Heather Gordon


Parents and grandparents are now at home handling remote learning or at least some days when children will be at home “doing school.” There are also families who are homeschooling for the first time.

As adults you’re being asked to teach, motivate, cajole and hold your children accountable – and probably trying to work while doing so. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you ever learned about children and their stages of development. Here’s some information about how children function at different ages and how you can best help them. For more information search the internet for 4-H Ages and Stages and choose a University resource.


Early Childhood (ages 5-8)

Characteristics: Learn best if physically active. Provide experiences that encourage physical activity: running, playing games, painting, etc.

Emotional: Sensitive to criticism. Don’t accept failure well. Find ways to give positive encouragement and assistance. Plan activities in which success can be experienced. Facilitate cooperation, not competition.


Middle Childhood (ages 9-11)

Characteristics: Spirited, with boundless energy. Provide active learning experiences.

Emotional: Comparisons with other youth is difficult and erodes self-confidence. Prefer recognition and praise for doing good work. Instead of comparing youth with each other, help youth identify their own successes by comparing present and past performances for the individual.


Young Teens (ages 12-14)

Characteristics: Interested in sports and active games. Encourage active, fun learning experiences.

Emotional: Changes in hormones and thinking contribute to mood swings. Remember that early adolescents are known for their drama and feelings that seem extreme to adults. Accept their feelings and be careful not to embarrass or criticize.


Teens (ages 15-18)


Characteristics: Most have overcome the awkwardness of puberty, but some boys are still growing at a fast pace. Many are concerned with body image. Avoid comments that criticize or compare stature, size or shape.

Emotional: Gaining independence and developing firm individual identity. Give teens responsibility and expect them to follow through. Provide opportunities that help teens explore their identity, values, and beliefs.

(Source: 4-H/Cooperative Extension, University of Missouri, Columbia)

Contact Heather Gordon, 4-H Agent, for more information or to discuss ways your child can get involved in Jackson County 4-H. heather_gordon@ncsu.edu.