Around the ages of 4 and 5, children undergo massive changes in their physical and mental abilities. By the age of 6, they’ve begun to attend school and have greater intellectual, social and emotional challenges to deal with.
At six, their motor skills have developed to a point where they can write for extended periods of time and manipulate musical instruments, so this is an ideal age to get children to start learning music.
Children learn to think abstractly and move beyond mere observational reasoning towards learning through language and logic, so this would be a good time to teach them slightly sophisticated board games of reasoning and logic. They also begin to read slightly higher-level material and would enjoy pop-up books on topics like general knowledge, how things or machines work and on subjects that interest them.
Occasional bouts of selfishness are natural for this age, and children will have trouble making choices and want ‘everything’ – it is important to be gentle but firm, recognising that this is a natural phase but also ensuring that children do see that this behaviour is wrong and learn to correct it.
Another behavioural downside is that children at this stage may become insecure, craving affection from authority figures. It is important to be patient with them, and generous in praise, so that they grow in confidence. Likewise, their friendships at this stage are inherently unstable and they can be callous towards their peers, but they are also more aware of the feelings of others. Children develop a competitive streak and a tendency to break rules to win, yet they can themselves be rigid, demanding and unable to adapt, meaning that they are deeply affected by criticism, blame or punishment. Again, parents must be firm, but gentle, providing a structure to deal with these challenges while conveying that these are behaviours that must be ironed out.
At the age of seven, children have even better hand-eye coordination and balance, so they can start doing basic gymnastic movements, such as somersaults.
By this age, children have a vocabulary of several thousand words and demonstrate a much longer attention span, so complex board games like Scrabble (even the adult versions) could be within their grasp. Nevertheless, the learning curve will be steep and children will need constant support, because these games demand skills that children possess but haven’t fully developed yet.
They form a clear individual learning style, and begin to solve complex problems – their thinking is increasingly sophisticated, logical and even reflective, and they develop decision-making skills based on this. At this age children begin to grasp the significance of time and understand the concept, so this is a good time to teach them to read clocks.
At this age, children will often develop a perfectionist, self-critical streak which can erode their self-confidence, so the crucial parental role here is to guide them through this phase, supporting them as they learn to distinguish between right and wrong and follow directions without prodding or punishment. What is important is to begin to explain to them why things are right or wrong, rather than restating that they just are, as this will help them develop critical thinking skills.
Some of their behavioural quirks began to smoothen out at this age as they become more equanimous losers and less prepared to deflect blame for failure onto others, while learning to wait their turn rather than jostle their way ahead. On the other hand, they may turn less social and more prone to feelings of guilt and shame.