Child development: Early school-aged children (5-8 years old)

Emerging Minds, Australia, January 2024

Related to Child development

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Emerging Minds acknowledges that families come in many forms. For the purposes of easy reading, the term ‘parent’ encompasses the biological, adoptive, foster and kinship carers of a child, as well as individuals who have chosen to take up primary or shared responsibility in raising that child. We also appreciate that every child is unique and has different strengths, vulnerabilities and experiences that shape their health and development.

Understanding how a child’s reactions, thoughts, behaviours and sense of control are influenced by their development can help you imagine what life is like for your child right now. Knowing what children are (and aren’t) likely to be able to do and understand at their current age helps you respond in ways that support their positive development and mental health.

This fact sheet describes the main developmental experiences and capabilities of children aged around 5-8 years old, and offers ways parents, family members and other adults can support children’s healthy development and wellbeing.

Key things to remember about children’s development:

  • Every child grows and develops at their own pace, and so their developmental journey is unique. Some children master certain skills earlier than others and some take longer or need a bit more help and direction.
  • A child’s development is shaped by their unique genes as well as their relationships and experiences at home and in the other places they learn and play.
  • Neurodivergent children and children with a physical or intellectual disability may think, move, communicate and/or process senses differently, which can influence their developmental pathway.
  • The best way to support your child’s development and wellbeing is to provide a safe and secure environment and respond warmly, consistently and appropriately to their needs.

Children’s development from five to eight years old

In the early school years, children become more independent and are constantly learning new skills.

Once children start school, their relationships and experiences in their school environment – where they spend about a quarter of their time each week – greatly influence their development. Going to school brings a lot of new challenges – around learning, but also around social and emotional skills, as children learn to navigate relationships with other children and adults. How a child feels about themselves can be impacted by how they cope with those challenges.

Starting school also opens a whole new social world and children become increasingly interested in friendships with other children. But the most significant relationship for most children this age is still with their parent/s. It’s important for parents to maintain warmth and responsiveness while encouraging and supporting children’s increasing independence and need for clear rules and limits.


Developmental experiences of early school-aged children (5–8 years)

As a parent, it can be difficult to understand how your child is experiencing the world and why they’re behaving in certain ways. The following table shows the main developmental experiences and capabilities of children aged around 5–8 years old, along with ways parents, family members and other adults can support their healthy development.

Before you read this list, take a moment to think about what you’ve been noticing about your child.

Have you noticed any changes in:

  • your child’s interests?
  • their self-identity – what they see as their strengths or qualities?
  • how they like to play?
  • the ways they’re forming friendships?

As you read the suggestions for ways to support healthy development, consider:

  • What are you already doing that is supporting your child’s development?
  • Are there any ideas here that you might try?


If your family is navigating tough times

When a family is facing difficulties – such as financial or housing stress, health issues or relationship breakdown – it affects everyone, even very young children. It’s normal for a child’s developmental process to be interrupted and different to what’s described above if they, you or the whole family is dealing with tough times.

Our fact sheet has more information about how you can support your child’s development during tough times.


When to seek advice

This is an age when you might notice your child is having trouble with learning or regulating their emotions, as they’re dealing with more challenges at school. To be able to learn and play with their peers, children need to have developed both fine motor skills, like being able to hold a crayon or pencil, and gross motor skills (big movements) like jumping and throwing a ball. Children can feel frustrated or embarrassed if they see that most children their age can do something that they can’t do yet, or they’re unable to join in an activity that others enjoy.

It is important to identify and address any early learning or social and emotional difficulties your child may be experiencing, so that they can feel engaged in and enjoy school. It can be helpful to talk with your child’s teacher or another staff member at their school to find out if they have noticed any signs of developmental delays.

As a parent, you know your child best. If you have any concerns about the way your child moves, speaks, learns or interacts with other people, talk to your doctor/GP or another health professional. Identifying a cause or a developmental delay and getting help early can make a big difference to your child’s development and long-term wellbeing.


More information

This fact sheet is part of our series on key developmental experiences for children from birth to age 12. This collection of resources looks at what parents and other adults can do to support healthy development at different points in a child’s developmental journey.

Other resources in the series:

The Raising Children Network website has more detailed information about:

Find out more about anxiety in primary school-aged children in our Emerging Minds Families resource.

By learning and staying curious about what your child is experiencing, thinking and feeling, you can support their healthy development and their mental health and wellbeing, now and into the future.




  1. Department of Health and Aged Care. (2021). Physical activity and exercise guidelines for all Australians: For children and young people (5 to 17 years) [Web page]. Australian Government.

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