Middle Childhood: Development, Stages and Educational Implications of Middle Childhood


Middle Childhood: Development, Stages and Educational Implications of Middle Childhood

The transition to middle childhood involves a steady growth process. Physical growth and motor development continues. Great advances in cognitive development are achieved. Being the school-age, children are now in the primary school. Their social circle expands tremendously.

Language and communication skills differentiate further. Children in the middle childhood are generally captivated by their physical selves.

They are curious about how far their changing bodies will take them.

We outline the major developmental landmarks of middle childhood. We also outline the critical developmental tasks of this stage of developmental tasks of this stage of development and the educational implications.

At the end of this page, learners should be able to:

· Outline the major landmark a physical growth and motor development, cognitive and social development of children in the middle childhood children are expected to achieve

· Highlight the critical developmental tasks middle childhood children are expected to achieve

· Discuss the educational implications of developmental changes at middle childhood.

 Developmental Landmarks

This will be discussed under the following sub-topics:

1. Physical Growth and Motor Development

Between the ages of six (6) and twelve (12) years, children grow physically and change in many ways. Physical growth is steady and moderate during middle childhood. However, there are great variations in children’s growth between six (6) and eleven (11) years, due to differences in genetics, nutrition and emotional health. The average height of children at eleven (11) years is about two metres.

The facial features of school-age children gradually take on a more mature expression resembling adult facial structure. The face becomes larger, the forehead flattens, the nose enlarges and the jaw widens.

Children lose their baby teeth. Permanent teeth appear. The number of bones in their hands, feet, wrist and ankles increases. Visual maturity is reached between six and seven years.

During middle childhood, the heart increases in weight, but heart rates decline. The size of lungs expands. The respiratory system becomes more efficient. By the end of this stage of development, the child’s brain is almost its adult size and weight.

Sex differences in physical growth could be observed between 11 and 12 years. Girls become slightly taller and heavier than boys. Girls tend to accumulate more body fat than boys. This gives the girls more curved and flowing contours. Boys develop more muscles. They gain an edge over girls in strength and speed.

Children do not only grow physically during middle childhood. They also develop mastery and control of their muscles. Gross motor and fine motor skills significantly improve. Reaction time improves. That is, children react faster to a stimulus.

During the stage, children are able to learn how to bike, swim, weave baskets, build and fly kites, play soccer, write, type, draw, paint, throw ball, use household tools, mold animals from clay, balance on one foot and generally, help with household chores.

Studies indicate that there are gender differences in gross motor and fine motor activities. Boys are superior to girls in activities involving gross motor movements such as: throwing, catching and hitting balls. Boys also tend to be stronger and more muscular than girls. Girls are, however, better coordinated, more flexible and have superior balance. Girls do better in areas like gymnastics and rope jumping.

2. Cognitive Development

Children change dramatically in cognitive abilities during middle childhood. Organised school experience afford children enhanced intellectual options and a greater range of social intercourse. Thus, they are able to develop skills they would need to transit to adolescence.

Middle childhood is the concrete operational stage of development.

During this period, children learn the principles by which the world operates. Children begin to use mental activities called operations in which images or mental representations are manipulated or reversed.

School-age children perform operations only on concrete objects or concepts. Intuitive thinking gives way to more logical thinking.

Major cognitive achievements or landmarks or middle childhood include:

1. Conservation

Conservation describes the principle that changing the quantity or appearance of an object or substance does not affect its quantity.

Mastery of the different aspects of conservation appears in a progressive and specific sequence. Number conservation appears first. This is followed by conservation of quantity or mass. Volume conservation appears last.

The development of three related concepts helps children to attain conservation. These concepts are:

· Identity – the principle that an object remains stable regardless of a change in its appearance.

· Reversibility the ability to mentally reverse the steps in a sequence of operations.

· Decentration the ability to concentrate on more than one dimension of physical change at the same time.

2. Classification

Classification describes the categorization of items into a particular class or set. Putting oranges, grapes, mangoes, pawpaw, sour-sup, applies in the category of fruits is an example of classification. Categorizing gats, dogs, bats, cats, snakes, earthworm, sparrows as animals is classification.

3. Seration

Seriation describes the mental action of imposing order, hierarchy or levels within a classification. For example, a family of father, mother, brother, sister can be ordered from biggest to smallest; tallest to shortest; oldest to youngest.

4. Concept Formation

This describes the mental action of classifying objects according to use or function. This involves knowing the differences among the objects.

Middle childhood understand the concept of mother or father; the concept of boys and girls. They also understand physical properties such as: space, time and number concepts.

At this stage, spatial concepts appear. Children begin to develop cognitive mapping skills. That is, they are able to mentally represent the environment by combining landmarks and routes.

5. Problem Solving

Problem-solving involves thinking through questions and issues in an attempt to gain insight or come to solution.

School-age children develop various metacognitive skills and memory strategies which aid them in school work involving reading, writing, comprehension, evaluation and problem-solving.

6. Sense of Humour

Sense of humour is the ability to joke, laugh, display wit and understand incongruities in behaviour or word use.

Children’s sense of humour develops along with their cognitive abilities during middle childhood.

7. Meta-communication

This is the ability to talk about language or linguistic awareness. At middle childhood, children’s language skills – vocabulary, grammar and pragmatics become increasingly refined. These enhance effective conversation and fruitful social intercourse.

 3. Psychosocial Development

During middle childhood, children’s social circle expands. Children continue to discover who they are in relation to others, especially peers. Among the developmental landmarks of this stage are the developments of:

1. Sense of Self

At this stage, children refer to their psychological traits – abilities, competence, attractiveness – to define them. Sense of self differentiates through a process of comparison to peer and significant others. Social comparison helps a child to understand their standing and identify based on social reality.

2. Industry and Competence

Middle childhood is stage children strive to master social skills and achieve competence.

Children get to believe in their own ability to initiate activities, learn new things, and accomplish their goals. It is a crucial time for children to learn the tools of culture. Children establish work habits that will carry them through life.

3. Self-esteem

At this stage, self-esteem grows and differentiates. A sense of self efficiency, an appraisal of what one can and cannot do, develops.

4. Psychological Self

School-age children’s description of themselves becomes more complex. Description of self moves from an external psychological description to a more external psychological description.

Children, at this stage, are able to differentiate various aspects of their selves. They are able to understand that a person can have inner self and outer self. This is the realisation that a person may appear outwardly different than they really feel inwardly.

5. Self-Concept

Middle childhood children are able to separate their self-concept into four dimensions: academic, emotional, physical and social.

At this stage, a child is able to understand that they are good in athletics, but poor in mathematics. A child is able to feel good about their peer relationship, and at the same time, feel bad about their appearance. They are able to view themselves from different perspectives.

6. Social Cognition

Social cognition describes the child’s ability to think about and understand three key components of social relationship, namely: perspective taking, information processing and social knowledge.

By middle childhood, children are able to understand another’s point of view. They are able to adequately process information so that they are able to enjoy peer relationships. They are also able to understand the dynamics of forming relationships and learning the schemes by which positive relationships are formed.

7. Conventional Morality

Middle childhood children approach moral problems from the perspective of maintaining social respect and acceptance of what society defines as right.


Developmental Tasks

The transition to middle childhood confronts the child with new interpersonal tasks and additional pressures to achieve.

The typical developmental tasks of middle childhood include:

1. Learning physical skills necessary for ordinary games

To enjoy peer association and friendship, and a happy childhood, middle childhooders must learn the physical skills and physical activities that are valued in childhood. Such skills include: throwing and catching, kicking, tumbling, swimming and handling simple tools.

2. Building wholesome attitude towards oneself

At this stage, children are expected to develop habits of care of the body, of cleanliness and safety. They are expected to develop a realistic attitude to self which includes a sense of physical normality and adequacy, and a wholesome attitude to one’s sex.

3. Learning to get along with age-mates

Children in middle childhood stage are expected to learn the give-and take of social life among peers; to learn to make friends, and to get along with perceived enemies; to develop a social personality.

4. Learning an appropriate gender role

At this stage, children have to learn and act the appropriate gender role – learn to be a boy or a girl, and act the expected and rewarded boy-child and girl-child behaviour.

5. Developing fundamental skills

The child must master the skills of reading, writing and arithmetic. These are fundamental skills necessary for getting along well in school and society.

6. Developing concepts necessary for daily living

The middle childhood task here is to acquire a store of concepts sufficient for thinking and acting effectively in occupational, civil and social matters.

7. Developing conscience, morality and a scale of values

The task here is to develop an inner moral control, respect for moral rules and the beginning of a rational scale of values.

8. Achieving Personal Independence

The task here is to become an autonomous person, to be able to make plans and to act in the present and immediate future independently of one’s parents and other adults.


Educational Implications

Below are the educational significance or implications of the middle childhood period:

· As children in middle childhood acquire greater coordination of gross and fine motor skills, they engage in more rough, vigorous and dangerous sports and pastimes. But immature cognitive skills such as: errors in judging danger or inability to foresee consequences may put children at risk for fatal accidents.

· Parents and teachers should provide more sensitive supervision of sports and pastimes of children at this stage.

· Though the capacity exists, motor abilities will not unfold on their own. Schools should make physical provision of facilities and time for children to engage in vigorous physical activities to increase quickness, vigour, coordination and stamina.

· The current trend is that school-age children are becoming increasingly engaged in television viewing and computer games. Parental role model in physical exercising is poor. As a matter of educational policy, school-age children should be made to enjoy a daily schedule of strenuous physical activity.

· Facts children learn through simple repetition do not aid cognitive development. Instructional process should pose age appropriate problems to children rather than deliver solutions to problems. Schools are invited to lay more emphasis on developing specific intellectual skills and critical thinking rather than simple rote memorization of facts.

· No cognitive skill has a more profound lifelong effect than reading. All children need explicit, systematic instruction and exposure to rich literature (fiction and non-fiction) to become skilled readers. Reading should be incorporated into the child’s daily life.

· For middle childhood children, all instructional activities should be experiential – involving play, sensory experience and social interaction.

· Achievement behaviour of parents and teachers help define children’s achievement orientation. Parents’ and teachers’ attitude to work and accomplishment is the key to children’s own attitude. Parents and teachers are invited to be models of hard work, competence and accomplishments.

· Competence at middle childhood is socially and culturally defined. Children need to be helped to master the tools of their own culture and schemes for forming peer relationships.

· Because competence is an important component of self-esteem and general well-being, parents and teachers are invited to aid children identify their unique talent. Children need help to develop their talents and find personal fulfillment.

· Middle childhood is the bridge across which children must successfully past to the world beyond childhood. Parents and teachers have the task of helping children interpret the world outside the home and assisting them in meeting the demands of the school.

The middle childhood marks the transition from childhood to adolescence. Children in this stage are confronted with psychological and social changes, new interpersonal tasks and pressures to achieve independence from parents.

Children are expected to venture more into the world of peers, schoolmates and other adults in the wider society. The cognitive advances that come with school experience demand support and encouragement from parents and teachers. Family life, therefore, should prepare children adequately for school life.

School life should equally sustain the promises of earlier stages of development. When any of these two agents of socialisation fails, children develop feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. Such feelings continue to define future choices and relationships.

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