Grade School
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6 - 12 years

Developmental Milestones for Grade Schoolers (6–12-Years)

Learn about the key physical, cognitive, and social developmental milestones for grade schoolers from 6 to 12 years, along with red flags to be mindful of in this year-by-year guide.

author
Jessica Guht

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Your child is officially entering grade school, and the things they learn each year are shifting to reflect that. While kids get their first experience with school in preschool and kindergarten, grade school is when they start to see more structure. Spending each school day surrounded by peers also allows their social circles to expand, and while they’ll start by sticking with friends of the same gender, they’ll soon begin to make friends from both. 

Between ages 6 and 12, your child’s language skills continue to develop as their vocabulary expands and they learn how to use their words to express themselves. Your child is also acquiring thinking and reasoning skills at this age, allowing them to work through decisions and better follow your rules.

The following guides, one for each year, will help you see what developmental milestones you can look forward to when your child is between the ages of 6 and 12. 

6-Year-Old Milestones

A 6-year-old’s cognitive abilities are maturing. They can now understand more complex ideas — such as cause-and-effect relationships — along with what is real and what is only imagination. They can also distinguish between past and present and understand that similar things can be grouped together. 

At the same time that your 6-year-old is starting to lose their baby teeth (be prepared for all the gap-toothed grins!), they’re also developing their first molars, so if your child isn’t brushing their teeth consistently, now is a great time to have them start with this responsibility.

Here are more developmental milestones for 6-year-olds:

Speech and Language

  • Learns to express themselves through words
  • Speaks with correct grammar most of the time
  • Can spell their first name
  • Pronounces words correctly
  • Can describe a favorite TV, movie, story, or other activity
  • Reads simple words

Physical

  • Learns to write
  • Draws a person with at least 8 parts
  • Likes to run, skip, and jump
  • Can catch a ball
  • Uses safety scissors easily
  • Skips with ease
  • Can write their name
  • Can control their major muscles
  • Has good balance
  • Can write some letters and numbers

Emotional

  • Starts to understand the feelings of others, but only with the encouragement of their parents and other caregivers
  • May be prone to jealousy with siblings and friends
  • May struggle to process frustrating moments, such as losing a board game or struggling to master a skill

Thinking and Reasoning

  • Starts to grasp the concept of time
  • Can follow a series of at least three commands

Independence

  • Starts to understand cause-and-effect relationships
  • Likes to be the “big kid” who is taking care of a younger child
  • Dresses themselves, but may need some help with difficult laces or buttons
  • Can concentrate on a task for at least 15 minutes

Social

  • Wants their parents to play with them, but starts to fulfill more needs with friends and other people they admire, such as teachers
  • Plays with a lot of imagination 
  • Develops a sense of humor — may like simple jokes and funny rhymes and books

6-Year-Old Developmental Red Flags

Reach out to your pediatrician if your 6-year-old struggles with any of the following:

  • Wets the bed
  • Frequent tantrums
  • Tantrums that last longer than a few minutes
  • Sensitivity to different sensations that doesn’t go away with repeated exposure
  • Significant loss of skills
  • Cannot differentiate between real and pretend
  • Does not turn to adults for help or comfort
  • Excessively seeks adult approval and attention
  • Vision problems (e.g., complains about not being able to read signs at a distance, a lack of interest in reading, lots of eye rubbing, squinting, abnormal eye alignment, sensitivity to light)

7-Year-Old Milestones

Now that your child has started to lose their baby teeth, you can expect the tooth fairy to visit about four times a year, and these gaps will then be filled with their permanent teeth.

Your child’s thinking and reasoning skills are also developing. Your 7-year-old can name the days, months, and seasons, and they can also find similarities between two objects. However, their self-esteem may also be fragile during this time, so offer frequent encouragement and support. Their self-criticism is high, so emphasize how much they’ve learned instead of the final product. 

Here’s the developmental checklist for a 7-year-old: 

Speech and Language

  • Tends to talk a lot when in a situation where they are comfortable
  • Is becoming a better reader but may still struggle with sounding out vowels

Physical

  • More coordinated in activities using their large muscles, such as climbing or swimming
  • Uses a pencil to write their name
  • Can execute simple gymnastics movements, like somersaults
  • Can ride a two-wheeled bike
  • Can throw a ball with accuracy at a target
  • Can catch a ball with one hand
  • Has good balance

Emotional

  • Becomes more aware of and sensitive to the feelings of others
  • Overcomes some childhood fears but can still be scared of the unknown
  • Reads emotions from facial expressions
  • Has strong emotional reactions
  • Starts to feel guilt and shame
  • Desires to be perfect
  • Is very self-critical

Thinking and Reasoning

  • Has a solid sense of time and understands seasons, seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and sometimes years.
  • Can solve simple math problems using objects
  • Considers issues and problems using one factor at a time
  • Can describe points of similarity between two objects
  • Begins understanding that letters represent the sounds that form words
  • Can solve more complex problems
  • Understands the difference between right and wrong

Independence

  • Begins to prefer a learning style (e.g., working quietly on their own, hands-on activities)
  • Can tie their own shoe laces
  • May transition from taking a bath to taking a shower

Social

  • Forms friendships, usually with other children of the same gender
  • Plays in larger groups sometimes
  • Draws a person with 12 parts
  • Avoids and withdraws from adults
  • Waits for their turn in activities

7-Year-Old Developmental Red Flags

Since every child develops at their own rate, your 7-year-old may not hit all the milestones listed above. However, let your pediatrician know if you notice any of the following:

  • Does not respond to positive praise and attention
  • Acts sad or nervous much of the time
  • Does not share or take turns with other children
  • Unable to dress self
  • Unable to feed self
  • Unable to complete complex fine motor tasks (e.g., writing)

8-Year-Old Milestones

At 8 years old, your child’s moral compass is taking over, and they’re starting to understand right and wrong and which things correspond to each category. This is also the stage when your child will start to understand the value of money and may enjoy counting and saving what they have. 

Listed below are the other developmental milestones you can expect to see in your 8-year-old:

Speech and Language

  • Learns better ways to describe experiences
  • Can converse at an almost adult level
  • May show a major interest in reading
  • Speech sound and articulation issues from childhood often resolve by now

Physical

  • Develops more complex moving skills (e.g., running in a zig-zag, doing cartwheels, jumping down steps)
  • Is better at running to kick a ball
  • Can cut out irregular shapes
  • Can write smaller letters inside the lines in school books
  • Has refined finger control
  • Stamina increases — can run further

Emotional

  • Can better talk about their feelings
  • Has a strong need for love and understanding
  • Emotions change quickly
  • Impatient

Thinking and Reasoning

  • Starts to think about the future
  • Tries to understand why things happen
  • Thinking is organized and logical
  • Begins to understand the concept of reversibility (2+4=6 and 6-4=2)

Independence

  • Shows more independence from parents and family
  • Better understands their place in the world
  • Begins to have a preference for some activities and subjects
  • Can brush teeth without help

Social

  • Pays more attention to friendships and teamwork
  • Wants to be liked and accepted by friends
  • Focuses less on self
  • Can be helpful, pleasant, and cheerful, but also bossy, rude, and selfish
  • Has more concern for others
  • May be overdramatic
  • Makes friends easily

8-Year-Old Developmental Red Flags

Since you know your child better than anyone, it’s best to talk to a pediatrician if you ever have any concerns. Additionally, see a doctor if you notice any of the following in your 8-year-old:

  • Has a stutter or lisp when talking
  • Struggles to follow instructions
  • Can’t jump, hop, or skip
  • Struggles with making friends
  • Is aggressive with other children
  • Struggles to sit still for a long time
  • Is afraid to go to school or outright refuses
  • Doesn’t show empathy
  • Experiences daytime wetting
  • Still has regular night-time wetting
  • Can’t get dressed or undressed by themselves

9-Year-Old Milestones

At 9 years old, your child starts to show a growth pattern based on their gender. Girls are experiencing their growth spurt first, with 9-year-old girls getting taller and weighing more than the boys in their grade. 

Your child is also continuing to lose around four baby teeth a year, so the tooth fairy can’t take a break quite yet. 

Here are other milestones you can expect to see in your 9-year-old:

Speech and Language

  • Can read and understand sentences up to 12 words
  • Reads often and enjoys books
  • Reads to learn about something of interest
  • Has speech patterns that are nearly at an adult level

Physical

  • Enjoys active play (e.g., swimming, bike riding, running games)
  • Is increasingly interested in team sports
  • Likes to draw, paint, or make jewelry
  • Uses simple tools, like a hammer, by themselves
  • Is more coordinated

Emotional

  • Understands appropriate behavior
  • Can control their anger most of the time
  • Has a strong sense of empathy
  • Mood swings do not occur as often as before

Thinking and Reasoning

  • Knows that objects have uses and can be grouped into different categories
  • Can add and subtract 2-digit numbers
  • Understands fractions

Independence

  • Thinks independently and has improved decision-making skills
  • Gets dressed, brushes their hair, brushes their teeth, and gets ready without help

Social

  • Likes making plans ahead of time with friends

9-Year-Old Developmental Red Flags

While every child develops at their own rate and has their own unique personality, reach out to your pediatrician if you notice any of the following in your nine-year-old:

  • Spends all their time alone in their room
  • Has temper tantrums at home
  • Has nightmares or trouble sleeping
  • Has problems concentrating
  • Behavior at school is aggressive or antisocial

10-Year-Old Milestones

Your child’s cognitive skills are expanding at ten years old, with cognitive thinking skills and academic learning growing by the day.

Their social life is also expanding, with many kids having a group of friends, and one best friend, in particular, that they enjoy spending time with. This friend group provides the perfect opportunity for them to practice their empathy skills. 

Here are other developmental milestones your 10-year-old will hit this year:

Speech and Language

  • Can read and understand a paragraph of complex sentences
  • Reads books with chapters
  • Can converse easily with people of all ages

Physical

  • Enjoys team and group activities
  • Has built up an endurance for activities that require physical conditioning, such as running
  • Enjoys activities that use large and small muscles, such as dancing, basketball, and soccer
  • Fine motor skills strengthen, resulting in clearer handwriting

Emotional

  • Have more control over their emotions
  • May have frequent quarrels with siblings
  • May experience more stress

Thinking and Reasoning

  • Knows the complete date (day of the week, day of the month, month, and year)
  • Can name the months of the year in order
  • Skilled in addition and subtraction

Independence

  • Likes and listens to their parents, but some children may start to show irritation with adults in charge

Social

  • Enjoys being with their friends
  • Often has a best friend of the same gender

10-Year-Old Developmental Red Flags

If you notice any of the following in your ten-year-old, reach out to your pediatrician:

  • Poor or failing grades
  • Self-confidence is diminishing rather than increasing
  • Mood swings
  • New fears and avoidance behaviors

11-Year-Old Milestones

You’re officially in the tween years, notoriously known for the challenges that can arise as your child develops and increasingly seeks independence. At 11 years old, your child will become even more independent from their family and more aware of their body as puberty approaches. Friendships are also very important during this age, with many kids finding great emotional importance in their friendships. 

Here’s a list of all developmental milestones for an 11-year-old, broken down into different categories:

Speech and Language

  • Can respond to tone and intent, not just words
  • Use appropriate pitch and volume when speaking

Physical

  • Improved handwriting
  • Can use a variety of tools
  • Increased need to sleep and eat more

Emotional

  • Experiences more peer pressure
  • Begins to see other’s point of view more clearly

Thinking and Reasoning

  • Faces more academic challenges at school
  • Has an increased attention span
  • Does more complicated problem-solving
  • Realizes that current choices have longer-term effects

Independence

  • Becomes more aware of their body as puberty approaches
  • Becomes more independent from their family
  • Begins developing self-regulation skills
  • Understands that thoughts are private
  • Dedicates more time to their hobbies

Social 

  • It becomes more emotionally important for them to have friends
  • Starts resisting physical affection from parents
  • Forms strong and complex friendships
  • Explores identity through clothing, hair, friends, and hobbies

11-Year-Old Developmental Red Flags

Each child develops differently, but reach out to your pediatrician if your 11-year-old displays any of the following traits:

  • Is no longer interested in activities they once enjoyed
  • Spends all their time alone
  • Exhibits changes in appetite, weight, or eating patterns
  • Has nightmares or difficulty sleeping
  • Struggles to concentrate

12-Year-Old Milestones

It’s the end of your child’s pre-teen years, and by this point, they have likely started to undergo puberty. This means the first period for girls and the development of muscle for boys. However, with puberty, emotions can also quickly shift, and kids may start to show rebelliousness and a desire to argue for no reason. 

Here’s the list of milestones for 12-year-olds:

Speech and Language

  • Communicates easily with others
  • Is good about responding to others’ comments and questions
  • Writes stories
  • Reads well
  • Enjoys talking on the phone or texting

Physical

  • Boys become more muscular
  • Girls may start menstruating and developing leg and underarm hair
  • Has increased coordination
  • Likes to draw, write, and paint
  • Becomes increasingly skilled in sports

Emotional

  • Develops and tests values and beliefs
  • Emotions frequently ricochet between sadness and happiness

Thinking and Reasoning

  • Has an increasing ability to use logic
  • Defines self-concept in part by school success

Independence

  • Begins questioning family values while developing personal morals
  • Self-esteem regularly fluctuates

Social

  • May start to become rebellious
  • Is interested in getting approval from peers
  • May have a crush

12-Year-Old Developmental Red Flags

As you finish up the pre-teen years, it can be hard to note what emotions are normal, and which aren’t. However, if you notice any of the following with your child, reach out to your pediatrician:

  • Sleeps more than usual
  • Sudden changes in school performance
  • Low self-esteem
  • Isolates and doesn’t socialize

Find the Best Care for you 6–12-Year-Old Grade Schooler

Grade school is the time when your child learns the structure of school. In addition to the educational skills learned in the classroom, they’re also learning crucial social skills. However, if there’s an area where your child needs help, we know that you will want to get them nothing but the best care. 

At Coral Care, we will help connect you with the pediatric care your grade schooler deserves, whether that is a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or a speech language pathologist. Let us help you find the best care for your 6–12-year-old today.

Find effective support for developmental delays, quickly.

Self-pay or insurance
In-person and at-home appointments
No waitlist
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