Lesia Oesterreich, M.S.
Family Life Extension Specialist
Human Development and Family Studies
Iowa State University

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Children of this age develop a sense of self and find it important to gain social acceptance and experience achievement. Friends become increasingly important. Secret codes, shared word meanings and made up languages, passwords and elaborate rituals are important ways to strengthen the bonds of friendship. Close friends are almost always of the same sex, although children in this age group are usually increasingly interested in peers of the opposite sex.

Be prepared to use all your “patience” skills if caring for children this age, as they tend to think that they do not need any adult care or supervision. Yet, when they are left to care for themselves, they are lonely, unhappy, and sometimes frightened.


  • begins to see parents and authority figures as fallible human beings
  • rituals, rules, secret codes, and made-up languages are common
  • enjoys being a member of a club
  • increased interest in competitive sports
  • outbursts of anger are less frequent
  • may belittle or defy adult authority


  • girls are generally as much as 2 years ahead of boys in physical
  • girls may begin to menstruate
  • increases body strength and hand dexterity
  • improves coordination and reaction time


  • interested in reading fictional stories, magazines, and how-to project books
  • may develop special interest in collections or hobbies
  • may be very interested in discussing a future career
  • fantasizes and daydreams about the future
  • capable of understanding concepts without having direct hands-on



  • Provide opportunities for older school-agers to help out with real skills. Cooking, sewing, and designing dramatic play props are useful ways to utilize their skills.
  • Provide time and space for an older child to be alone. Time to read, daydream, or do school work uninterrupted will be appreciated.
  • When possible, allow children to make a short call to a school friend.
  • Encourage children to participate in an organized club or youth group. Many groups encourage skill development with projects or activities than can be worked on in your child care program.
  • Encourage older children to help you with younger children, but don't overdo. Avoid burdening older children with too many adult responsibilities. Allow time for play and relaxation.
  • Provide opportunities for older children to play games of strategy. Checkers, chess, and monopoly are favorites.
  • Remember to provide plenty of food. Older children have larger appetites than younger children and will need to eat more.

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