Young Children: Child Development (6-8 Years Old)

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

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What are milestones in physical skills development for young children 6-8 years of age?

By the time a child reaches 6 to 8 years of age, gross and fine motor skills have become much more sophisticated and integrated. One of the most impressive changes is related to a child's coordination. They will now have the ability to finely coordinate independent movements of both the upper and lower extremities into a synchronous motion. Successfully riding a two-wheel bicycle requires reciprocal leg motion (one side applies pressure to the pedal while the other leg relaxes) coupled with arm movements to maintain a desired direction all while maintaining the balance necessary to avoid falling. Some sports require these upper- and lower-extremity skills to be developed in tandem (swimming, gymnastics, ice skating, or hockey). Other sports have an emphasis on upper-extremity (baseball, basketball) or lower-extremity (soccer) skills. It is worthwhile for children to experience a number of various sports to allow experimentation in as many avenues as possible. Enjoyment over success should be the focal point.

What are stages in cognitive skills development for young children 6-8 years of age?

In Piaget's stages of cognitive development, the 6- to 8-year-old child has entered the "intuitive phase." Speech patterns have matured, and long and complex sentences are to be expected. Occasional stuttering or stammering may be noticed and should not be considered abnormal unless its existence interferes with academic or social activities. Thought processes are less egocentric, and the child begins to recognize that his/her actions have consequences (both intended and unintended). It should be remembered that children in this age range are bound by concrete thought processes. Behaviors and actions are either black or white -- grays do not exist. As a result specific "dos" and "don'ts" are important. The gradual development of a conscience is a major social milestone of this age range. The dictum "perception is reality" aptly applies to these children -- partially as a consequence of the black-white issue noted above as well as a residual magical belief system coupled with a sense of self-perfection. (The 3- to 5-year-old child believes he can do no wrong since he is perfect.) A 7-year-old may understand that his mother told him not to eat the cookies she has just baked; however, he may purposely invalidate the "do not" command by rationalizing that she would probably offer him one after dinner. Many parents learn by experience that single-step instructions work best in this age group. A shopping list of tasks to accomplish is overwhelming, and 6- to 8-year-old children find it difficult to see the forest through the trees. Lastly, boys in this age range seem to be fascinated by bathroom humor and are notorious for their scatological behavior (for example, by loudly imitating the passing of gas).

One area that may present itself during this period may be the designation for the first time that a child is gifted, either academically, athletically, or in the arts. It may be necessary to investigate and quantify possible academic superiority with formal testing. Such scales as the Stanford-Binet IQ Test or the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children -- Revised (WISC-R) are commonly administered by an educational psychologist on retainer by the local school district. It is important for parents to understand that a gifted child may imply either a global intellectual superiority or a more focused enhancement (for example, math) while other academic areas are age appropriate. While it is exciting for parents to have such an intellectually advanced child, there may be strains in family dynamics as a result. The child may feel different, and siblings may suffer misinterpreted praise for their brother/sister as denigrating and lessening of their aptitude. The gifted child may adopt perfectionism as a mantra and suffer a demotion in self-esteem if academic success does not meet expectations. Families may invest large sums of time, emotion, and money to nurture such a child only to discover that he/she would prefer to play with friends. It is important for parents to realize that assignment of a child as gifted does not eliminate the possibility of a focused learning difficulty, ADHD and possible personality disorders associated with these areas. It is crucial to remember that the emotional maturity of the gifted child is generally synchronous with his chronological age.

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