Physical Growth

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall...

Before starting school, your child probably had little interest in stepping on the scale or standing by a tape measure. That changes when kids begin to compare themselves with school friends. It may help both of you to know that between the ages of 6 and 11, your child will likely gain an average of 6-7 pounds each year, grow a little more than 2 inches each year, and increase head size by about 1 inch.

The new inches or pounds are added in “mini” growth spurts, usually lasting several months and occurring several times a year.

It’s normal at this age for adenoids and tonsils to be large – in fact, tonsils may actually meet in the midline.

The truly attention-getting change in your child will probably be associated with the first signs of puberty. For girls, breast development may start as early as 8 years, although 10 is the average. For boys, enlargement of the testicles and thinning and reddening of the scrotum, (the pouch of skin that holds the testicles) marks the beginning of puberty. Male puberty may begin as early as 9, although 11 is the average.

During these years, children of the same age are frequently at different points in their growth and sexual development.

Questions & Answers

Q: What can I give my 10-year-old son to get him eating so he’ll grow? He is healthy and active. A few months ago, he grew like a weed, but he was eating then.

A: Your son’s height depends more on the genes he inherited than the food he eats. When your child is growing rapidly, you can expect him to have a big appetite. When his growth slows, his appetite decreases because he doesn’t need the calories. It’s not unusual for growth spurts and large appetites to alternate with slow growth and small appetites. Encouraging your son to eat more than he is hungry for will not make him grow, but it may cause him to have a weight problem.

Useful Info: Sleep Requirements

With each passing birthday, your child will require a little less sleep. Some kindergarten children need 12 hours of sleep, but most require 10. By age 11, most children can get by with eight hours of sleep. The test is daytime sleepiness.

Bedtime routines, such as a bedtime story or reading in bed for a half-hour before “lights out” can help your child relax. Although bedtime can be an ideal time for a heart-to-heart chat, avoid stressful topics to prevent sleep disturbances.

Milestones: Learning/Thinking

School-age children have replaced magical thinking and prelogical thinking with concrete logical thinking. If you repeat the experiment on page 94 with a group of children at this age, they are able to answer logically rather than being confused by appearances.

A number of other mental processes are required for success in school. Children need to be able to sequence or put things in order and have an understanding of time. School-age children need to be able to pay attention for fairly long periods of time (45 minutes by age 9) and filter out all unimportant distractions. They also need to develop tricks for memorizing and recalling information on demand.

Useful Info: Sports, Hobbies, & Exercises

To help your child find an activity that fits his or her interests and talents, provide your child with a wide variety of experiences. Encourage your child to participate in introductory programs offered by your local parks department, YMCA, or other youth organizations. Ask friends or relatives if your child can tag along on a fishing trip, golf outing, or to an antique show if you believe it would be of interest. Once your child settles on a sport or hobby, encourage your child to set personal goals for success and help your child develop the self-discipline to improve.

Brain Fact

The first 12 years of life are prime time for learning. Experiences actually change the structure of the brain.

During early childhood, the developing brain is busy forming multiple connections between nerve cells. These connections function like the “wiring” of a computer. Each new experience results in a new connection.

By age 3, the child’s brain has twice as many connections as an adult’s. Connections that are used repeatedly become very strong. Connections that are used infrequently are eliminated. This “use it or lose it” principle is Mother Nature’s way of helping each child adapt to his or her own environment.

When connections are eliminated, the ability to perform a particular function is easily lost. For example, in the first months of life, an infant is able to distinguish several hundred spoken sounds, many more than in any single language. As the infant adjusts to his or her native language, the connections for sounds not used in that language are eliminated. The infant can no longer recognize such sounds.

Japanese children who learn English in the first years of life can recognize the difference between “la” and “ra” and are able to pronounce words such as “rice” without difficulty. Whereas a Japanese adult learning English is unable to distinguish “la” and “ra” regardless of exaggerating sounds or slowing speech. The connections to distinguish between “la” and “ra” are gone.

Top 12 Facts You Should Know About Middle Childhood

  1. The first mission of middle childhood is to sustain self-esteem – to feel good about oneself most of the time. School years are like an obstacle course for self-esteem. In a single day, a student can experience success, failure, popularity, loneliness, stress, and humiliation. Friends, family and respected adults can help in tough times – so can a history of success in academics or achievement in athletics. However, the most important factor influencing a child’s ability to “bounce back” after a bad experience is the presence of at least one parent or adult in the child’s life with whom the child has a loving, trusting relationship.
  2. The second mission of middle childhood is to be liked and accepted by peers. The desire to be an “insider” and socially accepted is very strong – strong enough to cause children in middle childhood to dress, talk and act as if they had no will of their own.
  3. The third mission of middle childhood is to find a way to be like everyone else and, yet, to be different. Most children are able to handle this conflict by modifying their own preferences to “fit in” with the group without completely giving up on all individuality. This mission is often in conflict with mission number 2.
  4. The fourth mission of middle childhood is to find acceptable role models for the future. Role models may be selected from television, the music industry, relatives, or even historical or fictional figures. Role models usually come and go as the child ages. Each role model offers the chance to “try on” an identity and a set of behaviors. This mission is helpful for self-discovery and for determining lifetime goals.
  5. The fifth mission of middle childhood is to begin the process of questioning the beliefs and values of the family. As children spend increasing time away from home – at school, friends’ homes, social events – they realize that there are many differences between values and beliefs learned within their family circle and the values and beliefs of other families. This realization leads to rethinking previously accepted “truths” and starts the child on the path of developing a personal philosophy.
  6. The sixth mission of middle childhood is to earn a position of respect within the family. Children want to impress their parents and to gain the respect of the family. This can lead to intense sibling rivalry. A comparison with siblings encourages competition, which can be harmful to both children. Parents must be aware of the importance of acknowledging each child with praise for real achievement. False praise can also be harmful. In addition to the child wanting the respect of parents and family, the child also wants to be proud of his or her family. Family pride is essential to self-worth.
  7. The seventh mission of middle childhood is to explore independence and test limits. In the early school-age years, children put up little resistance to parental authority. As the child becomes older, the child becomes more interested in independence and unwilling to accept limits such as curfews or clothing restrictions. The minor conflicts with parents during these years allow the child to rehearse for the role of adolescent and to test his or her ability to handle independence.
  8. The eighth mission of middle childhood is to acquire knowledge and master new skills. For a child who learns easily, this mission is a source of reward and pride. For the child who has learning difficulties, this mission offers challenges to self-esteem. Because children of this age have few defenses against failure, a child having learning difficulties often gives up rather than risk being humiliated.
  9. The ninth mission of middle childhood is to accept one’s own physical appearance, body build, and athletic abilities. If there are two children in this age group in one room, they will be comparing themselves to each other, sure of their own personal defects and bodily abnormalities. The concern school-age children have about their bodies results in extreme modesty, refused invitations to social events like swimming parties, and a great deal of worrying about required showers after physical education classes.
  10. The 10th mission of middle childhood is to deal with multiple fears. One of the most common fears in school-age children is fear of the future – worrying about what comes next, possible failures, or humiliation. Another common fear is fear of loss – of family, friends, or even favorite possessions.
  11. The 11th mission of middle childhood is to take control of drives and desires. School-age children have an enormous number of “burning desires.” To deal with their wants and passions, school-age children must be able to compromise, settle for less than what they had asked for, and accept substitutes or replacements.
  12. The 12th mission of middle childhood is to develop a realistic sense of self. By age 12, middle childhood youngsters are usually able to list the things they’re good or bad at and their strengths and weaknesses. Children who are able to develop a realistic self-image are most likely to deal well with the challenges of adolescence.

Adapted from Levine, M. Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics. 3rd edition

Safety Habits: Home Alone

Sooner or later all parents begin to wonder, “Is it safe to leave my child home alone?” There is no one age when every child is mature enough to handle the responsibilities of staying safe and taking care of oneself.
Some children are ready as early as 11, others as late as 15. Use these questions to help think through the various considerations. Begin with the question, “Does my child want to stay home alone?”

Abilities and Skills

  • Can my child lock and unlock the door?
  • Can my child speak clearly on the telephone when providing information or answering questions?
  • Can my child prepare a snack?
  • Does my child follow directions and remember them for future use?
  • Can my child read and write notes?
  • Does my child stay interested in productive activities without adult supervision?
  • Is my child good at problem solving?
  • Does my child handle unexpected situations well?
  • Does my child know when to ask for help?

Safety Considerations

  • Can my child reach me in an emergency?
  • Does my child know when it’s important to call local emergency numbers and how?
  • Does my employer allow me to make and receive personal calls to check on my child’s safety?
  • Is there a back-up person if I can’t be reached?
  • Does my child know basic first aid and rescue skills?
  • Do we live in a neighborhood where my child is safe and feels comfortable?
  • Does my child know fire escape plans, route, and designated meeting place outdoors?
  • Can my child operate appliances such as the stove, microwave, and refrigerator in a safe manner?

Emotional Maturity

  • Is my child confident? Fearful? Easily stressed? Easily influenced by peers?
  • Does my child use good judgment?
  • Does my child have the self-discipline to resist temptation and follow rules without supervision?
  • If your child is interested in staying home alone and if he or she appears to have the maturity, then it’s time for a training session or two. Make sure your child can do the following things…
  • Locate the emergency numbers. Practice emergency phone calls.
  • Execute the home fire escape plan (see “Fire Safety” in Child Safety section).
  • Contact you or your back-up immediately.
  • Perform CPR and first aid (see “Be Ready to Rescue” in Choking Safety of the Child Safety section).
  • Locate the first-aid kit.
  • Answer the phone safely without giving out personal information.
  • Handle a delivery or stranger who comes to the door without allowing entry into the home.
  • Practice kitchen safety, including use of microwave and practices safe food preparation.
  • Handle household emergencies like a power outage or toilet overflowing.
  • Lock and unlock the doors and can handle the alarm system.
  • Handle other responsibilities that are important in your home, such as pets.

It is important to establish rules for our child. You can add to the following:

  • Check in with parent immediately after getting home.
  • Do not invite friends to visit.
  • Do not leave home without permission.
  • Begin homework within a half-hour after arrival – after the check-in call and a snack.
  • Follow all safety rules.
  • Limit television to one hour (or whatever guideline you feel is reasonable).
  • Limit computer play time (including video games) to one hour (or whatever guideline you feel is reasonable).
  • Follow other rules that are appropriate to your home.
  • A word to the wise
  • There are a number of other precautions to consider. V-chips that block programs inappropriate for children are available in newer television models. Check your television’s instruction manual. If your television does not have a V-chip, check with your local electronics or appliance store for information about possible installation of the device.

If you have a computer, you might want to consider blocking access to specific Web sites, such as those that may be too mature for young eyes or chat rooms and bulletin boards where dangerous people may lurk. Check your computer program manual and with your Internet service provider for assistance.

Telephones can also be programmed to block calls with specific telephone number prefixes that are associated with inappropriate call-in lines. Check with your telephone service provider for more information about blocking such calls.

Be sure your child knows to keep the house key out of sight and safe and where to locate a spare key in an emergency.