading to each other each day as your child learns to read.
  • Use discipline to guide your child, not punish. Help children understand a better way to react and behave. Don’t just focus on what not to do. Help them understand what to do. Praise them for positive behaviors and responses.

Source: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/middle.html

At this age, kids are developing skills that will help in all of their learning, both in school and in life. These skills may include understanding similarities and differences or being able to talk and write about their thoughts and ideas.

Tips to help kids learn and thrive:

  • Talk with kids and ask them questions about what they are learning at school.
  • Visit their classrooms or attend school events. Contact their teachers when you have questions.
  • Encourage kids to try different activities. Arrange outings to the library, zoo, park or museum.
  • Write or make up stories together. You can start a story and let your child finish it or take turns.
  • Provide healthy food and take children to the doctor for regular checkups.
  • Make sure your child has one hour or more of physical activity each day.
  • Limit screen time and choose educational content that you have reviewed and approved. Watch with your child, if possible, to make the experience more enriching.

Source: Colorado Early Learning & Development Guidelines, www.EarlyLearningCO.org

Middle childhood, or age 6-8, is an important time to help children develop a healthy sense of self-esteem.

Self-esteem is the way we feel about ourselves. Children’s self-esteem is shaped not only by their own perceptions, but also by the perceptions and expectations of important people in their lives — like parents, teachers and friends.

As children approach middle school, it’s important to talk to them about what bullying is and how to safely stand up to it. Self-esteem will help protect children from bullying behavior.

In fact, strong self-esteem will help children succeed in school and throughout their lives!

For healthy self-esteem, children need:

  • Security — to feel safe and secure about themselves and their futures
  • Belonging — to feel accepted and loved by others (including family, friends, classmates and community)
  • Purpose — to have direction and a way to channel energy toward achievement and self-expression
  • Personal pride — to have confidence in their ability to overcome challenges; a sense of personal power that comes from positive life experiences and knowing that they can solve problems independently
  • Trust – to feel trust in themselves, their abilities and the people who are close to them
  • Responsibility — to have opportunities to show what they’re capable of doing without being checked on all the time
  • Contribution — to contribute in meaningful ways helps children develop a sense of importance; when they contribute, children understand that they matter
  • Encouragement, support and reward — to receive positive messages and recognition that they are doing well, trying hard and pleasing others
  • Family pride — to understand family heritage, ancestors and tradition; to interact with extended family members; to participate in supportive family interactions

Learn more about supporting children’s self-esteem here.

Source: HealthyChildren.org

At this age, children continue to learn skills that provide a strong foundation for lifelong learning.

Children this age are learning how things are the same and different. They are learning how to talk and write about their thoughts and ideas.

They are continuing to build their relationship skills by making friends and connecting with adults. Children this age are still learning to follow rules and directions and to control their impulses. They also learn to keep trying when at first they don’t succeed.

Try these tips to build a child’s resiliency skills at 6-8 years:

  • Ask questions about what she is learning in school
  • Instead of asking, “How was your day?” ask open-ended questions, “What did you do in art class today?” or, “What game did you play at recess?”
  • Visit his classroom and go to school events; talk to his teachers if you have questions
  • Give her healthy food, encourage exercise, and make sure she gets enough sleep
  • Take him to the doctor regularly; talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your child’s development or behavior
  • Encourage your child’s friendships and help her solve conflicts
  • Set limits that are appropriate for her age and help her understand why limits are important
  • Encourage him to try new and different activities
  • Help her understand that sometimes doing new things is hard but they will get easier with practice

Source: Colorado Project LAUNCH, www.EarlyChildhoodMentalHealthCO.org

The architecture of the human brain is constructed over time. The process begins before birth and continues into adulthood.

Early experiences and relationships shape how our brain gets built. Secure and loving relationships create a strong foundation for healthy brain development.

Depending on our experiences and relationships in the early years, our brains will establish either a sturdy or a fragile foundation, which impacts us for the rest of our lives.

The human brain needs to be able to remember and work with information, focus our thoughts, filter out distractions, and switch gears. It’s almost like the air-traffic controller at the airport, managing the arrivals and departures of many planes on multiple runways.

Scientists call these abilities “executive function” and “self-regulation”. Together executive function and self-regulation are skills that rely on three types of brain function:

  1. Working memory
  2. Mental flexibility
  3. Self-control

Executive Function: Skills for Life and Learning

Children aren’t born with these skills, they develop them over time. Learn more about executive function and how to support it in this video.

 

Sources: Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, https://developingchild.harvard.edu/;  Zero to Three, www.zerotothree.org