8-Year-Old Child Development Milestones

Your child’s growth and development at age 8

For many children, third grade marks a growth spurt, physically, emotionally, and cognitively. Most 8-year-olds show great gains in their cognitive developmental in particular.

Around this age, kids tend to be able to ask questions until they have enough information to draw conclusions about what they’re learning. They’re also able to solve math-related word problems. Along with their new cognitive developments, they’re slowly budding into more mature children.

1
Physical Development

8 year old child development - girl holding baby sibling
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For 8-year-old children, physical development is more about refinement of skills, coordination, and muscle control rather than huge changes. They begin to look like "big kids," but puberty is still a couple of years away for most of them.

Children with natural athletic potential may show their abilities at this developmental stage as their physical skills become more precise and accurate. In fact, this is often the age at which children decide whether they are athletic or not, and choose to participate in or avoid sports.

Either way, it's important for parents to encourage physical activity. Even if your child isn't an athlete she can still enjoy running, swimming, biking, and many other types of non-sports-related physical fun.

Key Milestones

  • Can combine locomotor and motor skills more fluidly. They can turn, spin and jump, and perform tasks that help them in sports.
  • Continue to demonstrate improvement in coordination.

Improved small muscle control continues to be refined, making activities such as playing musical instruments or using tools much easier and enjoyable for an 8-year-old child.

Parenting Tip

Some 8-year-olds may become more aware of body images, and their self-confidence about their appearance may affect how they feel about themselves and their relationships with their peers. It’s important to talk about health, rather than appearance, and help your child find activities that help her feel good about herself.

2
Emotional Development

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An 8-year-old may show more sophisticated and complex emotions and interactions. Many 8-year-olds are able to mask their true thoughts or emotions to spare someone someone’s feelings. For example, a child who doesn’t like a gift may still smile and thank the gift giver.

This is the time when your child may be developing a more sophisticated sense of himself in the world. His interests, talents, friends, and relationship with family help him establish a clear self-identity. It's also the beginning of desiring privacy and flip-flopping between self-confidence and self-doubt.

Key Milestones

  • May begin to desire more privacy.
  • Seeks direct physical contact from caregivers when under stress but may resist physical contact at other times.
  • Becomes more balanced in coping with frustration, failure, and disappointment.

Parenting Tip

Praise your child for coping with emotions in a healthy way. Say, “Great job taking a break for a minute when you were frustrated with your math homework.” Look for opportunities to keep teaching your child more sophisticated emotion regulation skills.

3
Social Development

8 year old child emotional development - boy hugging dog
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This is the phase of social development where many children love being a part of sports teams and other social groups. In general, 8-year-old children enjoy school and will count on and value relationships with a few close friends and classmates.

Parents of 8-year-olds should be on the lookout for problems such as school refusal, as this may indicate learning difficulties or being bullied at school. It is also a good age at which to discuss respecting others.

You may begin to see a newfound sense of self-confidence in your 8-year-old child as she expresses her opinions about people and things around her. She may pay more attention to news events, and want to share her thoughts on current event topics.

Eight-year-olds may also gravitate primarily toward friendships with friends of the same gender.

Eight-year-olds may begin to ask for sleepovers, although parents should not be surprised if some children want to go back home and do not make it through the entire night at a friend’s house. At age 8, many children are still attached to mom, dad, and home and may not yet be emotionally ready to handle sleeping at a friend’s, even though they may want to participate in sleepovers.

Eight-year-old children are still developing an understanding of what is "wrong" or "right," and lying or other behavior requiring child discipline may need to be corrected.

Key Milestones

  • Begins to understand how someone else feels in a given situation and will be more capable of placing themselves in another person’s shoes.
  • Exhibits a wide spectrum of prosocial skills including being generous, supportive and kind.
  • Desires to adhere strictly to rules and be "fair," which can sometimes lead to conflicts during organized group play

Parenting Tip

By age 8, many kids develop gender stereotypes such as “boys become doctors” and “girls become nurses.” It’s important to pay attention to the gender stereotypes your child is learning from media and to point out characters who defy gender stereotypes.

4
Cognitive Development

8 year old child development - girl reading book on sofa
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Eight-year-olds make great gains in their cognitive development. Most of them begin to have an understanding of money, both literally and conceptually. While counting money can be a difficult skill to learn, kids often begin to understand that it takes money to buy items.

Your child’s ability to think will also be affected by her emotions at this age. Your child may have difficulty focusing when she’s worried or she may struggle to think about her options when she feels angry.

Most 8-year-olds are able to tell time and they exhibit a better understanding of how long time increments are. When you say, “You have 10 more minutes until we have to leave,” or “Your birthday is 3 days away,” your child will have a greater understanding of what that means.

Speech & Language

Most 8-year-olds continue to rapidly develop their vocabularies, with an estimated 3,000 new words learned during the year. Children who read more expand their vocabularies the fastest.

Children also begin to show the ability to play on words and they exhibit verbal humor. They develop a better sense of irony—the use of a word to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning. 

Play

The way kids play at age 8 depends greatly on the activities they’ve been exposed to. While some kids may love playing sports with their friends, others may find great joy in doing art projects or creating music. Many kids this age love to dance, perform, and sing.

Key Milestones

  • Able to focus on a task for an hour or more.
  • Understands more about his or her place in the world.
  • Has a greater capacity to do mental math, as well as to work with abstract and larger (3-digit) numbers.

Parenting Tip

Let your child use his problem-solving skills to solve some of the problems he encounters on his own. Whether he keeps forgetting his soccer cleats for practice or he doesn’t know how to complete his science fair project, encourage him to brainstorm potential solutions. Then, help him choose a strategy to try.

5
Other Milestones

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Your 8-year-old child is not quite an adolescent yet, but you may notice that he’s increasingly more interested in his appearance. He may declare that he wants to wear his hair longer or dress in a certain style.

Eight-year-olds may also show more interest in taking care of personal hygiene, and are developmentally capable of being responsible for personal care routines such as brushing his teeth and taking a shower.

You may want to supervise to make sure that he brushes and flosses well and cleans all areas of his body thoroughly. But generally speaking, your 8-year-old child has the coordination and motor skill development necessary to do a fairly good job cleaning and grooming his teeth, body, and hair.

6
When to Be Concerned

While kids develop at slightly different rates, it’s important to keep an eye on your child’s progress. If your child seems to be behind physically, emotionally, socially, or cognitively, talk to your pediatrician.

It’s best to err on the side of caution by expressing your concerns to a professional. From health issues to learning disabilities, early intervention can be key to a good prognosis.

If your child has serious difficulty managing his emotions (including anger), or if his social skills aren’t on par with his peers, there is a reason for concern. Kids at this age who fall behind emotionally and socially may struggle to catch up without a little extra support.

A Word From Verywell

Watching an 8-year-old grow increasingly independent can be a joyful time for parents. And sometimes, it can bring about some sadness as you realize your baby is growing up.

But it’s important to promote independence as much as possible. Encourage your child to learn, grow, explore, and try new things. Provide plenty of support to her as she tackles new challenges, but it’s a great age to start letting her do things with less support from you.

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