Child age 5 through 10 years

The years from ages five through ten take a child from the first experience of formal education to the months preceding puberty. At five, a child is still very dependent, physically and emotionally, on the parents. By age ten, the child is much more an individual, exhibiting personal talents and tastes, and is independent in many everyday activities. The skills and coordination learned in early childhood are used at this age to develop new interests and hobbies, and carry the child further along the way to full independence.

Through these years, a child can learn to cook simple meals, be totally responsible for a pet, use books for self-directed studies, and carry out many other activities that serve as landmarks of independence.

Mental and physical development are extremely rapid between the ages of five and ten. The illustration identifies some representative stages. Children have almost unlimited energy and curiosity—often to their parents’ exasperation, but to their pleasure and entertainment too, because the first clear indications of a child’s individuality and character start to appear at this age.

Achievements

During the years five through seven, the normal child finally masters the more difficult sounds of speech and becomes confident about using them. The soft consonant sounds, such as “r,” “th,” and “ch,” are the last to be learned up to this age the child may still be confusing or mispronouncing them. By age six or so, the language center in the brain has developed an intricate network of interlocking nerve pathways, which through the rest of life allow the person to construct complex sentences in speech, thought, and writing.

Coordination continues to improve, helped by practice, and a child can learn to draw and to write neatly. By age six, simple words are usually written confidently; cursive writing is learned soon after. The child becomes increasingly adept at skills such as model building and sewing, which require very fine and well-controlled hand movements. By age ten, most children can draw objects realistically. Children at this age have a great deal of energy and often occupy themselves with activities such as bicycle riding, playing games with other children, exploring, and pursuing their favorite hobbies.

Abundant energy, channeled into physical activity, typifies children in the five-through ten-year-old age group. They develop their physical prowess and coordination through all kinds of play. This gives them ample opportunity to interact with other children—with friendship and with aggression— and helps them develop their individual and social characters.

Conceptual development

At the age of five or six, a child’s grasp of abstract ideas is based on simple comparisons such as “hotter,” “younger,” “more,” and so on. From about age seven, the child slowly learns to make decisions and solve problems based on logic rather than intuition or guesswork. This skill improves rapidly through the next years by the age of about 12 a child can reason, on a simple level, in the same way as an adult. From the age of eight, the child begins to use many adjectives as he or she learns more about the quality of objects and actions.

It is not until about the age of ten, however, that a child begins to have a thorough grasp of ideas involving time. Simple time descriptions such as “today,” “tomorrow,” “at four o’clock,” or “on Saturday” are understood first, then more abstract concepts, such as “when you were a baby” and “next November/’ follow later.

Mental problem-solving also begins at about this age, and a child no longer needs to see every stage of a simple problem either physically or on paper to be able to work out the answer.

Health

As soon as they start school children are exposed to many common infections -from colds to chicken pox. Normally, they are very resilient and recover from these illnesses quickly if they contract them. Generally, however, vaccination against most of these disorders is carried out before the child starts school. This form of conferred immunity not only protects the children and their contacts at school, but also protects any parent who has not been immunized and who would suffer more seriously from the illness as an adult if the infection were contracted.

School is also the place where learning difficulties first become evident, though not always in obvious ways. An apparent reluctance to attend classes may mask dyslexia, for instance. Because everyone goes to school, and most enjoy (or at least accept) it, children who do not for whatever reason tend to hide their fears. These are likely to show nevertheless, but not directly. Abdominal pains, bedwetting, fatigue, headaches, and even an obvious “unusual” change in behavior may all reflect a child’s unhappy mind.

Some children are notoriously picky about food, but it is essential that they have a balanced and nutritious diet, with adequate quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables, protein, bread, and milk. Up to the age of ten, boys and girls have similar calorie requirements: about 2,400 calories per day. After this age, boys and men need around 500 calories per day more than girls or women of the same age.

By nine, children of both sexes are about 4 feet 8 inches (120-140 centimeters) tall, although during adolescence, boys begin to grow faster than girls. During these years, the primary teeth are gradually lost and replaced.

Finding out about the world and practicing independence are among the dominant concerns of this age group, but this process can have its dangers, and supervision and adequate precautions are still needed. About half the deaths that occur between the ages of five and fifteen are caused by accidents.

Team sports help children learn howto direct their energy and competitiveness toward common rather than individual ends.

Emotions

Young children react badly to anything that upsets them deeply. Such upsets are caused by many things, including parental discord, or losing physical or emotional security (for instance, by moving or starting a new school).

Children are also strongly influenced by their peers, and often goad one another into behavior that they know is generally unacceptable. Many children at this age go through phases in which they do precisely what they have been told they should not: lying, cheating, stealing, fighting, swearing, smoking, and going where they have been forbidden to go are all common. Views differ on the best parental reaction to such behavior on the assumption that it is a temporary aberration rather than a permanent character defect or psychological fault. Overall, however, it seems that a natural reaction (disapproval, annoyance, or anger) is most appropriate and can do little harm, so long as the child recognizes that this reaction is a direct response and does not imply any genuine or permanent rejection.

Books stimulate the imagination and so appeal to many children in this age group, if they have not yet associated books with discipline and schooling.