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Developmental milestones for middle-schoolers

By Amanda Morin

At a Glance

  • Middle-schoolers are often more physically mature than they are emotionally mature.

  • Peer pressure can be a big issue for middle-schoolers.

  • Many kids this age start communicating more with their posture, tone of voice, and body language.

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Most middle schools have sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, which means kids may be as young as 11 or as old as 15 during their years there. Between those ages, kids grow in different ways and at their own pace. You just have to walk into a middle school to see the huge variation in both physical and emotional maturity.

There are certain skills middle-schoolers are working toward developing by the time high school rolls around. Not sure what to expect in these years? Learn about the developmental milestones you can expect at this age.

Physical milestones

As puberty begins, kids are likely to go through some big physical changes. If you’re wondering why you seem to be buying new clothes more often than usual, it’s because growth spurts are common now. And though girls tend to develop earlier than boys, there’s a big difference in physical milestones among individual kids.

Still, most middle-schoolers:

  • Become a little less coordinated as height and weight change quickly

  • Start showing uneven development in skills like agility, balance, strength, and flexibility (For example, they may be able to run fast, but not gracefully.) 

  • Need more rest since so much energy is being used for growing

  • Have a difference between body and brain growth; may be more mature physically than cognitively or emotionally

  • Get better at fine motor and gross motor movements, like those used in team sports

  • May try to develop strength and endurance because of increased muscle mass (especially boys)

At-home connection: Trying to get your tween to get more sleep? Sit down together and read about how too little sleep can get in the way of learning.

Cognitive milestones

Problem-solving skills and thinking skills develop a lot at this age. Kids may also start to pay more attention to decision making and to organizing ideas, time, and things.

Middle-schoolers often:

  • Start to understand concepts like power and influence

  • Question things and don’t take everything at face value

  • Think about how current actions affect the future and may worry about things like climate change and war

  • Memorize information more easily

  • Use flexible thinking, like checking work and changing approaches as needed

  • Begin developing a worldview and a basic set of values

  • Want to contribute and make their own money

At-home connection: Help your tween develop skills for navigating conversations.

Language milestones

In middle school, language skills typically develop much more quickly than they did the past few years. You might notice that your child can better understand what people communicate — with or without words.

In middle school, kids often:

  • Use metaphors, slang, text speak, and other ways of talking

  • Are interested in having discussions, debates, and arguments (sometimes just for the sake of it)

  • Start to “get” and pay more attention to body language, tone of voice, and other nonverbal language cues 

  • Go through “what if” scenarios and talk through other ways of problem solving

  • Continue to build grammar knowledge and vocabulary

  • Start to use writing to describe personal experiences

At-home connection: Is your child having trouble “getting” other kids? Explore ways to help kids connect and make friends.

Social and emotional milestones

Middle school is a time of major social and emotional growth. Your child may struggle to fit in even while looking for ways to be an individual. Don’t be surprised if your opinions seem to matter less or if your child doesn’t ask for your advice as often as before — that’s pretty common. It’s not uncommon for middle-schoolers to do these things:

  • Bow to peer pressure to be like others

  • Have experiences with bullying or cyberbullying 

  • Be sensitive to other people’s opinions and reactions, and think the whole world is watching them

  • Develop a sense of pride in accomplishments and awareness of their challenges

  • Keep secrets (often just having secrets is more important than the secret they’re keeping)

  • Have a better awareness of what’s appropriate to say in conversation 

  • Are introspective and moody, and need more privacy

  • May test out new clothing styles and try on “personalities” while figuring out where/how to fit in

At-home connection: Trouble managing moody moments? Find ways to respond to your child’s frustration — while keeping your own in check.

Keep in mind that kids develop at different paces and this is particularly true of middle-schoolers. But if your child isn’t meeting a number of these milestones or is struggling with school or friendships, talk to your child’s teachers to get their perspective. It can help you discover possible trouble spots and talk through next steps.

Key Takeaways

  • It’s not unusual for middle-schoolers to start to question your authority and opinions.

  • During this time, kids usually become more aware of what’s happening in the world and how that affects them.

  • Kids develop at different rates, but don’t hesitate to talk with your child’s teacher if you’re concerned.


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Share Developmental milestones for middle-schoolers

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Email
  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom