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 creating the base or foundation of their gender identity. They may explore adult roles with reverse role-play (e.g., acting out the role of the opposite sex while playing house).
- Exploring their body is common.
- They’re aware of reproduction and the differences between the sexes, but may not be too interested.
- Their main attachments are still often 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.
Learning & Thinking (Cognitive)
- May use some ‘bathroom vocabulary’ (e.g., enjoys rhymes about poo).
- Tends 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.
- Still asking questions about pregnancy, birth and babies. May be interesting in comparing animal and human behaviour.
- Becomes or embarrassed about their body. They may want more privacy.
- Begins to know the difference between behaviour that’s okay and not okay.
- May get competitive when playing games—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 other children.
- Child’s friends and other children their age are beginning to influence how the child sees themselves (their self-image).
- Understands the ‘rules’ and may want to add some of their own rules.
- May have problems with friends sometimes—this is normal from time to time.
- Wants to be liked and accepted by others their age (peers).
Click the link to learn more about children with Differing Abilities.
What Your Child Needs Your Help to Learn
Your child’s getting information from all kinds of places, such as family, friends, teachers and the media. They’re starting to find out what they know. It’s important to correct wrong information. 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 notice 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 2 examples:
Menstruation: Sometime during puberty, a female’s body begins releasing 1 egg from their ovaries each month. If this egg is fertilized by a male sperm, it grows 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 isn’t fertilized by sperm, the egg and the lining of the uterus leaves the body through the vagina (menstruation) and the cycle starts all over again.
Nocturnal Emissions (wet dreams): These start when testicles start to make sperm (around 8 or 9 years old). Some nights, when a person is sleeping, extra sperm comes out of their penis. The small amount of milky-white fluid that comes out often looks like a wet spot on the pyjamas or bed sheets.
Both menstruation and nocturnal emissions are private, but not a secret.
Menstruation and nocturnal emissions (wet dreams) can be scary for children. Making sure your child knows about them before they happen can make things less scary.
There are some great ways to encourage healthy sexuality and development. At this stage, children should know:
- That their body is their own and no one can touch it without their permission—the difference between “good touch” and “bad touch”. This may help children to be more likely to tell a trusted adult if someone is touching them in a way they shouldn’t.
- The correct names for body parts including genitals and reproductive organs: penis, testicles, scrotum, anus, vulva, labia, vagina, clitoris, uterus and ovaries (Knowing the correct names for body parts promotes positive body image, self-confidence, and parent-child communication. It also gives children the language they need to tell a trusted adult if sexual abuse has happened).
- How reproduction happens. For example, you could say, “When a sperm joins an egg, a baby grows in the uterus, and is born through the vagina.”
- Not to pick up things such as used condoms or syringes. Now is a good time to teach them not to pick up anything if they don’t know what it is or if they think it’s dangerous.
- Basic information about body changes during puberty.
- Other body parts and body functions: urine, stool, bladder and urethra.
- About how important hygiene and self-care are when they start puberty.
To learn more, see Resources.
Click to learn Tips for Talking About Sexual Health.
In Alberta, the health curriculum includes sexual health outcomes beginning in grade four. To learn more, see curriculum overview on our Teacher Portal.