Your Child at 6: Milestones

Many parents can’t help but wonder if their children are growing and developing at the right pace. Sometimes common milestones can be a helpful tool.

But, remember that all children are different and special. Milestones are meant to be guidelines, not strict rules.

If you have specific questions about how your child is hitting a certain milestone associated with being 6, you should consult your family doctor or your child’s pediatrician.

Keep an eye out for these kinds of milestones:

  • Language and academic
  • Development
  • Social and emotional

Language and Education

A 6-year-old child, typically in first grade, normally will:

  • Speak in simple but complete sentences with five to seven words
  • Follow a series of three commands in a row
  • Start to see that some words have more than one meaning. That helps them understand jokes and puns and start verbally expressing a sense of humor.
  • Start to show fast growth in mental ability

A 6-year-old should:

  • Begin to read books that are right for his or her age
  • Sound out or decode unfamiliar words
  • Focus on a task in school for 15 minutes

This is the age when children should at least begin to:

  • Understand the concept of numbers
  • Know day from night and left from right
  • Be able to tell time
  • Be able to repeat three numbers backward

Get to know your school administrators and your child’s teachers. Participate in homework assignments. If you think your 6 year old is falling behind, stay calm but be on the lookout for:

  • Difficulty reading or other possible signs of disability
  • Something that’s bothering your child, like bullying
  • A mental health issue or stress

Continued

Development

  • Baby teeth start to fall out around age 6 to be replaced by permanent adult teeth.
  • Kids in this age group generally grow about 2.5 inches a year and 4 to 7 pounds a year.
  • A sense of body image begins to develop at around age 6.
  • Children in early school years also complain more about tummy aches, leg pains, and such. That might be because they’re becoming more aware of their bodies. Still, parents should check out these complaints to make sure there’s no injury or illness.
  • Children at this age are still learning about sound, distance, and speed. So keep them away from the street. They don’t know yet how dangerous a car or truck can be.

Resist the urge to compare your child to others or to some “standard” you’ve heard about.

Your doctor should have a growth chart for each child. He or she will use that to decide if there might be a growth issue -- not broad guidelines.

Avoid making your kid eat more to reach some “standard” number about weight.

Remember, every child is unique.

Social, Emotional

  • By age 6, kids are getting more and more independent from their parents. They will try to show how big they are, and do things that might be dangerous.
  • Peer acceptance becomes more important than before. They are learning to cooperate and share.
  • Boys will tend to play with boys, and girls with girls.
  • Parents should let kids make their own choices about sports and toys. Make a wide range of examples available.
  • It’s about now that kids start to develop skills and attention spans and understand teamwork to start playing organized sports.
  • With growing language skills, kids get increasingly better at describing what has happened, what they feel, and what they think.
  • Lying, cheating, and stealing are to be expected somewhat at this age. Kids are figuring out where they fit and what’s acceptable.

More Ways Parents Can Help

  • For kids age 6 and up, put steady time limits on video games, computer use, and TV. Make sure screen time doesn’t cut into physical play, enough sleep, and family time.
  • Keep reading to your 6-year-old, and have him or her read to you.
  • Install parental controls on computers and TV.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about tough topics like peer pressure, violence, drug use, and sexuality. Find age-appropriate ways to answer questions without adding to confusion or fear.
  • Support your child’s self-esteem, and encourage them to have fun and express themselves.
  • Consider swimming lessons and fire safety training for your child.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 21, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus: “School-age children development.”

KidsHealth: “Growth and Your 6- to 12-Year-Old,” “What’s Funny to a School-Age Child?”

CDC: “Middle Childhood (6-8 years of age).”

Stanford Children’s Health: “The Growing Child: School-Age (6 to 12 Years).”

Mayo Clinic: “Children’s Health.”

Healthy Children: “Gender Identity and Gender Confusion in Children,” “Safety for Your Child: 6 Years.”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use.”

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