Cognitive development in the school-age child (ages 6 to 10 years)

Around age 6, children begin to change the way they think about the world. They leave behind the preschooler's egocentric thinking and begin developing more mature ways of understanding.

A typical first-grader is able to perform simple addition and subtraction, and usually begins to read and write sentences. These tasks require that the child consider information from several sources, evaluate it, and come up with an interpretation.

These cognitive abilities continue to evolve over the next 4 to 5 years as the child performs increasingly complex, sequential, and symbol-based tasks, such as interpreting the context of a paragraph and composing stories. With these new cognitive skills, their appreciation of humor and word games increases.

Board games are a great way to enhance cognitive development. Games that use memory skills, such as checkers, tic-tac-toe, and hangman, are especially useful. Don't worry if your child "needs" to win games while playing with you. But also help your child learn games that he or she can play alone, such as memory matching.

Children this age are also now able to think of themselves in more sophisticated ways. This more advanced thinking brings about comparisons to others, self-examination, and changing self-concept and self-esteem.

Still, reasoning is immature. In the kindergarten and early elementary school years, children's reasoning is tied to the here and now. They are not good at problem solving because it requires abstract thinking, the ability to imagine other perspectives or alternatives, and the ability to anticipate needs and actions. For example, children in this age group usually do not fully understand the concept of time. They may know that dinosaurs lived on Earth more than 200,000 years ago but do not really understand the vast time span between then and now. However, cognitive skills mature rapidly and problem solving advances accordingly.

Last Updated: May 20, 2009

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