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Milestones for Physical Development in School-Aged Children

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

Genetics greatly influences the patterns of physical development in school-aged children, which is defined as ages 6 to 12, explains MedlinePlus, a website published by the National Institutes of Health. Generally speaking, tall children tend to have tall parents while short kids have short parents. Exercise and nutrition also play an important role in a child's physical development.

Physical Changes

As children make the transition from preschooler to school age, they generally appear thinner. This is because as child's body gets bigger the amount of body fat remains about the same, explains HealthyChildren.org, the official website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Most school-aged boys and girls gain six to seven pounds and grow at least two inches taller each year. However, if you peeked into an elementary school classroom you might notice that height among students varies by up to five inches. Body weight and build can also differ considerably in school-aged kids. Girls are a bit shorter and lighter than boys are at ages 6 to 8, but by age 9 the opposite is true.

Variables

Physical growth and development in school-aged children tends to come in waves. Most kids will experience long growth periods. In some cases, this can be months of slow growth that followed a short-lived spurt. As your child gets closer to puberty, which can start as young as age 8 in some girls and as early as age 10 in boys, a significant burst in growth typically occurs. Strength and muscle mass increases during middle childhood; boys have more muscle than girls while girls carry a little more body fat than boys. Fat accumulation in girls accelerates after age 8 as her body enters or get close to puberty.

Motor Skills

Gross and fine motor skills, whether shooting a basketball with precision or lacing up skates, are typically strong by the time a child reaches school age. However, some kids may struggle with hand-eye coordination. Lack of proficient fine-motor skills can impair a child's ability to write legibly. Fortunately, fine-motor skills improve steadily during the elementary years, as do gross motor capabilities such as jumping rope, running, and hopping as flexibility, balance and stamina.

Physical Activity

Speaking of gross motor activity, exercise is critical to normal physical development in school-aged kids. Children who spend too much time playing video games, chatting on the computer or watching TV rather than playing outdoors run the risk of impaired bone growth, cautions HealthyChildren.org. School age kids should aim for 60 minutes physical activity every day. Engaging in vigorous exercise programs will not help a child grow any faster or bigger, because the benefit comes from daily physical exercise.

Nutrition

A well-rounded eating plan that includes essential nutrients will help school-aged kids reach their full growth potential. A nutritious diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, high fiber whole grain breads and cereals and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. A child should also consume lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts, according to ChooseMyPlate.gov, a website published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A good rule of thumb is to fill up half your child's plate with veggies and fruits. School kids typically love fast food but it is best to keep "Drive-through" meals to a minimum.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

Photo Credits

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