6-Year-Olds and Social Development

Your 6-Year-Old's Growing Social World

Happy Kids Lying in a Row
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Six-year-old children will naturally gravitate toward more independence and will increasingly begin to focus more on friendships with peers and show interest in adults outside of the family, such as friends’ parents or teachers. For 6-year-olds, friendships and other social relationships with peers and adults become more complex and take on more meaning as they become more aware of the world around them and their role in it.

Children this age are better able to understand rules and may become interested in making sure others do what they are supposed to do. They will develop an increasing interest in organized games and socialization with friends. Six-year-olds often delight in being part of a team or a group and will enjoy playing team sports such as soccer.


Six-year-olds may increasingly prefer to play with children of their own gender and may form “best friend” relationships with one or more select few children. Parents should watch out for negative behaviors associated with this normal phase of development, such as the formation of cliques, ostracizing others (or being left out), and bullying.

Six-year-olds will also become more adept at navigating relationships with friends and family and will feel security and comfort from their relationships with those who are close to them.

Morals and Rules

Children, this age may feel an increasing awareness of right and wrong, and may "tell on" peers who they think are not doing the right thing. Flare-ups, even among close friends, may be common, but will typically fade just as quickly as they started, especially with loving guidance from teachers and parents.

Giving, Sharing, and Empathy

Six-year-olds will frequently enjoy sharing snacks, toys, and other things with friends at school and at home. That isn’t to say rivalry and scuffles over favorite toys won’t occur, but conflicts will pass and grade-schoolers will increasingly gain the social skills to one day work out differences on their own, without adult intervention.

Six-year-olds are naturally self-centered and will need gentle encouragement from adults to see things from others’ point of view.

Developmental Issues

Many children, at age six, are in kindergarten or first grade. This may be the first time they're asked to spend extended time with classmates, follow strict school rules, or focus on schoolwork for extended periods of time. As a result, this may be the point at which developmental differences or delays may surface.

Problems with peer interactions, following spoken instructions, or managing emotions may all become more evident in a classroom setting. If this is the case, now is a great time to address those issues, so that they are not a serious problem as your child progresses through school. Talk with your child's teacher and pediatrician to determine whether any challenges he's experiencing require special attention.

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