11-Year-Old Child Development Milestones

Your child’s growth and development at age 11

The tween years are upon you, and with them, some opportunities and challenges arise as a parent. Hanging out with your 11-year-old can be really fun as they’re starting to understand the world and converse like mini-adults.

However, the intensity and the drama of a pre-teen—especially for girls—can be frustrating and difficult for a parent to handle. From the complex social dynamics at school to the physical changes that can confuse and embarrass a tween, here’s what to expect from an 11-year-old.

Physical Development

Age 11 often means big physical changes. For girls, puberty might have already started; boys often enter it later (around age 12), but it’s not unheard of for boys to start it by 11.

In 11-year-old girls, physical changes include increased body fat, beginning of breast enlargement, pubic hair growth, widening hips, underarm hair growth, oilier skin and hair, and the first menstrual period.

Physical changes in boys might include larger muscles, vocal changes, oilier hair and skin, the beginning of underarm, facial and pubic hair, darkening scrotum, and testicle and penis growth.

Tweens are beginning to grow into their new bodies, so there might be a little physical awkwardness as they adjust.

Key Milestones

  • Shows signs of puberty
  • Shows improved handwriting and an improved ability to use a variety of tools
  • Growth spurt and accompanying growth pains and cramps; the need to both sleep and eat more

Parenting Tip

You might start to smell unexpected odors from your child around this time. Sweat glands are starting to get active, so remind your kid about the importance of regular bathing and putting on deodorant every day.

Emotional Development

Get ready for a wild ride with the emotions of your 11-year-old. Once the child hits puberty, expect moodiness and a roller coaster of both distress and happiness.

While many 11-year-olds still accept family beliefs and recognize adults as authority figures, this is also the time that they begin to question that authority and might have their first introduction to risky behaviors such as drinking, smoking, or self-harm.

Key Milestones

  • Develops better decision-making skills
  • Begins to question authority figures
  • Starts to resist physical affection from parents

Parenting Tip

Although 11-year-olds are starting to develop their own personality among a social group, they haven’t yet resisted the concept of “family time.” Make participation in family activities, such as going to church or dinner with grandparents, and responsibilities like chores part of the standard daily routine.

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Social Development

While friendship has long been important to your child, this time is when it becomes vital, for better and for worse. The idea of a "group identity" starts to play a role, and tight-knit cliques can form. Peer pressure ​starts to influence your child into doing things that they probably wouldn’t do on their own.

Key Milestones

  • Forms strong and complex friendships
  • Shows more interest in friends and less interest in family
  • Explores identity through hair, clothing, hobbies, and friends

Parenting Tip

Your child will begin to test boundaries and push back on rules (if they haven’t already) due to the influence of their friends. This is the time to pick your battles. Good grades and avoiding drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes are the battles you want to choose, while clothing and hairstyle choices can be a good way to give your tween some freedom.

Cognitive Development

Younger children tend to live in the moment and focus on what affects them right here and right now. Around age 11, they start to realize that the choices they make now could have longer-term effects.

Eleven-year-olds are also beginning to realize that there are multiple ways to look at a piece of information, situation, or issue and start to understand that there is a gray area where there was previously only black and white.

Speech & Language

Any speech issues that appeared in a child’s past should be resolved by this time. If you still notice speech difficulties—the “r” sound is the most common to still linger from your child’s younger days—register for speech therapy to correct problems.

Play

At age 11, children begin to move past the playdates of their younger years into more typical teenage behavior at sleepovers or group outings to the movies. Their competitive spark continues to ignite, particularly in sports, as the pre-teen starts to dedicate more time and energy to particular hobbies.

Key Milestones

  • Understands that thoughts are private
  • Experiences a greater sense of responsibility
  • Exhibits an increased attention span, but often rapid changing of interests

Parenting Tip

Students can begin to lose interest in school and learning around this age or in the next few years to come. Continue to engage their curiosity, and help make learning exciting. At the same time, resist overscheduling your tween. They need downtime, as well as time to focus on homework. Pick just a couple of activities together, and focus on commitment to those choices.

Other Milestones

Many 11-year-olds begin experiencing brain changes that help them transition into becoming more independent. Their still-developing frontal cortex and their need for acceptance, however, can lead to increased risk-taking behavior.

Don’t be surprised if your 11-year-old makes some impulsive choices or poor decisions at times. While you don’t want to shrug it off and let them off the hook, understanding why you might be seeing some interesting behavior choices can help you better respond.

If your child makes unhealthy decisions, create rules that focus on safety. Encourage them to think before they act and talk about the potential consequences of their behavior.

When to Be Concerned

Each child develops at a different pace, so milestones are meant more as guidelines as to what to expect rather than deadlines for shifts to occur. You don’t need to be overly worried if your 11-year-old isn’t displaying “typical” tween behavior, nor do you have to be concerned if puberty doesn’t begin during this year (if it doesn’t begin by age 14, then it’s time to talk to the doctor).

You can be concerned, however, if you think that your pre-teen is falling into some dangerous patterns of behavior. Preventable injury is the leading cause of death for this age range, and parents have to contend with social media and inappropriate internet use. Strong enforcement of rules and setting reasonable limits will help contend with some of these parental problems.

A Word From Verywell

All kids develop at a slightly different pace. Kids who lack social and emotional maturity, however, may become targets for bullies or they may struggle with loneliness and isolation.

It’s important to help your child sharpen their skills when you notice deficits. And if you’re concerned about potential developmental delays, talk to your child’s pediatrician. It’s important to address any problems now, before your child enters the teen years.

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