Your baby’s all grown up! Well, not really. But, she’s made it past the crawling and cruising stage, putting the toddler years behind her. Now what? Each year (or, rather each day) she’s growing – and that doesn’t just mean in terms of her height. Even though your child is getting physically bigger, she’s also developing cognitive (i.e., mental reasoning), emotional, social and motor skills.
What does your child’s development look like between ages 3 and 11? Major milestones include:
During the preschool years (ages 3 and 4) your child is able to follow three-step directions, recall a story, count (possibly up to 10) and name some of the colours. She’s also engaging in pretend or fantasy play, and can understand the concepts of same and different. By the early school years (ages 5 and 6) your child is becoming much more of a problem-solver. She’s curious, and now able to concentrate or focus on a problem, project or activity for a longer period of time. Your child’s ability to categorize objects or items based on qualities is building and she can understand time concepts (such as yesterday/today/tomorrow).
Your 7- or 8-year-old’s sense of time is keen now. She can tell time on a clock, name the days of the week in order and recite the months. She’s able to read – without your help. A longer attention span means that she can spend more time on complex tasks, such as comparing fractions, writing or solving basic story/word problems.
The older child (9 to 11 years) has a growing array of interests and talents. At this point you may notice that your child’s academic abilities vary greatly in comparison to her friends and classmates. She has the attention span to sit and listen during school hours, but that doesn’t mean she’ll always be thrilled to do so.
Now that your child is 3 or 4 she’s getting a better grip on her emotions. Even though she may not have all of the words to express her feelings, she has some control over them. As your child moves into the 5- to 6-year-old range she’s better able to understand her own emotions, as well as those that other people have. She may show empathy towards a friend who’s in a sticky situation. This continues into the 7- to 8-year period, with your child using complex sentences to describe what she’s feeling.
As your child moves into the middle period (9- to 11-years) she’s beginning to become more aware of herself in comparison to others. This may mean that she’s starting to develop a negative self-image or become fixated on one specific aspect (such as her weight).
Unlike toddlers (who often play near, and not with other kids), your 3- or 4-year-old is making friends and getting into activities with them! She’s growing more independent and may even be able to negotiate resolutions to minor conflicts without you stepping in. Your 5- to 6-year-old is building the ability to share and take turns – without needing your help (or encouragement!) to do so.
By 7- or 8-years your child is growing her circle of friends, possibly including both boys and girls. She may show interest in joining an activity, club or sport to broaden her social ties or spend even more time with her friends. Your 9- to 11-year-old is probably spending more time with her friends than with you (or, at least it seems that way). Her friendships are becoming more complex and ‘real’. She may also start feeling peer pressure now, and begin changing herself to ‘fit in’.
Both fine (small – hand and finger) and gross (large muscle groups) motor development are growing more and more complex during early and middle childhood. Your preschooler is now able to draw a person with up to four body parts, copy simple geometric shapes, write some capital letters and use scissors. She can also walk up and down the stairs without support, can throw a ball overhand, can kick a ball and can hop on one foot. When your child moves into the school years, she’ll start to write more letters (including both upper and lowercase), dress herself (including snapping, buttoning and zippering) without any help and colour within the lines of a drawing. When it comes to her gross motor movements, your 5- to 6-year-old can climb on playground equipment, swim and ride a bike (probably with training wheels).
During the next few years you’ll see her balance or co-ordination grow, giving her the ability to ride a bike without training wheels and play sports in a more strategic way. Motor development continues building into middle childhood (9- through 11-years). Your child can now write and print all of the letters, draw realistic looking people and move through space with skill.
Keep in mind, even though these are generally ‘accepted’ milestones, not every child meets them at the exact same age. Your child is an individual, and may take a bit more or less time to meet her markers than other kids. If you’re unsure or have concerns about your child’s development, talk to her doctor or another medical/developmental professional.