First Grade Intellectual Development

The brain of a first grader can be tough to predict. One minute, your little one has it all figured out, and the next, he's making no sense at all. As a parent, you may not know what to think. Luckily, we've got it broken down for you. Check out this slideshow to learn what first graders are like and what you can do with yours.

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They learn best through discovery.

Children are growing intellectually at this age, and they like figuring things out for themselves rather than being told. They enjoy the process of doing things and have little regard for the final product of their efforts.

What you should do: Provide fun, hands-on activities for your kid. Don’t just read a book; act it out. Don’t just explain how plants grow; plant a seed in the backyard.


They ask questions—lots of them!

Kids can drive their parents up the wall with one question after another. Why? Because kids have an insatiable appetite for new knowledge. Why? Because they want more than they can possibly handle, even knowledge. Why? They just do.

What you should do: Encourage your child’s curiosity. Compliment him by saying, “That’s a good question.” If you don’t know the answer, look it up and share it with him to show that adults are also curious.


Their logic is improving, but it’s still shaky.

First graders start making logical sense from time to time, but they still jump to wrong conclusions and link unrelated things. They may firmly believe something that is incorrect, and they won’t listen to evidence that proves them wrong.

What you should do: Do your best to make logical explanations, but don’t drive yourself crazy trying to convince your child to think a certain way. This stage is normal and temporary.

They can’t make choices. They want everything!

Chocolate or vanilla? Red shirt or yellow shirt? Play outside or read a book? Even adults can be indecisive, so you can imagine what a first grader is like. It can be almost impossible for a child this age to make a simple choice, even between options that are complete opposites.

What you should do: Don’t offer lots of choices all the time, but provide occasional opportunities for your child to make decisions.

They love retelling stories or experiences in great detail.

Good luck getting a brief summary of your kid’s field trip or her favorite book. First graders have an eye for details, but they aren’t yet able to summarize a story or take away the most important points.

What you should do: Be a good listener. Don’t interrupt and ask him to wrap it up. Kids learn by talking.


They are aware of sexual differences.

First grade usually marks the time when children notice and become interested in the differences between male and female bodies. They may also become interested in how babies are born.

What you should do: If your child wants to know why bodies look the way they do, calmly give simple, honest answers.

They have unusual preferences in food.

Can you remember hating certain foods as a kid that you now eat on a regular basis? Did you love making some odd mishmash of ingredients when you were around their age? Every child has a few food quirks.

What you should do: Do your best to provide healthy meals, but if your kid refuses to eat broccoli or a tomato, don’t push it. Pick your battles.


They begin to have an organized, visual memory.

The mind of a first grader is extremely visual. They organize physical materials to help remember them. They recognize words by sight and they read “word by word.”

What you should do: Use pictures and actions to help explain verbal material. For example, it’s tough to explain volcanoes, so go online and show pictures. Continually help your kid with reading and writing skills.

They have trouble concentrating in school.

The first grade classroom can be a noisy place. Kids are constantly bothering other kids. If adults can’t focus in this environment, you can imagine how tough it is for children.

What you should do: Keep in touch with your child’s teacher to be aware of his classroom behavior. Enforce the same rules at home that your child has at school. This helps your child understand appropriate behavior and become comfortable with the expectations of adults.


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