8-Year-Old Child Developmental Milestones

Your child’s growth and development at age 8

Age 8 can be a magical year. It's the year that your little kid really becomes a big kid. Middle childhood is a time of physical, mental, and emotional growth. It's possible you'll notice that your child no longer asks for your help with their homework and they may be wanting to spend more time with their friends.

Eight-year-olds are becoming more independent and more mature. You may be pleased to see that they begin to show genuine empathy for others and start to put others first in situations that they haven't before, such as happily letting a younger sibling go first in a family game. This age is not without its challenges, but overall, it tends to be a peaceful and enjoyable year between children and their parents.

Here, we'll break down all you need to know about your 8-year-old's development emotionally, socially, and physically, as well as brief your on safety tips and when certain concerns might warrant a call to your child's pediatrician.

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

8-Year-Old Language and Cognitive Milestones

Eight years old is a time of great vocabulary growth for your child. Don't be surprised if they are able to carry on more complex conversations with you, whether it's a discussion on how tornadoes originate or vivid descriptions of what happened with their friends at recess that day. Eight-year-olds continue to rapidly develop their vocabularies, with an estimated 3,000 new words learned during the year. Reading to your child, encouraging them to read independently, and engaging them in conversation will help to support this.

You may also find your 8-year-old reading a chapter book with a flashlight long past their bedtime. "They may show an interest in reading as a favorite activity," notes Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD, a pediatrician and a medical consultant at Mom Loves Best.

Younger children think purely concretely and have a harder time understanding abstract concepts. By age 8, kids begin to move into more abstract thinking. "Eight-year-old students are beginning to understand numbers in a more complex way," notes Elizabeth Fraley, M.Ed., CEO of Kinder Ready Inc., an LA-based education program.

Before, your child may have needed to physically count out a group of objects in order to solve a math problem like 21 minus seven. Now, abstract thinking allows them to rely on symbols rather than being mostly dependent upon the use of counters or other manipulative materials. So, they can write out a simple equation and solve it using an algorithm while mostly grasping why this method works. Abstract thinking allows kids to be able to work with larger numbers, such as numbers in the thousands, and it allows them to conceptualize symbols, such as the multiplication or division signs.

Abstract thinking also means that kids can begin to have a better understanding of how money works and what lengths of time represent. Most kids this age are able to tell time and 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 three days away,” your child will have a greater understanding of what that means than they might have before.

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

For 8-year-old children, physical development is more about the refinement of skills, coordination, and muscle control rather than huge changes. So, you might not see them doing anything totally new, but you may notice that they are able to balance better and move more intentionally. Their locomotor and motor skills, such as turning, spinning, and jumping, become more fluid.

"Kids at this age may enjoy roller skating and using a skateboard or riding their bike," notes Dr. Poinsett. "They may also like to dance to music."

Fine motor skills will generally become more precise around age 8. Handwriting will become smaller, neater, and all of the letters will likely be the same size. The small muscles will have more stamina so your child may be able to write a full story without losing precision in their handwriting. "You don’t see as many letters and numbers flipped and reversed as you did in first and second grade," notes Fraley.

An 8-year-old is likely able to open lunch items like wrappers or zip-lock bags independently and they may be able to play an instrument, such as the recorder. "They should also master being able to tie their shoelaces if they have not already," says Dr. Poinsett.

8-Year-Old Emotional and Social Milestones

If your 8-year-old receives a present they don't like, you may notice (with relief!) that they can still smile and thank the gift giver. This ability to mask their true thoughts or emotions to spare someone’s feelings is related to a newly developing ability to see things from another person's point of view, called decentralization.

Decentralization allows children to show more sophisticated and complex emotions and interactions. Children begin to understand how someone else feels in a given situation and will be more capable of placing themselves in another person’s shoes.

Your child may take great pride in being a member of a sports team or other group. This is related to them developing a more sophisticated sense of themselves in the world. Their interests, talents, friends, and relationships with family members help them establish a clear self-identity and boost their self-confidence.

"Students at this age are skilled at interacting with adults and peers," says Fraley. "They tend to use more eye contact and they have developed some stable and exciting friendships." Eight-year-olds really value friendships and are able to make choices on who they want as a friend and value others’ distinct characteristics.

In general, 8-year-old children enjoy school and will count on and value relationships with a few close friends and classmates, and may gravitate primarily toward friendships with peers of the same sex. "They typically desire to be part of a team, club, or organization," notes Fraley. "This age group really loves feeling united and needed within a group setting whether it be athletic or academic."

A newly developing sense of self may cause your child to desire more privacy. You can support this need by knocking before you enter their bedroom and allowing them to change out of sight if this is what they desire.

Eight-year-olds are maturing steadily as they enter middle childhood. They will be able to take on more responsibilities, such as caring for a pet or washing a load of their own laundry. They may also show more interest in taking care of personal hygiene, and are developmentally capable of being responsible for personal care routines. "At this age, kids are generally able to take care of hygiene, such as brushing teeth and bathing," notes Dr. Poinsett.

Becoming fully independent is a long and slow process that won't be complete for many more years, however. Kids 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. Many children are still attached to their parents and home at this age, and might not be emotionally ready to handle being away from these comforts, even though they wish to be.

How to Help Your 8-Year-Old Learn and Grow

You can help your 8-year-old learn and grow by providing a good balance of independence and loving support. Give them a chance to try things on their own, while remaining close and available to help them if they need it.

Support your child's blossoming literacy by exposing them to a variety of books. "Read to your child but also give them a chance to read to you," says Dr. Poinsett. Make time to play with your child as well. Many 8-year-olds will enjoy doing puzzles together or playing family games like dominoes or charades.

Some 8-year-olds may become more aware of body image, and their 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 them feel good about themselves.

If your child tends to get frustrated easily, help them learn how to self-calm with strategies such as taking a deep breath or counting to 10. Praise your child for coping with emotions in a healthy way. You might 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.

While it's great to be supportive, kids also need a chance to use their budding problem-solving skills to tackle some challenges they encounter on their own. Whether they keep forgetting their soccer cleats for practice or don’t know how to complete their science fair project, encourage them to brainstorm potential solutions. Then, help them choose a strategy to try.

How to Keep Your 8-Year-Old Safe

Many 8-year-olds love to play sports, and it's important to encourage daily physical activity. To stay safe, kids should wear protective gear when they play sports. Bike riding is a fun way for kids to get the exercise they need, but bike safety is very important. Teach your child the importance of always wearing a helmet while riding, and set a limit that bikes should only be written during daylight hours.

Just as important as bike safety is car safety. Kids today stay in car seats a lot longer than many parents will remember from their own childhoods. Most 8-year-olds still need a booster seat. The extra height from a booster seat ensures that the seat belt is positioned correctly on your child's body so that it will do its job in the event of a crash.

If your 8-year-old is 4 feet 9 inches or taller, they can stop using a booster seat. However, they should remain in the back seat, and they should wear their seat belts every time the car is in motion.

At the age of 8, you still need to supervise your child any time they play around water. Even if they can swim, it is not safe for them to play in the water without an adult actively watching them. In addition, they should not play in fast-moving water like canals or the ocean when a riptide might come in.

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 their pediatrician.

If your child has serious difficulty managing their emotions (including anger), or if their social skills aren’t on par with those of peers, there may be a reason for concern. Kids at this age who fall behind emotionally and socially may struggle to catch up without a little extra support. Consider talking to your child's teacher or a child mental health professional to plan a course of action.

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 faster and easier resolution.

A Word From Verywell

Watching your 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.

Even though it can be hard, it’s important to promote independence as much as possible. Encourage your child to learn, grow, explore, and try new things. But remember, they are just getting their feet wet in their role as a "big kid." As your child tackles new challenges, remain available to provide support when they need it.

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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11 Sources
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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