As your son or daughter moves through the stages of child development, he or she will leave the pres-school years behind to enter the age period 7-12 years.
These are exciting years and your child will experience a period of rapid maturation and social growth.
The preschool stages of child development equipped your child with the resources and abilities he or she needed in order to move into the next stages of child development which are characterized by balancing many different, often opposing, wants and needs and juggling many contradictory emotions such as:
On this long page, I will be guiding you through the physical, cognitive, emotional and social child development stages for each year from the age 7 to the age of 12.
If you want to read about specific developmental milestones relevant for a certain age, by all means, just find the relevant link below and follow it.
If you like your child development info spiced up with a few sharp theoretical points from some of the famous grand old masters in child development along with some important high-level parenting insights, just read on and enjoy the ride :-)
Physical, cognitive, social and emotional child development stages:
According to Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, during this period, children develop the ability to think logically and have more "adult like" thought patterns that, among other things, include the ability to:
According to Erik Erikson, during this time, a child's most significant relationships are those with his friends and peers. Although parents are obviously still very important, they don't have the same influence and authority as in younger years.
Because of this shift, a child's self-esteem and confidence tend to be more susceptible to how he believes those outside his family see him.
According to Erikson, this period is characterized by a focus of 'being able'. This ability to accomplish what you set out to do (to realize your own potential), is what he calls industry. Supporting this focus on industry is vital for the existential building of self esteem.
In my opinion there are two aspects in this:
Helping your child experience the basic existential feeling of, 'Yes, I can do this. I can meet my own goals' is extremely important for building self esteem. This feeling of 'I can' is what will fuel your child to out in the world and experiment, test and try which again will provide him with important life skills.
In my experience, the more your child knows that he is unconditionally loved for his person, not his accomplishments, the less susceptible he will be to external evaluations and judgements from the outside.
An extra bonus here is also that if he feels unconditionally loved, he will be more prone to following, realizing and reaching his own goals rather than just mindlessly following someone else's ideas of what he should do.
The bonus of unconditional love is really quite logical:
The more your child really knows and feels that he or she is inherently good, loved and capable, the more your child is 'free' to focus on other matters that do not aim at fulfilling the need for acceptance and attention (you see, those needs are already met by you loving him unconditionally).
Conclusion: A fully satisfied child, is a free child.
Giving your child this solid foundation of being unconditionally loved is the basic
principle of unconditional parenting.
Testing the limits of physical performance
Your child will have a lot of energy and will often test the limits or engage in what you probably perceive as risky behaviour such as climbing trees or jumping from high places.
He will now be more coordinated, so he may ask to join organized sports teams or take classes that pertain to his hobby or interests.
Perhaps a periodic loss in appetite
You may be concerned because he is eating less than he did just a few months ago, but don't worry, this is quite normal. His appetite will increase again very soon.
Higher bodily awareness regarding nudity
He will start to become more aware of his body and may want more privacy when getting dressed.
Difficulty falling asleep
He may also experience some difficulty falling asleep at night because his mind is so busy. Unless he seems to exhibit signs of anxiety, this is completely normal and he will fall asleep when he is ready.
Lots of daydreaming and playing with the imagination
Your seven year old will love to daydream. She will be forgetful, absent minded, and often lost in her own little world. Magic, fantasy, and make-believe will be a source of fascination.
Stories of "once upon a time" and "happily ever after" will dominate her play time.
More meta perspective when problem solving
Abstract thought will improve and she will be able to look at problems from more than one angle and consider multiple solutions.
Humor now includes jokes
Her sense of humour will be well-developed and she will enjoy hearing and telling jokes.
More abstract thinking: telling the time
Since she can now tell time, she will like making schedules and planning her day, and may even benefit from both a calendar and wrist watch.
Using simple math
She will now be able to count to 100 with understanding, add and subtract simple equations, and be able to begin using money.
Starting to self-evaluate
She will be able to look at her own drawings and notice things that she missed such as a nose on a face or a handle on a door.
She will be very critical of herself, especially when she makes mistakes, so make sure that you give her lots of encouragement and reassurance.
One way to do this is to NOT evaluate drawings as bad OR good. Just simply comment on what is in the drawings, 'oh, you made a head that is green, that's interesting, how come?'. In this way your child will be more prone to drawing because the task in itself is fun and interesting rather than drawing because he or she equates drawing with praise and attention.
In other words, non-judgement sets your child free to set and follow his own goals, which again supports healthy independency and free personal growth.
Although your child will enjoy socializing, she will also need her own personal space.
She will like spending time alone, perhaps especially when she is feeling down. However, every child is different, so tune into your gut feeling and try and sense what it is your child needs (being alone or being in company).
Mental fear spin-offs
At this age, many children begin to develop fears.
If they see a television report about a flood, they will be afraid that a natural disaster may hit their home.
If they hear about a bank being robbed, they may fear that the same burglar will break into their house while everyone is sleeping.
It is important that you not only reassure your child of his safety, but that you make him feel more "in control" by giving him possible solutions. For example, you can ease his fear of a house fire by planning a route of escape, or eliminate his concern of a break-in by having him help you lock the doors and set the security system.
Focus on self-image
Even though your child will crave your affection, he might not want you to hug him or touch him in public, especially in front of his friends.
Even though it may be difficult, see if you can't respect this.
Attaching special meaning to objects
Your child may also develop an interest in collecting things and you might find pockets full of stones or piles of paper clips tucked away someplace special.
Since he will usually attach special meaning to these objects, this is a good time to take him on a walk to collect leaves, seashells, or other trinkets that will allow you to spend time together while building memories.
Your 8 year old will love activities that keep her busy. She will be lively and energetic and will talk rapidly. She will flit, and skip, and jump around, and will enjoy physical activities that provide a challenge.
Challenging own physical performance
She will like timing herself to see how quickly she can get dressed, set the table, or complete an obstacle course.
She will believe that she can do anything she sets her mind to, and therefore, will often take risks. For example, she may want to toboggan down the largest hill or climb the highest slide.
The idea of starting small and working up to larger achievements will seem "silly" to her when she can simply save time by beginning with the most difficult task first.
Enjoying rhythmic movements in sports
She may also like dancing and sports that involve rhythmic movement such as ice skating, ballet, or even horseback riding.
Increase in appetite
Her appetite will once again increase because of her high energy level and zest for life.
More detailed art work
Art work will be more detailed and activities involving hand-eye coordination will improve.
Permanent teeth grow in
Your child's permanent teeth will begin to grow in, but they will look overly large at first.
Better peripheral vision
Peripheral vision will also improve so you may notice that she moves her eyes around as she notices objects in her side vision.
Reality will slowly replace the fantasy world
Your child will begin to trade his fantasy world for reality.
Humor is still evolving
He will still enjoy humor and like watching funny shows or reading joke and riddle books.
Language experimentation and playing with words
He may ask for a secret password before you enter his bedroom, or make up nicknames for his friends.
Listening to other languages may interest him and he might create his own funny words for objects then insist that everyone use them in conversation.
Children at this age can be very dramatic which can also be seen in their choice of language: your child may use phrases like, "This is the worst day of my life" or "I'm bleeding to death".
Enjoy activities driven by thinking, categorizing and reasoning
Your child will enjoy activities that involve thinking and reasoning such as board games or card games. He will like looking at and arranging his collections, or impressing the family with magic tricks.
Starting to grasp the abstract concept of money
His understanding of money is improving and he will begin to think about how he can earn it or spend it.
Still easily distracted
He will still be absent minded, and it is important that you do not mistake forgetfulness for conscious disobedience.
His curious mind may distract him from the task at hand, but it is also a great asset for learning and developing.
Pointing out lies
He may become argumentative, point out your mistakes, and let you know when he recognizes a lie.
For example, if someone asks, "How are you? " and you reply with "Fine ", your child may say, "No you aren't, Mommy. You said you have a headache."
He is just starting to understand that what people say can be different from what they feel, and therefore, he may consider your answer a lie.
Needing to be 'seen'
Although your child will perhaps be less moody than she was just a few months ago, she will become much more demanding of your time and attention.
While she used to enjoy spending time alone, now she will follow you around and may even 'misbehave' so you will notice her. Even if you spend a lot of time with her, she will still feel like she needs more.
Doing one thing, needing something else
She might be argumentative, and maybe even rude or disrespectful. Even though she will sometimes act as if she does not like her parents and siblings, she will still need a lot of encouragement.
Don't let her attitude fool you – she still needs your unconditional support.
Hard on herself
She will like challenges, but will be very hard on herself when she makes a mistake. And, patience will probably not be her strongest virtue.
Always on to the next exciting project
Her room may be messy, and she will leave a wake of disorder behind her wherever she goes. She will leave her towels on the floor after a shower or her dishes on the counter after a snack.
She is not necessarily sloppy – she is just in a hurry to get to her next activity and too impatient to take the time to tidy up.
Higher awareness on looks
Appearance will become very important to her, and she will begin to judge her relationships based on how she thinks others approve or disapprove of her clothing, hair, or shoes.
More conscious understanding of right and wrong
She will have a better understanding of right and wrong, and this will influence the way she interacts with friends and family.
Repeating activities to do better each time
As your child's coordination increases, he will become focused on improving physical skills. He will do an activity over and over again, trying to do better each time (This is an example of Erik Erikson's industry, that I mentioned earlier in this article).
Getting involved in many activities all at once
New things will excite him and he will want to get involved in everything that catches his interest. If you let him, he will fill his schedule to overflowing and still want to do more.
When I was this age, I had no less than 7 different types of sports going on all at the same time.
Lots of competing
This is the age when the concept of "competition" might be interesting. He may want to join a sports team, become interested in professional sports, or challenge friends to races and contests.
He will enjoy hands-on activities and like using Legos or interlocking blocks to build detailed structures.
More intricate artistic activities
He may show an interest in cursive writing or more intricate artistic activities such as painting, carpentry, or designing elaborate roadways and villages for his toy cars.
Potential growth spurts
Your child's body is changing fast, and he may experience sudden growth spurts or growing pains.
Although puberty is likely still a couple of years away, some children will begin showing signs as early as age 9, so be prepared to talk with your child about these changes when they occur.
Applying concepts to real life
At this age, your child will begin applying concepts he has learned at school to real life. You may often hear, "My teacher says" or "Did you know?"
He will start to understand that you use math when you go grocery shopping, or science when you fix a car.
Strong awareness of time
The concept of time will be very important and he will like planning his schedule or organizing his day.
He may even begin giving his exact age, such as "I am 9 and three months".
Planning and playing with the future
He will also become "future" minded and begin saying things like, "When I grow up I am going to be a fireman". He may even tell you about where he will live, how many children he will have, and what kind of car he will drive.
Stronger distinctions between reality and fantasy
Magic and make-believe will continue to give way to reality and he may tell younger siblings that "there is no such thing as Santa Clause" or that "believing in a fairy godmother is silly."
Empathy is growing stronger
He will begin to develop a strong conscience and be very aware of right and wrong.
His apologies and compliments will be genuine. Fairness and justice will be important.
High standards for self and others
He will expect a lot from others, but will have even higher standards for himself.
Higher focus on completion
Once he begins a project, he will insist on finishing it, and will become frustrated if he is unable to complete what he starts.
Torn between parental dependence and personal independence
Your child might be moody and sensitive.
He may seem rebellious or aggressive, but this might be due to the reason that he is conflicted between a desire for independence and a continuing need for his parents.
The challenge of managing relationships outside the family
Up until this point, he received most of his feedback about relationships from you, but now he will want to spend more time with his friends.
This can sometimes be volatile since every 9 year old is still learning how to build strong relationships with people other than family members.
Friendships may change daily, and there may be a lot of fights or disagreements.
Looks are growing more and more important
Appearance will continue to be important, and he may change his style frequently. For example, he may want to grow his hair longer or change from t-shirts to button-up shirts.
Remember, how he judges himself will be based on how he thinks others see him, so he might become frustrated if he isn't able to dress a particular way, participate in certain activities, or achieve specific accomplishments.
Higher level of self knowledge
Your child will still be busy and active, but she may begin to feel more self-conscious about both her body and her abilities.
Natural outbursts of anger
She may have some temper tantrums and exhibit her displeasure by stomping her feet, yelling, or even throwing things.
She will probably use her words more than tears, and she might lash out by saying nasty or cruel things.
Weight gain as early preludes to puberty
Many girls will gain weight around this age, which is the body's way of preparing for all the changes it will experience during puberty.
It is important that you reassure your daughter that this is normal, and that she is not fat.
She may also experience sore or tingling nipples, but may be too worried or embarrassed to say anything. By telling her what to expect, you may be able to prepare her for this uncertain and confusing time.
Higher level of conversational contribution
Your child will love to talk and socialize, even to the point of it becoming a distraction when doing other tasks.
She will enjoy being included in adult conversation and will even be able to make logical and intelligent contributions, especially about social issues.
Perhaps engaging in idol mentality
This is the age when your child will begin to admire famous people such as athletes, singers, or actors.
She might hang posters on her walls and school locker, or wear t-shirts of favorite music groups. You may be amazed that she can memorize entire songs by a band she idolizes but is unable to learn her math facts.
Social acceptance becomes more and more important
You will hear the term "that's not fair" over and over, and she will be very aware of social expectations, being especially careful not to do anything that will bring embarrassment or humiliation.
Perhaps more relaxed in being oneself
For some this year might provide a bit of a reprieve from the emotion and insecurity your child has been experiencing.
She might be less concerned about what others think, and happy just to be herself.
You, the parent, is still very important
Although friendships will still matter, her parents will once again be the most important relationships in her life.
She may even try to treat you as a friend by confiding in you and wanting you to participate in her activities. Most of the time, this dynamic will work, but be prepared for explosions of anger when you have to enforce rules or set limits.
Still wants to have a lot on his or her plate
She will want to try new things, and you may have to step in to make sure that she doesn't take on more than she can handle or become too busy.
Perspective is still growing and growing
Socially, she will be able to see situations from others' point of view of will be able to recognize that she is not the only one who has problems.
In other words, she will realize that the world does not revolve entirely around her and that sometimes a friend's needs may take precedence over her own.
For girls puberty might start here
A lot of physical changes happen during this year, particularly for girls, who may experience growth spurts, breast development, and menstruation.
This is the age when most children need to begin using deodorant.
Since girls usually begin puberty before boys, it may be another couple of years before your son displays moodiness or growth spurts. This is a good time to begin talking to him about what physical changes to expect, as he may be too embarrassed to ask you about what he is feeling and experiencing.
You may also want to assure him that even though he is shorter than most of the girls in his class, he will eventually grow.
Your child will become more self-conscious about her appearance, particularly when it comes to clothing and hair, and you may notice significant moodiness, especially in girls.
Basic physical needs shift a bit
Children of this age will eat more, sleep more, and be less interested in physical activities.
Temper tantrums will continue to be a factor, although angry outbursts can quickly turn into tears.
More goal and purpose orientated
Your eleven year old will need new information to be relevant to his life. He may complain that learning history is "useless" or that music class is a "waste of time".
He will love learning, but it must have a purpose.
Higher need for informational precision
He will seem to be very argumentative, but this is his way of challenging his intellect and testing the accuracy of information that he has been given.
Very conscious of moral codes
He will have very high standards for other people, and will demand truth, justice, and fairness from those he trusts.
He is very aware of right and wrong, and he will expect others to do what is right, though he will not always do so himself.
Building on long term perspective
While he will still be very critical of himself, he will also be more aware of his abilities and strengths.
He will "dream big" and will talk about becoming a famous movie star or professional hockey player.
Signs of puberty may or may not be apparent, but even if you cannot see them, these changes are definitely happening.
Your child may swing quickly from laughter, to melancholy, to anger, and then back to contentment.
She may be cruel to her siblings, argue about everything, and constantly test the limits.
Even though you may be the most frequent victim of her outbursts, her family is still very important to her.
And, if you have a girl, stock up on kleenex because she might be prone to crying – a lot!
Old fears may resurface
Don't be alarmed if old fears make a comeback. She may once again need the nightlight to fall asleep, or check all the doors to make sure they are locked before she goes to bed.
Need for appearing independent of parents
Your child will feel grown up, so she will not like being babysat or "rescued" by her parents. So, if she forgets her lunch, don't deliver it to her classroom.
And, try not to assist her with tasks in front of her friends.
Physical needs are still shifting and going up and down
Since your child's body is going through a lot of changes, he will need to eat a lot.
You may notice that he alternates between periods of high and low energy, and may have difficulty sleeping.
Puberty will likely set in, particularly for girls
Your daughter may begin menstruation, if she hasn't already, and her breasts will begin to fill out. She may even need to begin wearing a bra.
By this age, she will probably be about 90% of her adult height and will be very self-conscious of her body.
She will be emotional, anxious, and irritable because of sudden hormonal changes. This may also be the age when some girls will express a desire to shave their legs and underarms.
Boys will also have mood swings, although this is not usually as prevalent as it is in girls. They may have acne, body odor, and begin noticing some signs of sexual development.
Continual expansion of consciousness
Your child's "competitive spirit" will not be as prevalent as it has been in previous years. She will concede a loss and celebrate a friend's win.
You may notice that she will become less argumentative and will only argue a point that she feels is important.
Rather than always needing to be right, she will now be more willing to listen to other points of view.
Friends become increasingly more and more important
This is the age when her friends' opinions will be much more important than what her parents say.
Her peers will have the ability to affect her self-esteem or confidence. Even though she thinks that your opinion does not matter, she will need your support and encouragement when her friends hurt her or let her down.
Mind shift from feeling like a child to feeling more like an adult
Since a lot of physical changes are happening in your child's body, she may feel like she is leaving childhood behind and entering a more "grown-up" phase.
She may want new clothes, begin giving away younger toys, or want to redecorate her bedroom.
Preparing your child for what lies ahead
Your pre-teen is preparing for a rite of passage. Becoming a teenager is both exciting and scary.
She will experience new emotions, new feelings, and new changes within her body.
It is important that you talk to your child about her sexuality, and let her know that she does not have to be embarrassed or uncomfortable about coming to you when she needs to talk to someone.
If this feels awkward for your child, try to see if you can think of another adult that could function as a confidential guide during these next couple of years. A non-judgmental adult mentor who both you and your child can trust.
Sense of identity is relatively strong
By this age, your child has developed a fairly strong sense of identity and security (although, he will struggle with this again in the teenage years).
He is more confident in his individuality, but he may still have difficulty asserting himself in a group setting.
Talking becomes one of the main activities with friends
He will enjoy spending time with people and will often ask if he can "hang out" with friends (which usually means just sitting around and talking).
Interest in the opposite sex
For the first time, he will develop a real interest in the opposite sex, although he will not know how to express these feelings.
More often than not, conversations will take the form of teasing or joking.
Very trend conscious
Appearance and image will still be important, and your child's preferences will be influenced by the latest popular styles.
She will want something simply because everyone else has it.
Enjoying tasks that will increase the sense of being independent
Taking on responsibility will help improve his confidence, and he will take pride in the fact that he can do "grown up" things, especially if he earns some money.
He will work extra hard if given jobs such as mowing the lawn in summer or shoveling the snow in winter.
Correcting social mistakes
Although he will not like to be corrected, he will accept the responsibility if he does something wrong and will usually try to make amends if he hurts a friend or family member.
The childhood and pre-teen years can be challenging, but they can also be exciting as you watch your child move through these stages of child development to establish his own interests and form his unique identity.
With a lot of encouragement and support, he is becoming all that he was meant to be, and learning how to use his strengths and abilities to achieve his goals and purposes.
And, he will need everything he has learned during this stage as he moves into the teenage years.
Your Positive Parenting Ally,
Want to stay in touch and get the latest news?
Sign up for my free newsletter
The Most Significant
Developmental Milestones: Understand Your Child all the Way through
the 6 Stages of Child Development
A Newborn Development Guide about the First Physical, Psychological and Social Infant Milestones and How to Handle Them!
In-Depth List of All the Baby Milestones Reached during the First Year: Exciting Insights into Physical, Psychological and Social Baby Development
Inspiring Toddler Development Guide, a Long List of Toddler Milestones and Positive Parenting Tips for Parenting Toddlers
A Guide to the Early Child Development Stages and a List of Child Development Milestones from 4-6 Years
Teen Development and Adolescent Development: Physical, Cognitive and Social Developmental Milestones
Understanding the Teenage Brain
A Fascinating Journey into the Psychology of Children: From the Grand Masters' Fixation with Development Stages to the Context Focus of Today!
Back to the top of this page about Stages of Child Development and Milestones from 7-12 Years
Go to the Positive Parenting Ally Homepage