Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Children's and parenting health centre

Select An Article

Childhood milestones age 12

At 12, your child will often seem very grown up, but may revert to childish behaviour at times. This can be a difficult period for parents trying to strike a balance between encouraging independent, responsible behaviour and continuing to offer security, guidance and protection. At this age, children are increasingly likely to test parents by talking back, ignoring or breaking rules and generally rebelling against constraints imposed by adults. Knowing that challenging behaviour is normal at this age can help you and your child to deal with the transition from childhood to adolescence.

Age 12: Physical development

Having become so graceful and coordinated in later childhood compared with earlier years, as your child nears adolescence they may seem increasingly clumsy again. During growth spurts body parts grow at different rates, and children may suddenly become gangly and awkward.

12 is the average age for girls, who have usually already entered puberty, to start to menstruate (menarche). Boys may now have the voice changes, beginnings of facial hair, penis growth and testicular development that indicate approaching puberty for them. This year or next, your son will catch up and overtake girls of the same age. He will gain on average 4 inches in height within a year, and put on weight due mainly to increased muscle mass. After this time boys will generally be stronger than girls.

These physical developments are a major issue for children of this age, and many children will be worried about whether their progress is normal compared with others. Both boys and girls may be upset or anxious if they seem to be lagging behind their peers, while early maturation may have different effects. Boys who mature early tend to be more popular with their peers and regarded as being more competent and better able to undertake leadership roles, which can lead to a mismatch between expectations and actual capabilities. In contrast, girls who develop adult physical features at a younger age may experience sexual pressures before they are emotionally ready to deal with them, and this may make them vulnerable to problems such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders.

Your child may now start to acknowledge tiredness at times and develop adolescent sleep patterns, sleeping for longer and getting up later in the mornings when possible. This is partly due to an increased need for regenerative sleep during growth spurts and partly because children may have fuller days with school, homework and after school activities. Children at this age need 9.5 to 10 hours sleep each night, and parents may have to rouse them to get them up for school in the mornings.

Age 12: Cognitive and language skills

At this age, most children enjoy being given the chance to make more decisions for themselves and take on extra responsibilities that reinforce their sense of being nearly grown up. They like to display their skills and talents and often become intensely involved in hobbies and pastimes.

Children now have much better problem-solving abilities and are developing more advanced reasoning skills, with the capacity to contemplate different options and possibilities. Thinking becomes more logical and they are more able to deal with hypothetical concepts, such as imagining varied possible outcomes in particular circumstances. Abstract thinking may include a heightened interest in concepts of different belief systems.

Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference

Children's health newsletter

Tips to inspire healthy habits
Sign Up

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

How to help headache pain
rash on skin
Top eczema triggers to avoid
Causes of fatigue & how to fight it
Tips to support digestive health
woman looking at pregnancy test
Is your body ready for pregnancy?
woman sleeping
Sleep better tonight
Treating your child's cold or fever
fifth disease
Illnesses every parent should know
spoonfull of sugar
Surprising things that harm your liver
woman holding stomach
Understand this common condition
What your nails say about your health