School-Age Kids

Once they enter their school-age years, many children seem ready to take on the world. But as they exercise their independence, "big kids" need their as parents much as ever. Grade school is an important turning point in children's physical and emotional development. Kids may be inclined to push boundaries while at the same time needing them to feel secure.

Learn best practices for protecting school-age kids' health and safety. We also share ideas for disciplining kids, helping them with school and social issues, and establishing good habits that can last a lifetime.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the main health concerns of school-age children?

    Colds, flu, stomach bugs, and other viruses—including COVID-19—can run rampant in schools. Cut down on sick days by teaching kids to wash their hands before and after eating or using the bathroom. Maintaining a healthy weight can also be a challenge: nearly 1 in 5 U.S. schoolchildren have obesity. Discuss nutritional and fitness strategies with your child's pediatrician if that's a concern for your child. Behavioral issues, which are more common in children ages 6 and 11 than any other age group, merit a visit to the pediatrician (or a child psychologist), too.

  • What are the physical changes of school-age children?

    Kids go through astonishing physical changes in elementary and middle school. They'll grow about 2.5 inches every year until they hit a growth spurt in early adolescence. You'll start to see early signs of puberty, including pubic hair and the growth of sex organs, starting around age 8 or 9 for girls and age 10 or 11 for boys. They also get a whole new set of teeth! Between ages 6 or 7 and 12 or 13, children lose 20 teeth and grow back 28 teeth (32 counting wisdom teeth that may develop in early adulthood).

  • What are the nutritional needs of school-age children?

    Kids need about 1,600 to 2,200 calories per day during their elementary years, depending on how active they are. According to MyPlate guidelines (which have replaced the Food Pyramid) fruits and veggies should make up half of their meals, and a balance of whole grains (brown rice, whole-wheat pasta) and lean proteins (chicken, fish) should make up the other half. Two to three servings of low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese help children get essential calcium, which is key for bone growth, and Vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium.

  • How often should school-age children eat?

    It's normal—and healthy—for kids this age to eat four or five times a day. Since they are growing and active, they will be hungry between meals. In fact, snacks may account for one-quarter of their calories a day. Just make sure they are healthy, filling snacks. Good choices have a mix of carbohydrates and protein—think a whole-grain bagel with low-fat cream cheese, a banana with peanut butter, or a hard-boiled egg with carrot sticks.

  • How do you discipline a child at school age?

    One of the most effective strategies for this age group is boundary-based discipline, which includes setting clearly defined limits, communicating expectations frequently, and following through on consequences. Reinforcing good behavior with praise is also an effective way to improve behavior.

  • At what age does a child understand consequences?

    Children have the cognitive ability to understand the connection between actions and consequences between ages 3 to 5. But it's important to define exactly what your expectations are and what the consequences will be for not following them. Early and frequent communication with kids and consistent follow-through when they slip up are keys to making consequence-based discipline work.

  • What is the appropriate punishment for a 4-year-old?

    Four-year-olds are starting to exercise their independence, which may inspire them to test limits. Kids at this age group can grasp expectations, so letting them know potential consequences for bad behavior—not getting their iPad for a day if they used it when not allowed, for instance—and then following through can be effective. For the same reason, time-outs in a quiet place where children can reflect on what they did wrong also work well.

Key Terms

Page Sources
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