In the early school years, you won’t see dramatic changes in your child’s motor skills because this is a period of refinement, when coordination improves and fine motor skills are sharpened. But you will notice remarkable changes in his social and thinking skills. Your child is now building on the base of skills he developed during early childhood and moving toward greater independence, both intellectually and emotionally, reaching new developmental milestones.

Here are some developmental milestones for a 7-year-old:

Motor development

  • hand-eye coordination is well developed
  • has good balance
  • can execute simple gymnastic movements, such as somersaults

Language and thinking development

  • uses a vocabulary of several thousand words
  • demonstrates a longer attention span
  • uses serious, logical thinking; is thoughtful and reflective
  • able to understand reasoning and make the right decisions
  • can tell time; knows the days, months, and seasons
  • can describe points of similarity between two objects
  • begins to grasp that letters represent the sounds that form words
  • able to solve more complex problems
  • individual learning style becomes more clear-cut

Social and emotional development

  • desires to be perfect and is quite self-critical
  • worries more; may have low self-confidence
  • tends to complain; has strong emotional reactions
  • understands the difference between right and wrong  
  • takes direction well; needs punishment only rarely
  • avoids and withdraws from adults
  • is a better loser and less likely to place blame
  • waits for her turn in activities
  • starts to feel guilt and shame

Tips on parenting a 7-year-old

Now more socially aware, your child thinks about the world around him.

  • This is a time of fragile self-esteem, so offer frequent encouragement and positive feedback.
  • Help ease the tendency for self-criticism by stressing what he’s learned rather than how the final product looks.
  • Be patient and understanding of volatile emotions and moods.
  • Take advantage of his eagerness to learn by asking open-ended, thought-provoking questions, doing puzzles, and playing thinking games.
  • Initiate discussions about right vs. wrong.
  • Provide opportunities for independent decision-making.

“Snapshot” of a 7-year-old

This story of Nick illustrates the range of skills, interests, and abilities considered typical development for this age. “Hey, Mom,” yelled Nick as he burst into the house after school. “I’m out in the yard,” answered Caroline, Nick’s mother.

Understanding the world through questioning is one of the big developmental milestones

Nick threw his backpack on the sofa and dashed outside, blurting out his exciting news. “Guess what! This year we get to have a time in class when we can ask any question we want. And Ms. Briggs said there are no stupid questions and she would answer all of ours or help us find the answers. So today I asked why dogs have a tail and I don’t, and Ms. Briggs answered it. Can you believe it? She really meant what she said. She didn’t think I was just trying to be funny. I think I’m really going to like second grade. It was lots of fun today.” Before school began, Nick’s older brother told him second grade was boring because you just do the same thing you do in first grade; just a lot more of it. So Nick had not looking forward to going to school. He could already read some second grade books and do borrowing and carrying in math. “Thank goodness for Ms. Briggs,” thought Caroline. “I’m going to write down all the questions I can think of,” continued Nick enthusiastically. “I’m sure Ms. Briggs will love that,” laughed Caroline with a roll of her eyes. Ms. Briggs didn’t know what she had in store for her. Children Nick’s age have an endless number of questions about every subject in the world. The questions are continuous, and Nick was a pro at asking questions. Just last week after church Nick asked, “Who is God? What does he look like? Has anyone ever seen him? If we haven’t seen him, how do we know he’s real?” Caroline sighed and thought about Ms. Briggs. Now she can be the Queen of Answers.

Developing self-awareness — a developmental milestone

Nick continued with his excited dialogue, “And Mom, and Mom, we also get to have a Resolution Court. Any time there is a fight or an argument we have the Court. And guess what? I was the one who knew what “resolution” meant, so I got to be the first one picked.” “How wonderful,” said Mom. “We’ll all get a turn on the Resolution Court, but I’m one of the first. What a cool day!” Nick said excitedly. “Today I didn’t care if they called me ‘brainy’ or not.” Nick was becoming more aware of who he is and the differences between himself and others. In the past, he didn’t like kids to call him “brainy” because it made him feel different. Nick once told his mom that it might have been better if he had been born with less brains and more talent to play baseball. Caroline was pleased to see her son happy about feeling rewarded for who he was.

Accepting differences of opinion

Nick had Mom’s attention and was certainly going to take advantage of his time with her. “Mom, you know we’re trying to decide where to go for a vacation. Well, I was reading some books about the best beaches to visit and one book said Florida beaches were best and another book said the best beaches were in South Carolina. How can they disagree? Isn’t one beach better than the other based on facts? How can you make a decision when they tell you different things? I thought I would be able to find out what beach is best by reading a book. Don’t authors have to be right? How can they both be right?” Nick said in a torrent. “Nick, both authors can be right as to how they view the beaches,” explained Caroline. “The authors like one beach better than the other depending on their judgment — just like you enjoy asparagus and Jack doesn’t. It’s a matter of personal preference.” “So I can believe that one beach is better than the other, and Jack can believe what he wants to believe?” questioned Nick. “Exactly.” Said Mom. “A difference of opinion makes the world go round.” “That’s silly,” quipped Nick. “Opinions can’t make the world go round.” Caroline laughed. One of these days Nick would be able to see the world as shades of gray instead of black and white and not be so literal. In the meantime, she would just have to be a good listener and gently guide him to understand and accept differences of opinion.

And finally…

Remember that although the developmental milestones mentioned here are typical, children pass through these stages at their own pace. Some will be earlier, some a little later. Discuss any concerns you may have about your child’s development with your pediatrician or teacher.