Positive Parenting Tips: Middle Childhood (6–8 years old)

Key points

  • As a parent you give your children a good start in life—you nurture, protect, and guide them.
  • Learn about developmental milestones, including emotional and social development, for children from 6 to 8 years old.
  • There are many things you can do to help your child stay safe and healthy.
A girl holding a soccer ball

Developmental milestones

Middle childhood brings many changes in a child’s life. By this time, children can dress themselves, catch a ball more easily using only their hands, and tie their shoes. Having independence from family becomes more important now.

Events such as starting school bring children this age into regular contact with the larger world. Friendships become more and more important. Physical, social, and mental skills develop quickly at this time. This is a critical time for children to develop confidence in all areas of life, including through friends, schoolwork, and sports.

Emotional/social changes

Children in this age group might

  • Show more independence from parents and family.
  • Start to think about the future.
  • Understand more about their place in the world.
  • Pay more attention to friendships and teamwork.
  • Want to be liked and accepted by friends.

Thinking and learning

Children in this age group might

  • Show rapid development of mental skills.
  • Learn better ways to describe experiences.
  • Learn better ways to talk about thoughts and feelings.
  • Have less focus on one's self and more concern for others.

Building strong connections

Following are some things you, as a parent, can do to help your child during this time:

  • Talk with your child about school, friends, and things they looks forward to in the future.
  • Talk with your child about respecting others. Encourage them to help people in need.
  • Do fun things together as a family, such as playing games, reading, and going to events in your community.
  • Get involved with your child’s school. Meet the teachers and staff and get to understand their learning goals and how you and the school can work together to help your child do well.
  • Continue reading to your child. As your child learns to read, take turns reading to each other.
  • Support your child in taking on new challenges. Encourage them to solve problems, such as a disagreement with another child, on their own.
  • Encourage your child to join school and community groups, such as team sports, or to take advantage of volunteer opportunities.

Fostering responsibility and positive behavior

  • Show affection for your child. Recognize their accomplishments.
  • Help your child develop a sense of responsibility—ask them to help with household tasks, such as setting the table.
  • Help your child learn patience by letting others go first or by finishing a task before going out to play. Encourage them to think about possible consequences before acting.
  • Make clear rules and stick to them, such as how long your child can watch TV or when they have to go to bed. Be clear about what behavior is okay and what is not okay.
  • Use discipline to guide and protect your child, rather than punishment to make them feel bad about themselves. Follow up any discussion about what not to do with a discussion of what to do instead.
  • Praise your child for good behavior. It’s best to focus praise more on what your child does (“you worked hard to figure this out”) than on traits they can’t change (“you are smart”).
  • Help your child set their own achievable goals—they'll learn to take pride in themselves and rely less on approval or reward from others.

Child safety first

More physical ability and more independence can put children at risk for injuries from falls and other accidents. Motor vehicle crashes are the most common cause of death from unintentional injury among children this age.

  • Teach your child to watch out for traffic and how to be safe when walking to school, riding a bike, and playing outside.
  • Make sure your child understands water safety, and always supervise them when they are swimming or playing near water.
  • Supervise your child when they are engaged in risky activities, such as climbing.
  • Talk with your child about how to ask for help when they needs it.
  • Keep potentially harmful household products, tools, equipment, and firearms out of your child's reach.

Car seat recommendations for children‎‎‎

Protect your child properly in the car. For detailed information on car seats, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recommendations by age:

Healthy bodies

Here are a few tips to help keep your growing child healthy:

  • Parents can help make schools healthier. Work with your child's school to limit access to foods and drinks with added sugar, solid fat, and salt that can be purchased outside the school lunch program.
  • Make sure your child has 1 hour or more of physical activity each day.
  • Practice healthy eating habits and physical activity early.
  • Encourage active play, and be a role model by eating healthy at family mealtimes and having an active lifestyle.
  • Make sure your child gets the recommended amount of sleep each night: 9–12 hours per 24 hours (including naps) for school-age children 6–12 years.

Screen time limits‎

Keep television sets out of your child's bedroom. Set limits for screen time for your child to no more than 1 hour per day of quality programming, at home, school, or afterschool care and develop a media use plan for your family. Learn more:

For more information

CDC's Parent Information (Children 4–11 years) has information to help you guide your child in leading a healthier life.

CDC's Healthy Weight Information has tips for parents – Ideas to help children maintain a healthy weight.

CDC's Youth Physical Activity Basics has information on how to help children be active and play.

CDC's BAM! Body and Mind is a website designed for kids 9 through 13 years of age to give them the information they need to make healthy lifestyle choices. The site focuses on topics that kids told us are important to them—such as stress and physical fitness—using kid-friendly lingo, games, quizzes, and other interactive features.

My Plate by The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides information on health and nutrition for children over 5 years of age.

AAP's Healthy Children website provides information on feeding, nutrition, and fitness for all developmental stages from infancy to young adulthood. Visit this website to learn more about emotional problems, learning disabilities and other health and development concerns.

Just in Time Parenting's site provides quality, research-based information to families at the time it can be most useful.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has information on safety recalls and safety tips for children riding in motor vehicles, walking, biking, playing outside, waiting at school bus stops, and more.

StopBullying.gov provides information from various government agencies on how children, parents, educators and others in the community can prevent or stop bullying

Teens Health site for information on healthy eating for children and teenagers, safety tips for your child when you can't be there, and other important health and safety topics.