10-Year-Old Child Development Milestones

Your child’s growth and development at age 10

As children reach the age of 10, many will start to think of themselves as being almost teenagers. While some 10-year-olds will start looking and acting more mature, others will remain more child-like, both physically and emotionally.

"Ten-year-olds are emerging adolescents. Their bodies and brains are going through these tremendous changes," explains Aliza Pressman, PhD, an assistant clinical professor of pediatrics and psychologist at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital in New York City. This transformation can be startling for parents and also unsettling for their children, says Dr. Pressman.

However, regardless of how old they may look or seem, don't forget (even if they do) that they are still children in need of parental support and guidance. In fact, they may need their parents more than ever. Being 10 is all about change. Their bodies, hormones, emotions, social circles, and skills are all in flux this year. It is a period of monumental transition that can offer challenges and delights as children start to embrace the approach of the tween years.

10 year old child development milestones
Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

10-Year-Old Language and Cognitive Milestones

For many children, the development phase around 10 years old is packed with learning and rapid-paced cognitive growth. Right before your eyes, your child may seem to blossom from a little kid into a much bigger one with emerging critical thinking skills, huge advances in academic learning, a drive for independence, a growing social life, and a lot to say. They also begin to have a greater awareness of the perspectives of others and how they relate to their own.

Language Skills

Parents may notice that around age 10, children start thinking and sounding almost “grown-up.” Children this age are on the cusp of adolescence and have the language skills and cognitive ability to gather information and formulate well-organized opinions and thoughts. As such, many 10-year-old children can be effective conversationalists at dinner and at social gatherings, capable of expressing their thoughts on current events, books, music, art, and other subjects.

"Engage your 10-year-old in their critical thinking skills," says Dr. Pressman. At this age, they can contribute their ideas, solutions, and plans. "They can come up with a roadmap for things they want to do. Your job as the caregiver is to listen, offer guidance when solicited, and help promote their agency."

At this stage, reading skills move toward reading and enjoying more complex and lengthier chapter books and other texts. They may learn concepts such as metaphors and similes and will continue to encounter more difficult vocabulary words. They will be able to analyze stories, offer criticism, and their ability to think logically will become more pronounced. Kids this age will also be able to write persuasive essays and argue viewpoints and opinions with more confidence and organization.​

Academic Skills

Learning accelerates significantly in fifth grade as children prepare for the middle-school years. It is in fifth and sixth grade that kids begin to tackle more complicated materials in math, reading, and other subjects. "10-year-olds are on the cusp of entering middle school and tend to be very much in this tween mindset, straddling being kids and emerging into being teenagers," says Mollie Greves Grow, MD, MPH, a pediatrician at Seattle Children's Hospital.

In math, fifth graders can be expected to work with fractions, hone multiplication and division skills, and learn more complex geometry concepts. You can expect your fifth grader to learn concepts such as symmetry of shapes, how to use formulas to calculate the area and volume of shapes, and possibly begin early algebra. Your 10-year-old will start to practice more mental math skills and will be increasingly more able to use logic and abstract thinking to solve verbal math problems. 

When studying other subjects, such as history or social studies, 10-year-old children will expand their research skills and use resources such as library books and websites for school projects and presentations. Eager-to-learn fifth graders will delight not only in assembling their research but will also enjoy crafting their thoughts and having people appreciate their work.

Your 10-year-old will be transitioning toward greater independence in managing and organizing school work and homework, requiring less supervision from parents.

Interests

Many 10-year-olds love to run, bicycle, skate, jump on trampolines, swim, and play sports. They may enjoy team sports or individual activities, or be more into art, music, crafts, reading, or getting out in nature. Your child may follow their favorite sports teams and know all the details of their favorite TV programs. At this point, they are also beginning to be aware of popular singers and groups as well as their favorite celebrities.

Most 10-year-olds enjoy using electronics. If they don't have one already, chances are they want to have a phone. They are often interested in taking pictures with digital cameras or they may enjoy playing video games.

Language and Cognitive Checklist

  • Developing greater independence
  • Have an increased attention span and can often spend long periods of time working on activities they enjoy
  • Learning to use good judgment
  • May experience challenges at school
  • Shows interest in sports teams, social media, or pop culture

10-Year-Old Movement, Hand, and Finger Milestones

At this stage, 10-year-olds' bodies are beginning to grow and change rapidly. Some kids will already be going through puberty, while others may take a year or two more to begin. "It’s important to remember, not all kids develop at the same rate," says Jacob Sheff, DO, a pediatrician with Providence Health in Portland, Oregon. "Around this age, you may start seeing some children look and act more mature, relative to others the same age, who still appear more child-like, both physically and emotionally."

However, many children will start to experience major growth spurts by the time they reach the fifth grade. Girls tend to develop and grow at a faster pace. They may suddenly find themselves towering over boys the same age and many are starting to develop breast buds. Some may even be starting their period.

By contrast, many 10-year-old boys may only just be beginning to show the signs of puberty, while others will have to wait until they are 11, 12, or even 13. This disparity in growth can create discomfort in many children, either because they are growing too fast or not fast enough.

"Ten is a great time to start the process of talking about puberty, sexuality, and their bodies," says Dr. Pressman, who suggests talking about this stuff before these changes happen. For example, you can talk about getting pubic hair, starting their period, and using menstrual care products.

Often kids this age become more concerned with grooming, clothing, physical appearance, and acceptance from their peers. They are experiencing big changes hormonally as well as physically. It's common at this age to begin to show romantic interest in other kids as well as to explore gender identity and sexuality.

"With the early stages of puberty kicking into gear, you will begin to see growing pains or muscle cramps," says Dr. Sheff. Additionally, many children this age are very physically active and some begin participating in more rigorous sports programs, putting them at risk of "overuse injuries," notes the pediatrician. These injuries happen due to repetitive actions, such as throwing a baseball or jumping repeatedly, putting excess stress on their growing bones.

Sleep is very important for kids of all ages, but particularly so when kids are going through so much physical and emotional growth. Remember that although 10-year-olds often act more mature, they still need an early bedtime. Children this age should get between 9 and 12 hours of sleep each night.

Physical Milestones Checklist

  • Begins to show signs of puberty such as oily skin, increased sweating, and hair growth in the genital area and under the arms
  • Demonstrates improved agility, speed, coordination, and balance
  • Experiences an increase in small muscle coordination.

10-Year-Old Emotional and Social Milestones

At 10 years of age, children are developing a better sense of who they are in the world. Many are preparing for the start of middle or junior high school and are getting ready to navigate new social settings.

Coping With the Changes of Puberty

Wherever your child is in puberty, the transition into adolescence can trigger a host of emotions: excitement, uncertainty, trepidation, and embarrassment. They also may have a lot of questions and may not know where to get accurate answers. Kids often seek out their friends more and more and put a lot of energy into their social lives. However, kids still want the approval and guidance of their parents. Ten-year-olds tend to feel very close to their parents, siblings, and extended family.

"With increasing self-awareness and attention paid to peers, the different rates of development may result in self-consciousness about their growing 'too fast' or 'not enough,'" says Dr. Sheff.

Emotional Intelligence

At age 10, you can expect your child to have more complex feelings and to have more control over emotions. However, they may also struggle with keeping them in check at times. You may see them becoming more skilled at handling conflict and negotiating solutions with friends. At the same time, you may see some volatility in their friendships, feelings, and interests. They may have frequent squabbles with siblings, fighting especially with younger siblings.

Ten-year-olds have an improving ability to sense the emotions of others and to read facial and body language.

Expanding Social Skills

Ten-year-olds often cope with cliques, as an insider, an outsider, or both, on a daily basis. At 10, kids may become very attached to their friends. Other friendships tend to be based on mutual interests rather than close, personal feelings. Peer pressure can play a big role in the social relationships of most 10-year-olds. At this age, kids will be eager to fit in by wearing the right clothes, listening to the right music, or liking and disliking the same things.

At 10, social skills are developing rapidly and kids become attuned to what their friends think, say, and do. Acceptance by the peer group is a critical step that seems to have a strong effect on the next level of development. Poor peer acceptance at age 10 is a strong predictor of behavioral and emotional problems in adolescence.

Stress

Another factor that can play a role in mood swings is the stress that a typical 10-year-old may be under as they try to deal with all the physical changes and other shifts in their life. A 10-year-old child may be trying to keep up with ever-more difficult schoolwork, working to fit in and socialize with friends, coping with an influx of hormones, and dealing with the physical transitions of growing up. Sometimes, kids this age even refuse to go to school.

Social and Emotional Milestone Checklist

  • Admires and imitates older youth
  • Are accepting of parent/family beliefs
  • Beginning to question authority
  • Enjoys creating secret codes, games, and passwords with their friends
  • Prefers to work in groups and enjoys cooperative activities

Other Milestones for Your 10-Year-Old

Children this age may also begin to place more emphasis on physical appearance and may want to fit in and conform with peers more than they used to. Body image issues can also develop at this age in some children.

Be a good role model when it comes to body image, physical activity, and self-acceptance. Avoid making comments that criticize your own body (such as calling yourself “fat”) and set an example of healthy eating habits.

You can expect to see an increased desire for privacy in children this age. Ten-year-old children are becoming more aware of their bodies and are more likely to want privacy when bathing and dressing. They are also more likely to pay attention to things like clothes and hairstyles and what their friends are thinking and wearing.

"One of the most important things that 10-year-olds are trying to develop is more autonomy," says Dr. Grow. They are able to take on more responsibility, including tackling more things independently like chores, schoolwork, and using their time wisely. They will still often need supervision with some tasks but it's important to support their emerging autonomy by letting them take on new challenges when they are able to do so.

How to Help Your 10-Year-Old Learn and Grow

Cultivate your parent-child connection by spending quality time with your child and listening to them as much or more than you talk. Let them know you love and value them no matter what, says Dr. Pressman. Be their safe space for sharing their triumphs and challenges. "Your mantra should be all feelings are welcome, all behaviors are not," says Dr. Pressman. So, let them vent and be angry or sad, but still expect reasonable behavior and follow up with related consequences, as needed.

Have household rules with set consequences for infractions. "Make sure you are offering reasonable consequences and not overreacting, while also sticking with your rule," says Dr. Pressman. Talk to your child about what goals they want to reach and the freedoms they would like, suggests Dr. Pressman. Make agreements about what they need to do to achieve these aims. "Always remember that if they don't follow through, you can take the privilege away and reassess in a few months."

Allow your child to have some privacy with friends. Holding private conversations and sharing secrets is socially appropriate at this age and it can be important to your child’s healthy development. Give them the space they need to forge these social bonds and try to take their burgeoning autonomy personally, says Dr. Grow.

"Around age 10, there is a shift to more influence from peers, more sensitivity to how they look, and how they are perceived. They want to protect themselves from being embarrassed in front of their peers and often find parents embarrassing," explains Dr. Grow. "Support them in their emerging independence while providing the scaffolding and guidance to help them learn how to adapt to the coming changes in their lives."

As parents, aim to provide autonomy support, advises Dr. Pressman. "Let your child do what they are capable of doing, guide and support them for the things they can almost do, and teach them what they are not yet ready to do on their own."

Set your child up for academic success by encouraging good study habits. "If they are capable of doing it themselves, let them. But if they're totally at a loss, then you need to give them more support," Dr. Pressman suggests.

If they are struggling, you might even sit by them to teach them, but don't ever do their work for them, says Dr. Pressman. Instead, it can help to establish a homework time and a designated homework area. Create rules, such as no TV during homework time, that will help your child succeed.

Teach your child how to deal with uncomfortable emotions, including frustration, anger, disappointment, guilt, anxiety, sadness, and boredom, advises Dr. Grow. Help them name and talk about their feelings and offer ideas for how to cope, such as mindfulness, exercise, venting, brainstorming possible solutions, yoga, or calling a friend.

Additional Parenting Tips

  • Be kind and loving but also have firm expectations
  • Listen to your child
  • Model the behavior and skills you want to see
  • Use natural consequences

How to Keep Your 10-Year-Old Safe

As your 10-year-old grows in maturity, it is natural for them to gain more responsibility and autonomy. Still, they need parental oversight in order to keep them safe, says Dr. Grow. Be sure to know who their friends are, what video games, social media, and movies they are seeing, and where they are at all times. Allow them to try out greater freedoms, such as a later bedtime or walking to a friend's house, but be ready to pull back if things don't go well or they need more supervision.

"Social media has been identified as a recent phenomenon that, although designed to have a positive impact in peoples’ lives, can actually result in users feeling worse about themselves," says Dr. Sheff. So, be sure to monitor your child's use of social media, as well as their access to the internet, generally.

Talk to your child about peer pressure, their changing body, mental health, healthy sleep habits, nutritious food, social media, and other social issues. Let them know you are always there for them to talk about anything.

When to Be Concerned

It's typical for 10-year-olds to occasionally experience moodiness or have trouble regulating their emotions, particularly once puberty starts. If your child’s flashes of bad temper are fleeting and only happen occasionally, it’s probably nothing to worry about, says Dr. Grow. But if your child becomes overly emotional, withdrawn, aggressive, or has angry outbursts that interfere with their relationships, it could be a sign of a bigger problem, such as depression or anxiety.

If you see behavioral or personality changes, such as trouble sleeping or eating or not wanting to go to school, for example, talk to your child’s pediatrician or teacher, advises Dr. Grow.

Children of this age also develop physically at different rates. Early or late puberty, particularly in girls, may lead to an especially high risk for body image issues and eating disorders. Always emphasize the importance of health and function over appearance, says Dr. Pressman. If you notice issues around food, exercise, or negative body image, contact their pediatrician or a therapist for help and guidance.

If you are worried that your child is not developing as they should, start by reminding yourself that now is a time of transition for a 10-year-old. There is not a set place as to where your child should be. While some will be toying with makeup, social media, and sports, others may be happy playing with dolls or reading comic books, says Dr. Grow. Both are fine and perfectly healthy.

If you are still concerned that your child is lagging, speak with your pediatrician. They can assess your child's development and refer you to the appropriate specialist if needed.

A Word From Verywell

Age 10 is a time of big, sometimes wonderful, sometimes bumpy, transitions for your child. Aim to support your child by keeping the lines of communication open and making quality family time a priority. As much as your child is growing and becoming more independent, they also need the support and structure provided at home. Enjoy this time of change for your child, while also being there to offer guidance and limits when needed.

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Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading
  • Keane, E. Kelly, C.; Molcho, M. et al. "Physical activity, screen time and the risk of subjective health complaints in school-aged children." Prevent Med. 2017;96:21-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.12.011.
  • Tarasova, K. "Development of Socio-emotional Competence in Primary School Children." Procedia Soc Behavior Sci. 2016; 233:128-32. DOI: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2016.10.166.

By Sarah Vanbuskirk
Sarah Vanbuskirk is a writer and editor with 20 years of experience covering parenting, health, wellness, lifestyle, and family-related topics. Her work has been published in numerous magazines, newspapers, and websites, including Activity Connection, Glamour, PDX Parent, Self, TripSavvy, Marie Claire, and TimeOut NY.

Originally written by
Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin

Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, international bestselling author and host of the The Verywell Mind Podcast.

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