7, 8 and 9 Year Olds
Understanding Your Child’s Development
Your child is becoming more emotional, more independent and has a good understanding of their place, as well as the place of others, within their world. Talking about sexual health and sexuality now will help to start the conversation and keep it going as your child gets older. Read more about what your child is experiencing in this stage of development.
- Slow and steady growth continues.
- Some children may start to experience physical changes related to puberty.
- In the final stages of establishing a foundation for their gender identity. They may explore adult roles with reversal play (e.g., acting out the role of the opposite sex while playing house).
- Body exploration is common. They are aware of reproduction and the differences between the sexes, but may not be too interested.
- Child’s peer group is beginning to have an influence on their self-image.
- Their main attachments are still with those of the same sex.
- May masturbate, sometimes to orgasm.
- Emotions change quickly and reactions are strong— children this age may be sensitive and overly dramatic.
- They can be helpful, cheerful and pleasant as well as rude, bossy and selfish.
- Starts to show more independence from parents and family.
- Starts to think about the future, understand their place in the world more and consider other people’s view of things.
Cognitive (Learning & Thinking)
- May adopt some ‘bathroom vocabulary’ (e.g., enjoys rhymes about poo).
- Due mainly to the influence of peers, children tend to think that sexual terms are ‘bad’ words.
- Learns to describe their experiences and talk about their thoughts and feelings better.
- Has their own sense of humour and enjoys telling jokes.
- Continues to ask questions about pregnancy, birth and babies. May ask about the father’s role in reproduction and may show an interest in comparing animal and human behaviour.
- Becomes modest about their own body. Self-consciousness leads to a need for privacy and feelings of embarrassment may be shown.
- Continues to understand the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.
- May get competitive when playing games – probably likes to win and might not be happy to lose.
- Enjoys group play and may show an interest in joining a club or team.
- Develops close friendships with children of the same gender, and also has friends of the opposite gender.
- Has an understanding of the rules and may want to add some of their own rules.
- May have problems with friends sometimes – this is normal for children from time to time.
- Wants to be liked and accepted by their peers.
For information on children with Differing Abilities, click here.
What They Need to Know
Your child is getting information from a variety of places such as family, friends, teachers and the media. They are starting to find out what they know. Correcting wrong information is important. Talk about sexual health (including sexuality and relationships) — it teaches your child that they can come to you for information. If sexuality is something your family doesn’t talk about, your child may be more likely to believe stories they hear from others.
Some children (mostly females) will start to experience the beginnings of puberty. Give your child the facts about their body and a basic understanding of puberty—this will help them to understand that these changes are normal and healthy. Try to explain things in terms that they will understand. Here are two examples:
Menstruation: Sometime during puberty, a female’s body begins releasing one egg from their ovaries each month. If this egg were fertilized by a male sperm, it would grow into a baby. To get ready for the fertilized egg, the uterus builds up a thick lining of blood and tissue. This lining is where the fertilized egg would grow into a baby. If the egg is not fertilized by sperm, the egg and the lining of the uterus leaves the girl’s body through her vagina and the process starts all over again.
Nocturnal Emissions (wet dreams): These start when boys are around 8 or 9 years old, when their testicles begin to make sperm. Some nights, when boys are sleeping, the extra sperm comes out of their penis. Only a small amount of milky-white fluid comes out, and often looks like a wet spot on the boy’s pyjamas or bed sheets.
Both menstruation and nocturnal emissions are private, but not a secret.
At this stage of development there are some great ways to encourage healthy sexuality and development. Children should know the following:
- The correct names for private body parts and that their body is private. This may help children stay safe in that they can accurately tell a trusted adult if someone tries to touch them sexually.
- The names for genitals: penis, testicles, scrotum, anus, vulva, labia, vagina, clitoris, uterus and ovaries.
- Other body parts and body functions: urine, stool, bladder and urethra.
- That reproduction happens when a man’s sperm joins a woman’s egg during sexual intercourse, and that a baby grows in the uterus and is born through the vagina.
- That there are lots of changes during puberty. Talk to your child about hygiene and self-care so that when the time comes, the transition is smoother.
- Not to pick up used condoms.
For more information, visit our Resources page.
Click here to learn tips for discussing sexual health.
The following is a summary of the human sexuality outcomes from Alberta Education’s Program of Studies. The bolded letters and numbers are the Alberta Education codes for general and specific outcomes. Please visit their website for the complete Program of Studies.
W-4.3 Describe physical, emotional and social changes that occur during puberty; e.g., menstruation, secondary sexual characteristics, changing identity and moods.
W-5.3 Identify the basic components of the human reproductive system, and describe the basic functions of the various components; e.g., fertilization, conception.