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By elementary school children are much more competent and self-reliant. School-age development occurs at a less frenetic pace than what comes before or after, but it’s no less monumental.

As children progress through elementary school, the world opens up an life becomes a lot more complicated. School itself is one massive melting pot, exposing kids to many new things and a variety of different perspectives. kids begin to develop a greater awareness of the world around them, and with it comes knowledge of ‘adult’ problems like crime, violence, prejudice, unfairness and inequality.

Children start to pay more attention to how they present themselves to the world. This growth in social awareness leaves school-age children more vulnerable to peer pressure and the opinions of others, with all the potential problems this can create. Fashion and fads suddenly become important. Teasing and bullying become challenges for children to navigate, whether as victim, participant or bystander. School-yard politics become part of a child’s life.

The information herein will help you better understand your child’s world during the school-age years, to appreciate the growth and development that is taking place.

Developmental milestones that occur during elementary school

Here is a look at how children change as they enter and progress through the elementary school years:

1.) A child’s social awareness experiences significant growth around the age of 6 or 7. Children become much more socially aware, gaining a greater comprehension of how others perceive them, caring more about friendships or what other people think.

2.) By age 8, a child’s brain is nearly its mature adult size. Brain waves also increase, producing a more mature level of brain activity. (Epstein, 1980)

3.) Play starts to become more sex-segregated in elementary school, with boys and girls withdrawing into separate camps and spending more of their time playing with their own gender. (Some of this is probably due to biology, but gender segregation is also largely due to culture.)

4.) Playground romances and “dating” start in elementary school, sometimes as early as kindergarten. By grades 4 or 5, the majority of children claim to have been in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship.

5.) The so-called “latency period”” is a myth. Children continue to experience crushes and develop as sexual beings, they simply learn to better hide these interests from adults.

6.) Bullying starts to become a significant issue starting around grades 3 or 4, and continues to escalate as kids get older.

7.) Children’s hormonal levels tend to grow similar to that of adults approximately 2 years prior to the onset of puberty, or somewhere between the ages of 8 and 10 for most children.

8.) Some children (especially girls) will begin puberty in elementary school. Puberty is starting as early as age 6 or 7 for some girls. This can create a wide discrepancy in physical development between children in elementary school, resulting in awkwardness for the early bloomers.

Important developmental tasks for school-age children

Here are some of the things school-age children will need to accomplish to stay developmentally on track:

  • Developing unique talents and interests that contribute to a unique self-identity.

  • Learning how to navigate friendship circles within their peer group.

  • Learning how to speak up for themselves, and learning how to stand up against a group of peers.

  • Becoming proficient in reading and writing.

  • Developing greater social awareness and learning to adjust this behavior according to the audience.

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