Every child's development is unique and complex. Although children develop through a generally predictable sequence of steps and milestones, they may not proceed through these steps in the same way or at the same time. A child's development is also greatly influenced by factors in his or her environment and the experiences he or she has. The information in this guide explains what child development experts consider to be "widely-held expectations" for what an average child might achieve within a given year. Please consider what you read in the context of your child's unique development.
Below is a snapshot of this year. For more in-depth information click on the specific areas of development in the menu at the left.
Eight-year-olds enjoy having the opportunity to solve problems independently. They are able to concentrate on tasks for longer periods of time and begin to use their own resources prior to seeking adult help or they may seek out peers for assistance. Eight-year-olds demonstrate more highly-developed thinking skills as well as the ability to solve problems with creative strategies.
The language skills of eight-year-olds continue to show the impact of their developing literacy skills. Children's fundamental reading skills are established and one function of reading becomes its use for learning about various topics. At the same time, children's writing skills continue to develop. A child's language and literacy skills lay the groundwork for academic achievement and will be the route through which academic learning will progress.
In third grade, children select and combine skills and strategies to read fluently with meaning and purpose. They apply comprehension and vocabulary strategies to a wider variety of texts and are better able to check on and improve their comprehension as needed. Children this age use their knowledge of text structures, vocabulary and the world to understand and communicate. They read for pleasure and choose books based on personal preference, topic or author. Most children create engaging and detailed stories, as well as reports that are increasingly persuasive, informative or entertaining.
In mathematics, eight-year-olds can count to "1,000" and gauge the relative proximity of three- and four-digit numbers to one another. They are able to apply a host of strategies when solving problems with three-digit numbers or less. In addition, they are building early multiplication skills. Children this age recognize a wide variety of shapes and can readily identify patterns. They can also translate simple word problems into number sentences and begin to apply more algebraic thinking and logic to solving problems with addition and subtraction.
Physically, this is the age when the amount of practice and play done in the earlier years begins to manifest itself in skillfulness and in what might be called "athleticism." Motor skills like throwing, catching, kicking, balancing, rolling and batting approach the mature stage and allow some youngsters to be highly successful in traditional sports like baseball, soccer and basketball. Earlier years of practice also provide the foundation for success in sports like skiing, skating, golf, dance and gymnastics. This year is also the time when children frequently begin to identify themselves as "athletic" or "unathletic," thereby influencing their future involvement in sports and physical activity. Note: During this period of development, children's actual skill levels will vary based on their amount of physical activity. Sedentary children will not mature as quickly as those who participate in activities like dance lessons, team sports or backyard play.
When interacting with others, eight-year-olds enjoy sharing their viewpoints on a variety of topics. They have a clearly developed sense of self-worth and may express frustration in response to activities that they perceive as areas of personal weakness. Eight-year-olds begin to understand the concept of masking emotions and can vary their use of coping strategies to deal with challenging situations. In peer interactions, they may start to engage in leadership, goal-setting, elaborate fantasy play and an assortment of interactive games. Eight-year-olds still rely on adults for a sense of security, but are proud of their independence and will want to express it. Under emotionally stressful circumstances, they will seek adults in less direct ways but still need contact.
A child's development in the creative arts varies greatly based on the child's experiences with art, music, dance and theater. Given exposure and practice, eight-year-olds create more detailed and realistic images in their artwork. Plus, they can better identify the subject matter in art. Children this age also know more music terminology and can describe a variety of musical styles that represent diverse cultures. In addition, they sing or play instruments with improved skill. Eight-year-olds are able to create a complete dance sequence and then repeat it and vary it. They also start to use mature dance form and can correctly remember dance combinations. In the study of theater, children this age show greater concentration and sophistication in playing different characters and can draw from a variety of sources to improvise dialogue and tell stories.