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Childhood milestones age 6

Child development: Your six year old

At six, your child is entering a phase of relatively stable progress compared with the leaps and bounds of the early years. Physical growth will be slow but steady until the changes of pre-puberty kick in, while the continual acquisition of new abilities gradually builds the skills that will eventually be needed in adulthood.

This guide gives some idea of what to expect with your six year old, but it's important to remember that children don't develop according to a fixed timetable. The speed at which children mature may be highly variable, and your child may reach some stages earlier or later than others of the same age.

Age 6: Physical development

While children grow at different rates, in general during middle childhood, from age 6 to 12, you can expect your child to gain around 5 to 7 pounds in weight and 2.5 inches in height each year. At this age the first 'baby tooth' may be lost, so your child may proudly display the classic gap-toothed appearance in photos.

Your six year old now has vision as sharp as an adult's and an increasing sense of body awareness and balance. Improved ability to coordinate movement - 'gross motor skills' - means that by this age children can hop, skip, jump, walk more steadily on low walls or beams, catch a ball in their hands without clasping it to their chest, and may learn to ride a bike. Most children can distinguish right from left. They also have more precise control of intricate manipulations -'fine motor skills' - so they can write and draw more accurately. Most children can now dress themselves and tie and untie shoe laces. Your child may enjoy more elaborate pastimes such as creating detailed pictures, building complex structures with small bricks or doing more complicated jigsaws.

Age 6: Cognitive and language skills

Six year olds can produce most sounds accurately, though may still have difficulty articulating certain letters properly. They have fluent speech by now: indeed it may seem as though they never stop chattering. What they say should be generally intelligible, and sentences should be mostly grammatical. Children should be able to give their full name and know their age, birthday and where they live. They understand common opposites such as big-little, heavy-light and under-over. Language is increasingly descriptive and detailed, with an average vocabulary of over 5,000 words. Children will recognise when words are unfamiliar and may ask what they mean. Six year olds generally enjoy rhymes, singing and simple jokes.

Most children at six can sight read at least ten easy words, such as 'cat' and 'hat', and read simple books. As fine motor skills improve they can copy short words accurately and may be able to write some words unaided. The content of drawings and paintings becomes increasingly detailed and sophisticated.

Children now have a good grasp of the concept of numbers, and know how many fingers and toes they have. They can often count up to 100, repeat three numbers backwards and understand half and whole. They understand more about how things are interrelated, so can tell a coherent story about people and objects in a picture or predict when one event will follow another, such as going to the park after school. They grasp the concept of conservation, for example that there is still the same amount of water even when it's poured into a container that's a different size or shape.

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