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Middle Childhood: Age & Development

Melissa Bialowas, Natalie Boyd
  • Author
    Melissa Bialowas

    Melissa Bialowas has taught preschool through high school for over 20 years. She specializes in math, science, gifted and talented, and special education. She has a Master's Degree in Education from Western Governor's University and a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology from Southern Methodist University. She is a certified teacher in Texas as well as a trainer and mentor throughout the United States.

  • Instructor
    Natalie Boyd

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

Learn about middle childhood. Discover examples of physical and emotional development in middle childhood, and identify the importance of middle childhood age. Updated: 11/17/2021

What Is Middle Childhood Age?

Middle childhood is recognized as the years a child is 6-12 years old. Many age groups are easily distinguished: infants, preschool, adolescents, etc. Middle childhood is no different, though it is less often referred to as a group. This is a time of major growth and development: physical, mental, emotional, and socially. This age group often explores a larger world than younger groups, often attending school and making friends outside the family's social circle.

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.

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Physical Development in Middle Childhood

This age group has a wide range of normal physical development milestones. Kids grow taller at a steady pace during this time. Many grow at a rate of 6-7 centimeters (2-2.5 inches) a year. Kids should also gain weight at a steady rate of 2-3 kg (4-7 pounds) each year until puberty starts. It is important to note that differences in the size of children becomes much more marked during this time. Even with steady growth, if one child grows just under 2 inches a year and another child grows just over 2.5 inches a year, that will be a noticeable difference after 6 years. Some children will have a slower growth rate, while others might experience growing pains from quick growth spurts rather than steady growth. During this time, boys and girls tend to develop at much the same pace, though this changes with the onset of puberty. Children tend to lose their baby fat and become more active. Muscles grow stronger and lung capacity increases, providing endurance and speed. Both large (gross motor), and small (fine motor) muscles increase in strength and flexibility. This allows for complex muscle movements. These are also the ages when the baby teeth fall out, and adult teeth grow in their place.

As puberty starts between the ages of 9-12 for girls and later for boys, growth becomes uneven, body fat increases, and many children become insecure about their changing bodies.

Brain Development in Middle Childhood

The brain is already at 95% of its adult weight by age 6, and it is up to 100% by age 7. The parts of the brain are developing and maturing throughout this time. The prefrontal lobe starts maturing, though it is a slow process and won't fully mature until the early 20's. This is the part of the brain that helps with understanding consequences and long term planning. The corpus callosum thickens during this time as well. This is a band of fibers going from the front to the back of the brain, and connecting the two sides. This allows for faster processing, improved problem solving, and more complex thoughts about others and the world around them. The myelination of the hippocampus improves the length of memory, and helps things move from short-term to long-term memory.

Children start middle childhood in the preoperational symbolic thought phase, according to Piaget. Starting around the age of 7, children develop concrete operational thoughts. They will move on to formal operational thoughts with the start of adolescence, allowing for abstract understandings.

Emotional Development in Middle Childhood

As children are exposed to a larger number and variety of people, their influences and emotional development are also changing. From 6-8 years old, children show more independence from their family, start to think about the future, pay attention to friends and teams, care about if they are liked and accepted by their peer group, talk about their thoughts and feelings, and learn to show concern for others. As children move into the 9-12 age group they are highly likely to experience peer pressure, face more academically challenging subjects, understand opposing points of view, have a longer attention span, and for some kids body image and eating problems begin.

The first experiences with bullying often happen in middle childhood.

Collage of Newspaper Articles on Bullying

The growing independence and friendships made during middle childhood greatly influence not only their current life, but who they will become in the future. Children who are encouraged by both their families and their peers to see positive aspects of themselves and others, often develop these positive traits and carry them into adolescence. Children who are bullied or experience peer pressure and negative interactions, often develop negative self-thoughts and negative habits. This is also a time when many children will adjust to major changes in the family such as divorce, re-marriage, and the death of older family members. All of these things can have a major impact on emotional development. At the end of middle childhood, as children move closer to adolescence, some become interested in romantic relationships.

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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Video Transcript

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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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the major milestones of middle childhood?

There are many milestones during this crucial time of life. Physical milestones include: increasing both gross and fine motor skills, as well as losing baby teeth and growing adult teeth. Brain development allows for more complex thoughts, planning, and thinking about others. Emotional development includes: maturity, compassion, and wanting to fit in with peers.

What is the behavior of middle childhood?

Behavior varies greatly throughout this time period. It is marked by increasing attention spans, more active physical movements, and developing friendships and independence from family.

What are two physical skills that are developing or improving during middle childhood?

Large muscle development increases greatly, allowing for increased strength and speed. Also, small muscles become more precise and allow for a greater range of motion.

What is middle childhood development?

Middle childhood is recognized as the years between the ages of 6-12. Children grow physically, emotionally, and academically a great deal during this period.

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