Putting It Together: Middle Childhood

A group of scouts walking across a field in a single-file line

Up until middle childhood, the process of development isn’t usually as structured as it becomes during middle childhood, when children enter into the formal education setting. Children in school are taught new ways of thinking about things that they already know—they learn why they structure sentences the way they do, they learn new words not through hearing them from others, but from lists provided by teachers or determined by committees. They are even taught how to play sports in specific ways with explicit rules that they get tested on in written form. This is quite a departure from the organic learning of younger years.

Learning in this new way is difficult for some children who have never had to sit down for formal instruction. Structured learning can also shed light on learning difficulties and learning disabilities. Educators today are trained to recognize the signs of many learning disabilities so that children can get help early on in their academic careers.

Developing social relationships in the school environment and keeping up with the changing relationships at home can be difficult tasks for children during middle childhood. Children begin the period relatively dependent on parents and by the end of the period, children should be able to act autonomously in terms of decision making and caring for themselves. This change may feel quick to parents, and it can be difficult for them to let go of control and to allow the child to make more decisions. In order for the child to continue healthy development, though, that gradual letting go is necessary. Parents should pay close attention to their children to recognize signs that the child is capable of taking on new responsibilities.This will help the child continue to develop their skills, their sense of self, their sense of place in the family, and their sense of place in the greater community.


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Lifespan Development Copyright © 2020 by Lumen Learning 2019 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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