One of your many parental duties is ensuring that your child continues to develop at the expected rate. It’s okay if they are slightly ahead or behind the curve, but understanding what’s expected of them helps you see if they are way behind or overdeveloped. Today, we’re going to look at the key progressions and key development expectations for 7 and 8-year-olds; what most kids are expected to see when they’re in second or third grade, which in the UK is equivalent to Years 3 and 4, a key time in both their physical and mental development.

Disclaimer: This is a collaborative guest post.

How is this post going to work? Well, you’ll see a few sections that look at specific milestones and what you should look for in your kids. Remember, if your child isn’t exhibiting some of these developments, there’s no cause for panic. Keep an eye on them and make a note of when you start seeing them. If you’re waiting a long time, maybe you should see a children’s doctor to get their professional opinion on why your child is lagging behind. 

For the purposes of this post, please note that in the UK, children who are 7 and 8-years old are typically in Years 3 and 4 at school; however, in the US, they are in Grades 3 and 4. You will see alternating references to these school year groups; however, fundamentally, we are talking about the age of the children and their expected key development expectations.

Without further ado, here are the key development expectations for 7 and 8-year-olds:

key development expectations for 7 and 8-year-olds

Key physical developments you should see

At age 7 or 8, your kids are going to start showing a few physical developments that they didn’t have before. Granted, a 7-year-old is unlikely to show the same dramatic physical changes as you’d see in 7-month-old baby development milestones. Nevertheless, they will start showcasing some physical skills and changes that you should look for, and this includes the following:

  • Improvements in stamina – You should notice that your child starts improving their physical stamina. How can you tell? It’s easy; how long are they playing for each day without getting tired? They used to be tuckered out after a day at school, crashing on the sofa at around 6 pm. Now, they have more energy and stamina to go to school, enjoy themselves, come home, play some more, and so on. You’ll find they have more energy and are more alert later into the day, which shows they are physically developing. 
  • Improvements in strength – Similarly, your second/third graders will start getting stronger than they used to be. This is showcased in their ability to pick things up when they used to ask for help. They no longer need your assistance in opening up the heavy lid on their toy chest; they’re strong enough to do this themselves. Mainly, you’re looking out for signs your child is becoming more independent and physically capable so they aren’t constantly asking you to do everything for them. 
  • Improvements in fine motor control – When we talk about motor control, we’re talking about things like hand-eye coordination. 7 and 8 are the years when a child really starts to develop in this department. They are able to hold things more confidently, do little tasks – like tie their shoes, type on a keyboard, do up buttons – and have better coordination. These are some of the things you should be looking for in your child at this age, if they’re still struggling to do simple tasks like these by themselves, it might be something to keep an eye on. 

Check out this post of 6 Fun Fine Motor Skills Activities For Your Child To Do At Home

6 Fun fine motor skills activities for kids to do at home

Key language development expectations for 7 and 8-year-olds that you should see

Naturally, as a child gets older, their language skills will develop and improve. When your child starts second grade or Year 3 (UK) and progresses to the end of third grade or Year 4 (UK), they should be in a completely different place compared to how they were when they were 5 or 6. 

Primarily, these are the crucial developments to look for:

  • Understanding what they read – At this stage in your child’s life, they should already be able to read, and now is the time for them to understand more about what they read. They’re not just looking at words on a page and repeating them; they genuinely understand what’s happening and can gain knowledge from the book. It’s a key development that shows they are now reading books to learn new things. 
  • Expanding their vocabulary – By the age of 8, your child should have a significantly expanded vocabulary. They will know more words – and they will also know what these words mean. You’ll find it easier to have proper conversations with them where they understand what you’re saying and can communicate in a more adult manner. 
  • Gain proper speech – This is also the period where your child begins to gain proper speech. Now, they will obviously be talking competently before this, but second/third grade is where their speech becomes more refined. In essence, they stop making the typical mistakes you see younger children make. For instance, they don’t get letters jumbled up when saying certain words, and they aren’t using w instead or r when they speak. To put it another way, their baby speech goes away and they finally start talking like a young child. 

Key cognitive developments you should see

Here, we are talking about your child’s brain. Specifically, what are they capable of in terms of problem-solving, reasoning, and general thinking skills. While a 7 or 8-year-old still has a lot to learn, this is an important time in their development. You start noticing some significant changes and improvements in their cognitive ability that didn’t exist beforehand:

  • More questions – Yes, this is the point in your child’s development where they should start questioning everything. As annoying as this can be, you should take it as a really positive sign that their mental ability is progressing as expected. Kids ask questions because they want to learn more information about things. It can get tiresome when they question every little thing they see or do but think of this as their thirst for knowledge. Always indulge your child’s questions and answer them as best as you can. After all, you’re fuelling their knowledge and helping them develop at an even faster rate!
  • Improvements in math skills for kindergarten – When you want to see how well your child’s mind is developing, looking at their math skills is a great indication of where they’re at. Ideally, your child should be able to do more complex math sums at this stage in their life. By the time they finish third grade or Year 4 (UK), they should have a firm grasp of division and multiplication. They should also be able to do some quick mental maths and learn connections between problems. For instance, if they know that 2 + 2 = 4, they should also be able to figure out that 4 – 2 = 2. The great thing about math is that you can easily find workbooks or problems online to test where your child is at. If they’re easily handling the questions for their age, you know their cognitive development is on track. 
  • Understanding money – You can’t expect your child to have an expert grasp of money at this point in life, but it is the earliest time where they show signs of understanding what it means. They can look at coins and notes and be able to put them together to make a total. If you go to the shop with them, they can identify how much something costs and be able to put the coins/notes together to meet it. 
  • A better attention span – The older a child gets, the better they get at being patient and paying attention to things. This is why their school lessons get more intense in second and third grade. It’s the time where there’s less play and more work. Realistically, your child should be able to stay focused on a task for at least 30 minutes at this point. If they are way below this, it might be something to keep an eye on. If they get to the end of third grade and still struggle to pay attention for this long – even when doing something they enjoy – you might want to see your doctor. There’s a chance they have ADD or ADHD, which is common in a lot of children. 
7 & 8 Year Old Phase

Key social developments you should see

Lastly, we should touch upon a couple of social developments your child should go through at this stage in their life. Here are the main things you should see:

  • The ability to understand what others think of them – Up to this age, your child won’t care what people think about them. Now, they start to understand what people think, which can influence how they act. You will notice your child might start talking more about their friends at school and saying things like ‘I don’t think they like me’ and so on. 
  • Develop stronger friendships – Your child will also look to make more friends and form a larger friend group. They will probably have a new best friend every few months, but this is perfectly normal!

Overall, these are the development expectations that parents should see in 7 and 8-year-olds. Don’t worry if your child isn’t meeting these expectations; all kids develop at their own rate. It isn’t necessarily something to be worried about, particularly if they’re just a few months or a year off. If you have concerns, share them with your child’s doctor, and you can get tests done if necessary.