School Age



Definition: old enough to go to school <school–age children> (Merriam-Webster Online)

6 years–12 years

Physical Development

  • By this age, large motor skills are advanced, but coordination, endurance, balance and physical ability vary.
  • The degree of fine motor skills varies widely among school-age children. This variance can affect the child’s relative ability to write neatly, dress appropriately and perform other household chores.
  • Weight, height, and body build differences between children at school age become more pronounced.  While some children may be genetically predisposed to being taller, shorter, or having a certain body type, external influences—such as nutrition and physical exercise—can change these outcomes. Puberty may start at the age of 9, triggering a growth spurt.

Cognitive Development

  • When a person reaches school age, cognitive growth accelerates. Many of the core functions of cognitive health—such as executive function and speed of information processing—expand very quickly.  Six-year-olds have performed as well as adults on tasks involving visual searches and arranging simple sequences.
  • Early learning capabilities can remain intact within adverse circumstances and environments. Children showing early delays in learning or cognitive performance can benefit from family-centered, community-based support that is individualized to the child’s needs. One exception to this resiliency is attention. Due to the importance of attention to school achievement, problems in attention need to be identified and tended to early.

Emotional Development

  • Early school years are often seen as a carefree time, but disappointments, frustrations and hurt feelings are also inevitable aspects being young. During school age, finding ways to regulate emotions is critical to managing these negative feelings.
  • The ability to regulate emotions is linked to social development, allowing a child to more easily relate to others at home, at school, and on the playground. Emotional control prevents outbursts and withdrawals from stressful situations, which can make social development difficult.

Cultural and Social Development

  • The ability to learn some aspects of language—such as how prefixes and suffixes can change a word’s meaning—seems to decline after age seven. Because of this, late-learners of language may not achieve native-like competence in language.
  • Serious behavior problems are seen in 5 to 10 percent of school-age children.  These behavior problems are strongly associated with problems related to schoolwork, which can in turn aggravate behavioral problems.  Early interventions that focus on multiple settings, such as home and school, can help to break this cycle.
  • While many factors are associated with the early emergence of negative social behavior, not much is known about the factors that promote or prevent continued bad behavior, although peer groups seem to play a role in behavior among older children. Peers can expose others to negative social behaviors such as delinquency and drug use and change attitudes towards those behaviors.

Next: Adolescent & Young Adult