Support Learning in 8-10 Year Olds

Learn how to support academic learning at home.
By Michelle Anthony, PhD



Support Learning in 8-10 Year Olds

Understanding the cognitive accomplishments of 8-10 year olds can help parents support academic learning at home. For example, research by Michael Cole and colleagues has found that children’s increased memory ability across this age is universal, but the forms of remembering are not. Memory skills as we think of them (e.g., categorizing by group to facilitate recall, using mnemonics such as “Every Good Boy Does Fine” to remember the order of musical notes, or taking advantage of sayings to facilitate rule memorization, such as “when 2 vowels go walking, the first one does the talking”) improve with increased schooling.

Want to practice memory skills with your child? See if she can beat the 7-year-old Ayumu chimp, or you can try out a memory game. This increased ability to remember allows children to apply knowledge to novel problems or situations—in essence, to learn. For example, children this age can use category information to group items by function (e.g., cars, boats, and planes are all forms of transportation), as opposed to grouping simply by color, which younger children are more likely to do. 

Children’s ability to understand how to think about improving memory (i.e., their metamemory skills) has developed and they are now capable of understanding how studying can improve their performance on subjects such as spelling or math. When compared to their first and second grade counterparts, 8- to 10-year olds also better understand that there are conditions that are more conducive to learning, such as quiet, organized environments. Thus, this is the perfect age to help your child develop organizational skills and memorization strategies (e.g., organizing content by subject matter, helping your child learn mnemonics to remember facts, etc.).

Social Development, Multiple Intelligences, and Learning
Children more fully recognize where their skills fall, relative to their peers between 8- and 10-years old. They increasingly notice what is “hard” and “easy” for them, and this knowledge has a tremendous impact on how they approach learning, and what challenges they are willing to take on in school. Howard Gardener first put forth the idea of multiple intelligences (MI). His work demonstrates that rather than a fixed IQ that is measured by a single test, there are a number of different intelligence “domains.” He goes on to describe how individuals show various strengths and weaknesses across 8 domains: verbal-linguistic, mathematical-logical, spatial, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal, interpersonal, and naturalist.

Drawing on a multiple-intelligences framework frees children this age, allowing them to understand how they can be good at some things and not others, without feeling like a weak area defines how smart they are. Emphasizing how children are smart in various ways, and helping your child recognize her learning style, gives her options to more confidently strengthen weak areas, and excel in strong ones. 

There are additional ways to use what we know about 8-10 year olds’ social development to enhance learning. For instance, as a result of their readiness to expand their independence, children this age begin to pull away more from parents. Thus, parents can work with their child’s developmental drive while improving study habits and enhancing a love of learning: Offer your child a secret fort, tree house, or attic space where she can “disappear” to read or do homework. Nothing motivates a child of this age more than the ability to enter into “kid-only” spaces that prohibit adults!  

School Skills
Eight to ten year olds are in the prime of their elementary school years. Many children this age have become competent students, and can participate in the routines and expectations of school life. In math, they are able to understand reciprocal relationships, such as knowing that if 7x3=21, 21/3=7. They can comfortably apply a number of thinking and reasoning strategies to 3-digit numbers and are starting to apply beginning algebraic problem solving. In addition, their attention span has increased to between 30-45 minutes. 

Children this age are beginning to apply thinking to learning in new ways. For instance, they are fairly good at the use of inductive logic, where they can get from a specific experience to a general principle (e.g., getting near a fire, I feel heat; therefore, all fires are hot). However, they still struggle with deductive logic, where they must use a general principle to apply to a specific event (Mammals feed their babies milk. Dolphins are mammals; therefore they feed their babies milk). Try out your deductive reasoning skills with your child.

Almost all 8-10 year olds can read, but some find it easy and pleasurable, while others do not. Third grade is often when reading struggles surface more fully and this is an important time for intervention. If reading does not come easily to your child, asking questions and getting tools and support will go a long way to ensuring your child stays on track academically. If your child is not reading on grade level by age 8, it is vital to get skill-building supports in place without delay, because once children this age fall behind in reading, the achievement gap widens quickly. If reading does not come easily to your child, see how to know if she has an undiagnosed learning disability and why waiting isn't the best answer when kids are late bloomers. For ways to foster a love of reading, even for kids that struggle, check out Scholastic's Raise a Reader Guide for 8-10 Year Olds. Activities and resources can also be found on the 8-10 Activities Page

In terms of writing, most children this age will find that their ideas still exceed their writing abilities. The difficulty tends to lie in the fact that 8-10 year olds do not fully understand that the words said can be different than what the words actually mean. For instance, being confused when an adult says, “You must be so excited for your test today,” when they really mean the opposite. Thus, the ability to take advantage of nuanced meaning for both writing and speaking has yet to fully develop. You can support your child’s growth along these lines by pointing out sarcasm, irony, and double meanings in everyday life, in books they read, and in writing they may be doing. 

Thinking Skills & Learning Styles
Cognitive Skills
Age 10
Age 9
Age 8
Elementary School
Child Development and Behavior
Learning and Cognitive Development