Throughout middle childhood, children continue to grow and mature in fascinating and profound ways.
Physically, children grow taller and more muscular and refine their ability at controlling their bodies' large and small muscle movements. Their physical advances allow them to become increasingly adept at sports, physical games, crafts and hobbies that require hand/eye coordination.
Cognitively, children's thinking skills advance and transform as they enter Piaget's Concrete Operational stage of development, and master a variety of cognitive operations associated with that stage. They become masters of concrete thinking, able to mentally represent and then mentally manipulate those things they can touch and see. They become more able to think in a purposeful, voluntarily manner, to maintain attention to tasks, and to generally take in, process, remember, and utilize information.
Emotionally, children become better able to express or withhold their emotions in socially acceptable ways. They continue to develop a complex sense of self and identity that includes representations of their psychological qualities, personality traits, and physical characteristics. By consulting these representations, they are able to understand their own limitations and strengths with increasing accuracy.
Socially, children gain a greater appreciation for the complex web of social relationships they inhabit. In contrast to earlier periods of their development characterized by more superficial friendship selections, they become interested in developing fewer, deeper, more selective friendships based on trust and intimacy. They develop more individualized relationships with family members. Their expanded social knowledge drives them towards increasingly sophisticated appreciations of what it means to be a moral person. Starting from a position of relative self-centeredness, children begin to make decisions about right and wrong by considering the common good and by considering that how they treat other people may influence how other people choose to treat them.
Sexually, children develop towards a consistent if not always comfortable gender identity. They begin to develop romantic interests and to experience romantic crushes. Though their actual behavior with regard to these crushes is not yet generally sexualized, these early romantic relationships lay the foundation for later actual sexual exploration.
The purpose of this document has been to review developmental milestones associated with middle childhood. Consequently, the document has been long on description of what happens to children and very short on advice for parents who seek to know how best to care for children in middle childhood. Please refer to our middle childhood Parenting Skills document for practical advice on how to care for children during these central years of childhood.