Developmentally Appropriate Milestones for 6-Year-Olds

The 6-year-old values independence and likes to make decisions but relishes encouragement from adults. The 6-year-old can be a charming, eager participant who thrives on classroom routines and rituals in the classroom. At the same time, they are highly sensitive to criticism and may burst into tears or withdraw from interactions if their feelings are hurt. At 6, it is hard to admit mistakes!

At play with peers, 6-year-olds value rules and focus on fairness. Challenging activities are not ideal at this age; at 6, the damage is done if the kid feels that friends or trusted adults think they are “no good” at something. They are becoming more understanding of differences in opinion and much more adept at compromise than during the preschool years! Very much aware that they are a “big kid” now, the 6-year-old may be highly protective of younger kids, pets, and even insects!

In the classroom or afterschool environment, the 6-year-old is a whirlwind of activity!

The quantity of work far outweighs the quality of work for most kids, but the process of hands-on activities or developing a group newspaper is loved by kids! Fine motor skills are very strong now; lacing and tying fall into place, and motor toys like Lego and jigsaw puzzles are popular. The 6-year-old loves to work with cause-and-effect tools, such as eyedroppers, air pumps, and rotary beaters.

The kid views the world much more logically now and is eager to answer “why” questions. Meaningful learning can be fostered by encouraging kids to observe carefully and find answers to questions; this is a good age for direct experiences related to science Recitation of factual info, such as months of the year, address, and birth date, comes much easier now, without the confusion and frustration younger kids often experience if adults promote rote memorization in the preschool setting.

Reading proficiency continues to strengthen for many kids, though some kids will continue to build pre-reading skills this year, allowing for the emergence of strong reading skills in the following year. Many 6-year-olds enjoy reading environmental print aloud when passing road signs and billboards in the car and during trips to stores and restaurants. Expressive and receptive vocabulary will double or triple in the next year or so. Imaginative stories involving magic are favorites of the 6-year- old, who whole-heartedly believes in the tooth fairy and their holiday friends! Jokes and riddles are also immensely popular.

Some educators describe the 6-year-old as being obsessed with teeth, and, indeed, the loss of baby teeth and introduction of permanent teeth is a major life event for kids! Six-year-olds often experience a renewed “teething” period where they gnaw pencils, erasers, and even books and toys. Physically, the 6-year-old may still seem awkward or clumsy. They may become discouraged when playing with older kids who seem, to them, to be faster and better at almost everything. Active play is an essential and beloved daily outlet. Balls and jump ropes are favorite playground gear, and games involving hideouts or clubhouses are popular as the year progresses. The 6-year-old tires easily and does best with a long block of outdoor playtime that allows them to cycle through bursts of intense activity, followed by quieter moments of rest and recovery.

Responding to 6-year-olds

Offer kind words of encouragement, but limit criticism as much.

Create meaningful classroom rituals, such as morning meetings, sharing times, and inside jokes.

Limit competition indoors and out, and focus on cooperative games and activities.

Encourage kids to seek the answers to questions that interest them, such as “What makes a river run?” and “How do tadpoles turn into frogs?” Provide hands-on experiences in response to kids’ questions when possible.

Continue to offer dramatic play materials, including puppets, dress-up clothes, props, and dollhouses.

Schedule field trips to provide direct experiences for learning.

Consider allowing the 6-year-old to teach a game or read a story to a younger kid, fostering a sense of competence and allowing them to explore their nurturing nature.

Create a print-rich environment.

Encourage kids to join big projects, such as murals, class newsletters, and cardboard box constructions.

When possible, limit plastic materials. Remember that real materials appeal to the senses and naturally spark more careful, focused work and play.

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