School-Age Kids Parenting Tips (6, 7, 8, and 9-Year-Olds)

The best advice for raising happy, healthy school age kids.

7 year old child development - kids doing dishes
TongRo/Getty Images

School-age kids are busy bundles of energy. Their personalities are clear and they develop some distinct interests and talents.

Understanding your school-age child’s needs can ensure that you’re helping him stay as healthy as possible so he can be at his best. These strategies can also help you instill lifelong healthy habits in your child.

Daily Life

Your school-age child is likely to be quite independent in many areas of her life, including her hygiene habits. She’s likely to be able to take her own shower but she might need a little supervision to ensure she gets all the shampoo out of her hair.

Similarly, your school-age child should have the motor skills she needs to brush her teeth. But, she might need some encouragement to brush longer or she may need some supervision when it comes to flossing.

While some school-age kids are pretty compliant with taking care of their bodies, others may need a little extra support.

Diet & Nutrition

Grade-schoolers are notoriously finicky about food. The boy who once gobbled down every Brussels sprout set before him may suddenly swear he hates them. The girl who was always perfectly happy to drink water with her afternoon snack may start begging for soda.

Chances are these sudden shifts in appetite have less to do with a child's taste buds and more to do with wanting to fit in with his peers. To help make sure your child is nourished properly, here are some things you can do:

  • Stock the house with healthy choices only. Make it easy for your child to see and reach fruit, veggies, yogurt, milk, and cheese.
  • Limit liquids before a meal. Discourage him from filling up on milk or juice before meals. If his tummy is full of fluid he won't feel much like eating solid food. 
  • Make mealtimes as happy as possible. Don't try to make your child eat when he isn't hungry, or force him to eat something he doesn't like. And never use food as a bribe or reward when you want him to do something or punish him for not eating. Steer the table talk to pleasant topics; save the discussion about that note from his teacher for after dinner. 
  • Give him some freedom. Even if he asks for the same ham sandwich in his lunchbox every day or the only green thing he'll go near is broccoli, as long as he's got plenty of energy and is growing normally, you really don't have to worry too much about what he's eating. In fact, most kids don't eat a balanced diet every day, but over the course of a week or so will manage to get the full variety of nutrients. If you're really worried about your child's nutrition, a check-in with the pediatrician should put your mind at ease. 
  • Set a good example. He may be a big kid, but your child is still looking to you for guidance. In other words, eat as you want him to eat. Even if he doesn't follow suit at the time, he'll be influenced by your choices.
  • Reserve sweets for an occasional treat. Avoid serving high-calorie, sugary treats on a regular basis. Your child doesn’t need a sweet dessert every night after dinner and don’t send him to school with cookies, cakes, or candy.

Children between the ages of 4 and 8 should get between 1,200 and 2,000 calories per day depending on their activity level. Nine-year-old boys need between 1,600 and 2,600 calories and nine-year-old girls need between 1,400 and 2,200 calories, depending on their activity level.

You can consider giving your child a daily vitamin if you think he is not eating well, although most children don't need them.

Physical Activity

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that school-age kids get one or more hour of physical activity each day. Much of that activity should include aerobic activity. Running, playing soccer, or riding a bicycle could be good aerobic activities for children.

Muscle strengthening activities are also important. Crossing the monkey bars on the playground or climbing trees are just a few activities that strengthen their muscles.

School-age kids should also participate in bone building activities. Basketball, tennis, running, jumping rope, or games such as hop-scotch can be good ways to build their bones.

Recess, gym class, and sports activities can count toward your child’s physical activity recommendation but it may not be enough.

Incorporate physical activity into your family life. Go for a family walk after dinner, take hikes on the weekends, or go swimming together as a family.

You also might enjoy playing pass, going to an obstacle course, or kicking a ball around together.

Your child will learn healthy habits by watching you so make sure you are a good role model when it comes to physical activity.

Around the House

Most school-age kids are eager to take on some responsibilities of their own. Even if your child already makes his bed and keeps his room clean, he'll likely welcome some age-appropriate chores that are more "grown up," like being the designated dishwasher emptier or being in charge of the recycling.

If you can, come up with different options for him to choose from. He'll be more likely to follow through on doing something he picked.

It's usually not a great idea to pay a child for doing chores that are part of being a good citizen, like picking up on his own room. Better to consider his housework his contribution to family teamwork.

Praise his effort and hard work. Positive reinforcement will boost his self-esteem and encourage him to stick with those. 

However, around 7 or 8 is a great time to start teaching a child about money by giving him an allowance. It doesn't really matter how much, but one reasonable way to calculate a child's weekly stipend is to give him a half dollar to a whole dollar per year of age—between $3.50 and $7 for a 7-year-old.

Managing even this small amount will help your child learn the value of money and the importance of saving.

At this age, your child will still be eager to spend time together as a family. He might be open to doing just about anything with you, from a family board game night to a pizza party.

It’s a great time to expose your child to a variety of activities, from baseball games to hiking trips. Family activities will teach your child about himself and give you an opportunity to develop a strong bond.

Health & Safety

Start teaching your school-age child the steps she can take to keep herself healthy and safe. While it's important to monitor her activity, try giving her some opportunities to make healthy choices for herself.

Visiting the Doctor

As long as your child is healthy, your child’s pediatrician will likely recommend annual check-ups. During those visits, you might expect:

  • An examination of your child's growth and development.
  • A review of diet and sleep schedules
  • Measurement of his height, weight and blood pressure.
  • Counseling for injury prevention, dental health, and a proper diet.
  • A review of school performance.
  • Immunizations: Varivax booster (if your child hasn't had chickenpox), HepB and HepA series - if not already given.
  • vision and hearing test.

Some common health issues in children this age include:

  • Skin issues like rashes or poison ivy
  • Nosebleeds
  • Earaches
  •  Constipation
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Sleep

School-age kids should get between 9 and 12 hours each night. Bedtimes for children at this age range greatly.

So while your child might say his friends stay up until 9 p.m., you might still be giving your child a 7:30 p.m. bedtime. But don’t feel bad if your child goes to bed earlier than his peers. Sleep is vital to your child’s health and development.

If your child has trouble waking up in the morning, trouble staying awake during the day, or she seems overly emotional, she might not be getting enough rest.

Establish a bedtime routine for your child. Shut off all electronics a couple of hours before she goes to sleep and consider any other distractions that may be interfering with her sleep.

Encourage her to read books or engage in some quiet activities before going to bed.

Safety

Grade school is an ideal time to help a child learn to watch out for his own safety.

  • Teach street smarts. Remind your child to look both ways more than once before crossing, for example. Go over what he should do if a stranger approaches him. Make sure he knows not to get into a car with someone he doesn't know, even if that person claims you said it would be okay. 
  • Go over with your child what to do in an emergency. Make sure your child knows how to dial 911, what constitutes an emergency and what to say to the dispatcher. 

Accidents are the biggest risk your child is likely to face at this age. These strategies can reduce your child’s risk of death or injury.

  • Don't ditch the booster seat. A kid who's itching to assert his independence may beg to stop using one. Unless your child is big for his age, though, don't give in. Car accidents are the leading cause of death among kids, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The best way to keep a child safe in the car is to keep him in a booster seat until he's at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall—a height most kids don't reach until they're between 8 and 12. 
  • Enforce safe play. This means making sure your child uses any safety gear that's necessary for the activity he's doing. For instance, if he's biking, he must wear a helmet that fits appropriately. If he can't swim yet, consider lessons. 
  • Insist on proper sports equipment. If your child plays a sport, make sure he has the proper gear, such as a mouth guard, helmet, and knee pads. Make sure his equipment fits properly and educate yourself about the signs of a concussion.

Technology

Your school-age child is likely to show interest in the internet. Some of his friends may even have their own smartphones or tablets or they may be talking about social media.

While there’s nothing wrong with kids enjoying technology under the watchful eye of an adult, the internet can be dangerous for kids who lack supervision.

From mature video games to online predators, there’s a lot of content young children shouldn’t be exposed to. But, there are also other hidden dangers, such as junk food advertisers who market their content to children online.

In 2016, the AAP updated their screen time recommendations for kids. While in the past, they recommended no more than two hours per day for school-age kids, they now recommend parents consider the positive and negative effects of electronics on children and use common sense when setting limits.

High-quality programming can be educational for kids. But, too much screen time can be harmful. They caution parents not to allow screen time to interfere with adequate sleep, physical activity, and other behaviors essential to health.

Pre-approve any computer games and movies your child wants to watch, and know what he may have access to at his friends' homes.Use parental controls as well.

Establish healthy limits on screen time too. Don’t allow your child to have a TV in the bedroom and don’t allow him to play unlimited video games.

In addition to taking a toll on his psychological well-being, too much sedentary activity isn’t good for his physical health. So encourage your child to spend a lot of time playing outside or engaging in face-to-face interactions with his peers.

Your School-Age Child’s World

School work becomes increasingly difficult as children age. So this is a time when some kids begin to thrive while others struggle to understand more advanced concepts.

For many families, homework can be a serious struggle. Many school-age kids are reluctant to sit down and study for a spelling test or complete their math homework.

Many kids are busy with sports, music, and after-school activities. Others, however, may prefer to spend endless hours on their digital devices. It’s important to keep kids mentally and physically active at this age.

Friends become a bigger deal during this time too. It’s a good idea to support your child in seeing peers outside of school. Attending birthday parties or playing with kids on the playground can be good for their development.

Bullying can become a problem around this age. It’s important to talk to your child about kindness and respect so he doesn’t become a bully and it’s also imperative that you talk about what he can do if he becomes a target.

Quick Tips

Mental health issues may develop—or become apparent—during the school-age years. Kids can become depressed or anxious, or they may show signs of behavior disorders or ADHD.

If you have concerns about your child’s mood or behavior, talk to your pediatrician. Early intervention can increase the success of treatment.

View Article Sources