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Physical Development in Middle Childhood

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  • 0:03 Middle Childhood
  • 0:47 Physical Development
  • 1:50 Brain Development
  • 4:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Between the ages of seven and twelve, children physically grow and change in ways that influence every part of their lives. In this lesson, we'll look at the ways that physical and brain development impact emotional and intellectual abilities.

Middle Childhood

Cassie is a healthy eight-year-old. Her mom is amazed at how much she grows and changes every day. She used to struggle to count, but now she can add and subtract. As a baby, she couldn't even talk, but now she can read and write.

And, of course, there's the physical growth, too. Cassie is growing bigger so quickly that her parents are always having to buy her new clothing! Middle childhood, or the time between ages seven and twelve, is a time of great development in many children. Development in middle childhood involves intellectual, socioemotional, and physical growth and change.

Let's look closer at physical development in middle childhood, including what happens with a child's body and what happens with her brain during this period.

Physical Development

Cassie's mom can't believe how quickly she's growing. It seems like she's taller every day. She's already taller than her brother was when he was eight.

From birth until about age five or six, children all grow at approximately the same rate. There are taller or shorter toddlers, but they all fall into a general range that's pretty narrow. But in middle childhood, growth differences become more marked. Some kids shoot up really tall, and others don't really grow. Some (especially girls) tend to carry a little more fat on their bodies, while others become more muscular and lean.

As physical differences in children become more prominent during middle childhood, so do insecurities about one's body. Many children first begin to feel self-conscious of their bodies during middle childhood, and some even begin to show signs of eating disorders. Talking to children and affirming that there are many body types and all types can be beautiful can help children deal with the differences in growth that they experience in comparison with their peers.

Brain Development

In addition to the physical developments of the body, the brain is also growing and changing during middle childhood, which can lead to new ways of thinking and acting.

The prefrontal lobe of the brain (which, just like its name suggests, is at the front of the brain) develops dramatically during middle childhood. Since the prefrontal lobe is in charge of things like planning and problem solving, it's not surprising that children show advances in reasoning and planning abilities.

For example, when she was younger, Cassie used to not be able to figure out whether the reason given not to do something was a good reason or not. If her mom said not to climb on the furniture because it would make her hair fall out, Cassie believed it. Now, though, she is able to use reasoning skills to assess the reason her mother gives and decides that her hair won't fall out because she climbs on the furniture (though she might fall off and get hurt).

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