Child Development at Age 10: What Every Parent Needs to Know

Though every child develops at his or her own pace, and in his or her unique way, researchers and educators have found common patterns in physical, mental and social stages of development for school age children. Read on for an overview of developmental attributes found in 10-year-old children.

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Development in Your 10-Year-Old Child

Physical Development

At age 10, your child is experiencing a shift into pre-adolescence. Physically, there's a significant developmental difference between boys and girls at this age. Girls may experience primary stage breast development, softening body contours, weight increase or menstruation. According to the National Women's Health Information Center, 12 is the average age girls start menstruating in the U.S.; it's within a normal range, however, to start menstruating anytime between 8-15 years of age (www.womenshealth.gov).

Pre-adolescent boys may be active and rough with each other. Physical activities that help boys release energy, such as rollerblading, basketball or soccer, are a good after-school option. Both sexes develop improved hand dexterity, coordination and reaction time, making this an excellent age for your child to begin individual or team sports. For more in-depth information, consider reading Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12, edited by Dr. Edward L. Schor for the American Academy of Pediatrics' series (www.aap.org).

Social Development

Same-sex friends become increasingly important to your son or daughter at age ten. It's typical for children to prefer spending time with friends over parents, and to enjoy some privacy at home. Boys tend to form loose friendships centered around activities, while girls are likely to engage in close-knit friendships that may temporarily falter when one girl rejects another, often for becoming close to another girl. It's helpful to offer your 10-year-old consistent reassurance. Children who feel a positive sense of self worth are often better able to cope with negative peer pressure.

Your child may start to notice that parents and authority figures do not always have the correct answer and even make mistakes. This said, 10-year-old children still seek adult approval and can be sensitive to praise and criticism. It's important to acknowledge their fledgling independence while simultaneously checking decisions they make and staying aware of their activities. Consider validating your child's increasing independence by giving him or her more responsibility at home and offering a degree of freedom regarding when chores must be completed. Children at this age enjoy being members of groups, thus you might also enroll your 10-year-old in a team sport, a scouts group or a neighborhood arts club.

Mental Development

At this age, children are curious about the world; however, they may have only a nominal attention span, even for subjects that fascinate them. It's common for 10-year-old children to develop clear intentions that they find hard to see through. As they become more goal-oriented during this year, they often begin to find greater joy in organizing tasks. At age ten, your son or daughter is developing his or her abstract thinking skills; strategy-oriented games, such as chess, Clue or Monopoly, are likely to be fun and may support the development of these skills.

Pre-adolescent children show marked discrepancies in reading levels. Generally, however, your 10-year-old will display more interest in reading magazines and fictional stories. A growing interest in the surrounding world can lead pre-adolescents to have a strong moral code and a determined sense of what they feel is just or unjust. If you feel that your child has not reached a particular developmental stage, consider contacting a school psychologist, your pediatrician or a qualified child development specialist.

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