Let's get down to the nitty-gritty of what you can be expected form your third grader.

An eight-year-old can/will:

  • Work quickly with a limited attention span
  • Need physical release of energy
  • Be highly social
  • Create friendships that are more inclusive than at age seven but will still prefer the same gender
  • Cooperate and work well in groups
  • Overestimate abilities and bite off more than he or she can chew
  • Exhibit resiliency and bounce back quickly from mistakes
  • Listen attentively but will be so full of ideas that he or she will not always be able to recall what has been said
  • Enjoy explaining ideas in detail
  • Exaggerate
  • Begin to master basic academic skills and feel a sense of competence with cognitive skills

Your eight-year-old is trying very hard to master the skills to which he or she has been introduced. This means concentrating on handwriting, arts and crafts, computers, drawing, and other skills. If the accomplishments don't come easy, there is a tendency to exaggerate feelings of inferiority. Redirection is the best solution. Criticizing your eight-year-old will have an impact that you will regret for years. Schoolwork and supplemental activities are better if short and to the point. Accomplishments should be displayed: cover every inch of your refrigerator with your child's latest and greatest. Eight-year-old benefit from graphing of charting accomplishments so that they can be reminded of successes while seeing the progression toward mastering a goal.

Some third graders will turn nine during the school year. A nine-year-old can/will:

  • Be industrious and impatient
  • Be more coordinated than an eight-year-old
  • Push himself to physical limits
  • Fatigue easily and be prone to injury
  • Be aloof
  • Create exclusive friendship groups
  • Prefer the same gender
  • Be competitive
  • Want to choose work partners
  • Criticize herself and others
  • Be discouraged easily
  • See adult inconsistencies and imperfections
  • Complain about fairness issues
  • Love vocabulary and language play (but baby talk may reemerge)
  • State things as negatives: “I hate it,” “I can't,” “boooring,” “yeah, right”
  • Be a concrete learner, but increasingly will be able to deal with multiple variables

Nine-year-olds tend to be more competitive. Although they are usually more coordinated than eight-year-olds, they often fatigue easily and complain about injuries, both real and imagined. They like to work with partners of their choice and might begin forming exclusive groups. They can be impatient, anxious, and easily discouraged. They generally don't like to take risks and they don't like to be wrong.

Now, you may be thinking, Oh no! My child is all over both lists! Remember, children vary greatly. It is common to find a two-and-a-half-year difference in development among children. Eight- to nine-year-olds who lag in specific skills often compensate by exceeding expectations in other areas of development. Don't worry. The best indicator of whether a child is in danger of falling behind is the rate of growth rather than an inventory of skills. If your child is making progress along the rough developmental continuum, don't be overly concerned about a few skills here and there.