Babies and children develop at their own pace, so it's impossible to tell exactly when your child will learn a given skill. The developmental milestones listed below will give you a general idea of the changes you can expect, but don't be alarmed if your own child's development takes a slightly different course.
Important Milestones: By the End of Six Years (72 Months)

In the early school years, you won't see dramatic changes in 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 social and thinking skills. Your child is now building on the base of skills developed during early childhood and moving toward greater independence, both intellectually and emotionally.

Here are some of the milestones you can expect of a 6-year-old:
The following information will provide a basic overview of patterns of development in the growing child.


Cognitive Development
  • moving toward abstract thinking
  • wants it all; has difficulty making choices
  • may reverse printed letters (b/d)
  • enjoys planning and building
  • doubles speaking and listening vocabularies
  • reading may become a major interest
  • increased problem-solving ability
  • interested in magic and tricks
  • longer attention span
  • enjoys creating elaborate collections
  • able to learn difference between left and right
  • can begin to understand time and the days of the week
  • likes taking responsibility for simple household chores
  • likes to make simple decisions
  • counts to 100
  • asks endless "how-what-when-where-why" questions
  • continues to refine concepts of shape, space, time, color, and numbers
  • begins to understand the difference between intentional and accidental
  • begins to understand differences of opinion
  • still has a short attention span (about 15 minutes maximum)
  • enjoys dramatic play

Language Development

Although language has vastly improved, when it comes to written language, it is common for six year olds to have word reversals or letter reversals. This is the result of perceptual motor skills that are not quite fully developed and are not necessarily an indication of dyslexia.

Ironically, schools today tend to push reading at the kindergarten level when many children are only five years of age or nearing the age of six. Yet, the cognitive changes that need to occur in order for a child to learn to read traditionally manifest somewhere around the age of 6 - 6 1/2 years of age.


Physical Development
  • may still be somewhat uncoordinated and gawky
  • able to learn to ride a bicycle
  • can move in time with music or a beat
  • skilled at using scissors and small tools
  • development of permanent teeth
  • enjoys testing muscle strength and skills
  • good sense of balance
  • can catch small balls
  • can tie shoelaces
  • enjoys copying designs and shapes, letters and numbers
  • can print name
  • long arms and legs may give awkward appearance
  • loves active play can be reckless (does not understand dangers completely)
  • is still improving basic motor skills
  • is still not well coordinated
  • begins to learn some specific sports skills like batting a ball
  • tires easily
  • dawdles much of the time
  • is fascinated with the subject of teeth
  • may become a more finicky eater
  • uses crayons and paints with some skill, but has difficulty writing and cutting
  • may resist baths
Social/Emotional Development
  • grows more independent, yet feels less secure
  • craves affection from parents and teachers
  • friendships are unstable; can be unkind to peers
  • needs to win and may change rules to suit herself
  • may be hurt by criticism, blame, or punishment
  • can be rigid, demanding, and unable to adapt
  • increasingly aware that others may have different feelings
  • may have unpredictable mood swings
  • has a problem admitting a mistake
  • feels quite guilty about mistakes
  • evaluates self and friends
  • begins to impose rules on play activities
  • cooperates with other children with some difficulty
  • has difficulty considering the feelings of others
  • values independence
  • being with friends becomes increasingly important
  • interested in rules and rituals
  • girls want to play more with girls; boys with boys
  • may have a best friend and an enemy
  • strong desire to perform well, do things right
  • begins to see things from another child's point of view, but still very self-centered
  • finds criticism or failure difficult to handle
  • views things as black and white, right or wrong, wonderful or terrible, with very little middle ground
  • seeks a sense of security in groups, organized play, and clubs
  • generally enjoys caring for and playing with younger children
  • may become upset when behavior or school work is ignored




Content source: Division of Birth Defects, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention