In middle school, kids meet developmental milestones at widely varied times. You just have to walk into a middle school to see the huge variation in physical maturity. But there are certain cognitive and social skills middle-schoolers are working on developing by the time high school rolls around.
If you’re unsure what to look for, learn the typical developmental milestones you can expect at this age. It can help you identify possible trouble spots to discuss with your child’s teacher or physician.
As puberty begins, your child will likely go through some big physical changes. Periods of rapid growth are common, and girls tend to develop earlier than boys. There’s a big difference in physical milestones among individual kids. Typically, though, middle-schoolers will:
- Become a little more clumsy as height and weight change quickly
- Start showing uneven development in skills like agility, balance, strength and flexibility; may be able to run fast, but not gracefully (Learn more about gross motor skills and why they’re important.)
- Need more rest since so much energy is being used for growing (Find ways to help your tween get on a healthy schedule.)
- Have a difference between body and brain growth; may be more mature physically than cognitively or emotionally
Learn more about how coordination and motor skills develop at different ages.
Problem-solving and thinking skills develop a lot at this age. Your child may also begin to pay more attention to decision making and to organizing ideas, time and things. In middle school, children often:
- Start to understand concepts like power and influence
- Question things; don’t take everything at face value
- Think about how current actions affect the future; may worry about things like climate change and war
- Memorize information more easily
- Use flexible thinking, such as checking work and changing approaches as needed
- Begin developing a worldview, including a basic set of values
- Want to contribute and make money (Get tips on how to teach your child about money management.)
Learn more about the academic demands of middle school and how you can help your child be a more independent learner.
As a fourth and fifth grader, your child’s language skills probably didn’t change much. In middle school, though, language skills typically develop quickly. You might notice that your child is better able to understand what people communicate—with or without words. In middle school, children often:
Take a deeper look at how various learning and attention issues can cause problems with communication, and learn ways to improve your middle-schooler’s communication skills.
Social and Emotional Milestones
Middle school is a time of major social and emotional growth. Your child may struggle to fit in and look for ways to be an individual. Don’t be surprised if your opinions seem to matter less or your child doesn’t ask your advice as often as before—that’s pretty common. It’s not uncommon for middle-schoolers to do these things:
Learn more about social-emotional skills to expect at different ages.
Keep in mind that kids develop at different paces and this is particularly true of middle-schoolers. If your child isn’t meeting a number of these milestones, consider talking to her teachers to get their perspective.
Learn how to prepare your child for the transition to middle school. And take a look forward at developmental milestones for high-schoolers.