8-Year-Old Child Developmental Milestones

How Children Grow and Develop at Age 8

For many children, third grade marks a growth spurt—physically, emotionally, and mentally. Most 8-year-olds show great gains in their cognitive development and tend to be able to ask questions until they have enough information to draw conclusions about what they’re learning. They’re also slowly budding into more mature children, making it an interesting year for both them and their parents.

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

Physical Development

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, he or she can still enjoy running, swimming, biking, and many other types of non-sports-related physical fun.

Key Milestones

  • More fluid combination of locomotor and motor skills (Kids can turn, spin and jump, and perform tasks that help them in sports.)
  • Coordination continues to improve.
  • Improved small muscle control continues to be refined, making activities such as playing musical instruments or using tools much easier and enjoyable.

Parenting Tip

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.

Emotional Development

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

This is also the time when your child may be 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. 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.

Social Development

This is the phase of social development where many children love being a part of social groups. 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 gender.

Parents should be on the lookout for problems such as school refusal, as this may indicate learning difficulties or being bullied at school. This 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 they express their opinions about people and things around them. They may pay more attention to news events and want to share their thoughts on current event topics.

This is also the time that 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 mom, dad, and home at this age and may not yet be emotionally ready to handle being away from these comforts, even though they may wish to be.

Eight-year-old children are still developing an understanding of what is "wrong" or "right," and lying or other behavior requiring 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 pro-social 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 what your child is learning from media in this regard and to point out characters and people in their own lives who prove these blanket assumptions wrong.

Cognitive Development

Eight-year-olds usually 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 their emotions at this age. They may have difficulty focusing when they're worried or may struggle to think about their options when feeling angry.

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 he might have before.

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 a lot 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 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 their place in the world
  • Has a greater capacity to do mental math, as well as to work with abstract and larger (three-digit) numbers

Parenting Tip

Let your child use their budding problem-solving skills to tackle some of the 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.

Other Milestones

Your 8-year-old child is not quite an adolescent yet, but you may notice that they're increasingly more interested in their appearance. They may declare that they want to wear their 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 their teeth and taking a shower.

You may want to supervise to make sure that they brush and floss well and clean all areas of their body thoroughly. But generally speaking, your child now has the coordination and motor skill development necessary to do a fairly good job cleaning and grooming their teeth, body, and hair.

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.

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 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 as they tackle new challenges. This is a great age to start letting them do things without parental involvement.

Parenting Strategies for Raising Happy, Healthy School-Age Kids
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