Parent's Resource Center

Primary Schoolers

Overview
Primary Schoolers (middle childhood)
  • Children usually go to primary school between 4-1/2  and 12 years of age. This is when they build on, and improve, their previously learned skills. They make friends and are interested in the world around them.
  • They are becoming independent and enjoy responsibilities and challenges they can manage.
  • Their social skills are improving. They often enjoy playing with small groups of three or four children.
  • Their physical skills are improving. They may be very interested in several kinds of activities.
  • They begin to develop hobbies and specials interests and learn a lot this way.
  • They enjoy helping at home and doing family things like going on picnics and visiting relatives.
  • Often children in this age group can develop one or two special friends of the same sex. Friendships with people of other ages and sex are also important to them. They like learning about their neighborhood and may be particularly fond of a pet animal.
  • Activities such as cooking, bike riding, cubbies, legos, reading, TV, sport, and making things are all popular. Many of these things are fun to do together.
  • Children learn and develop at different rates, try not to compare children and/or siblings.
Quick guide - 5 to 12 year olds
  • Your five & six year old child can:

     

    • spend much of the first year of school getting used to the rules and regulations of this new environment
    • be shy and prone to crying - can be clingy
    • learn to do tasks such as tying their own shoe laces
    • be introduced to basic reading and writing skills

     

  • Your seven year old child can:

     

    • still be getting used to the school environment
    • play with small groups of children - often the same sex
    • continue to develop reading and writing skills as well as basic math
    • like to have a friend 'come over' after school
    • be less likely to cry.

     

  • Your eight year old child can:

     

    • be interested in learning about things around them
    • take more interest in some subjects over others
    • be influenced more by peers
    • enjoy having friends to 'sleepovers' regularly
    • prefer to play with same sex friends.

     

  • Your nine year old child can:

     

    • have an increased awareness of the 'self' in relation to the group
    • want to change to fit in better with peers
    • start to become critical of clothing and behavior of parents
    • tease and discuss 'boyfriend/girlfriends' issues
    • be more concerned with hair, dress and weight
    • begin to physically develop (particularly girls).

     

  • Your 10 year old child can:

     

    • experience an increased influence of the peer group
    • be concerned about being embarrassed
    • interact more with the opposite sex
    • develop firmer and longer lasting relationships with friends
    • want more independence and be preoccupied with socializing.

     

  • Your 11 year old child can:

     

    • experience an increased influence of peers
    • be more aware of their own identity and their place in the world
    • be concerned with social acceptance
    • show more interest in the opposite sex
    • want to be treated like an adult
    • become critical of themselves and others.

     

  • Your 12 year old child can:

     

    • dislike being referred to as a child
    • experience major physical and emotional changes and also experience an awakening of sexual awareness
    • experience self consciousness and awkwardness
    • want to assert their independence
    • be already physically developing
      • by the age of 12 many girls have or will start to experience rapid physical growth
      • boys generally develop two years later than girls
      • girls can start puberty as young as eight or nine and as old as 16 or 17
      • boys usually start to develop between 12 and 14 but can also be late maturers.

     

  • The 12 year old child is on the threshold of adolescence which can be described as time of dreams, fears, romance and despair.
Language development
  • When children start school they've already learnt a lot about their first language. Some children may speak more than one language. Children will be good at naming things, understanding action words and be able to follow simple instructions.
  • Children will increase their language skills by:

     

    • reading and having books read to them
    • watching TV and videos
    • listening to people talk
    • listening to stories
    • listening to the radio
    • singing
  • Vocabulary increases dramatically during this age.
  • Most children should be good readers by the time they leave school and understand adult conversations.
  • School age children gradually learn how adults talk in different ways. They like to joke and play with words. Often they go through a stage of 'toilet jokes' where they experiment with 'naughty' words.
  • You can help your child's language development by:

     

    • getting help if you think there are problems; ask the teacher, speech pathologist, Australian Institute of Learning Disabilities or SPEECH (Society to Promote Essential Education for Children with Communication Handicaps)
    • setting a good example - reading, joining a library, speaking clearly, enjoying words, playing spelling games
    • providing tapes and stories for children to listen to and read
    • reading rhymes and poems
    • singing to and with your children
    • reading to your children even when they can read themselves
    • allowing children to choose what they read.
Social development
  • All children need a friend. With this friend they'll experience many new things. When they feel secure with this friend they'll branch out and make more friends.
  • Children in middle childhood often have more than one 'best friend'.
  • School children are often very clear who their friends are. ('You're my friend' or 'I'm not your friend any more'). Children can 'make up' after arguments and keep friends over several years.
  • Encourage children to socialize with children their own age - both in and out of school.
  • Friendships will develop and their importance will increase. Same sex friendships are more common in middle childhood.
  • Family, neighbors, friends, teachers and people in the community are all important to children. Through these people they learn things about age, employment and community roles. They like to see and do new things and will join in if they feel comfortable.
  • Children like being with other people but they need to learn and practice social skills.
  • Children learn to understand the needs and expectations of other people and act accordingly.
  • Children need:

     

    • good role models so they learn positive behavior
    • trust, honesty and care
    • simple, clear explanations about how people behave in the home and community
    • different ways of dealing with problems as they arise
    • someone to listen to them
    • someone to believe in them
Children's grief
  • Grief is part of life. Learning about loss and grief can be an important part of a child's education and growth.
  • Children can grieve over many things, including some of the following:

     

    • death of a pet
    • having a disability
    • getting injured
    • being in hospital
    • feeling unsafe after a break in or burglary
    • moving house
    • when their best friend moves away
    • being separated from parents for a long time
    • divorce or separation of parents
    • death of a parent or grandparent.

     

  • Children often don't have words to express their feelings and may show their grief in some of the following ways:

     

    • headaches, stomach pains, loss of appetite
    • problems at school
    • sleep problems
    • clinging to adults
    • anger, aggression, behavioral problems
    • fears
    • lack of concentration
    • delayed development
    • pretending nothing has happened
    • emotional - laughing and crying without obvious cause
    • not wanting to go to school or running away.

     

  • You can give support and help your children.

     

    • Give clear, honest, easy to understand information and answers, according to their age.
    • If they need to, let the child hear what happened over and over again.
    • Assure the child there will always be someone there for them.
    • Be aware that children may take advantage of the situation.
    • Help the child to express their feelings - through talking, crying, painting.
    • 'Protecting' children by not sharing grief, or lying, may cause problems later in life.
    • Even though you may try and shield children from the truth, they will know something is wrong by the behavior of those around them.
    • Share grief so the child doesn't feel left out and frightened.
    • Give simple explanations such as: 'Granny died. We can't see her any more and that makes us very sad.'
Intellectual development 
  • Children learn all the time.
  • They are able to remember rules and information and use this information when it's needed.
  • They like to connect what they know with new things. They can come up with their own ideas and reasons about how the world works if they are encouraged but may not always get it right.
  • Children this age like to solve problems. They are not yet ready to do everything in their heads. They learn by doing and thinking.
  • At this age children enjoy games like scrabble and yhatzee which let them practice what they know. They are fascinated with science experiments. They need to see the process of how to do something from beginning to end. However they'll probably want to begin before they have all the instructions and will need an adult to help them.
  • Children develop differences and special interests at this time. They may have a craze for a certain topic, like dinosaurs.
  • If you are worried about your child's intellectual development speak to your child's teacher.
Emotional development
  • Children are now learning to be independent. When they feel worried or scared they may behave in ways which seem annoying such as boasting, disobedience, laziness or telling 'lies'. With understanding, attention and time children learn to overcome these things.
  • If there is a noticeable change in the child's behavior it is advisable to look deeper and find out why.
  • School children can enjoy talking about emotions, feelings and relationships.
  • They begin to identify less with parents and more with peers as they continue through primary school..
  • Children this age may need their own personal space. This can be a bedroom, a bed, a special place (a tree, clubhouse) or a place for their own things. They still like hugs, kisses and cuddles, especially when doing things with you like watching TV or reading.
  • You can help your child's emotional development by:

     

    • setting a good example
    • talking about how you feel
    • giving the child examples of how to express their feelings
    • talking to them about their feelings
    • talking to your child's teacher as often as you can..
    • talking and listening.

     

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