How your Year 1 child develops

Little girl in classroom smiling
With less play and more learning on the cards at school, here’s how your child will change and grow during Year 1.

The transition from Reception to Year 1 involves a big leap for your child. “In the classroom, there’s more emphasis on literacy and numeracy, and the school day is often more sedentary,” explains chartered educational psychologist Julia Busch Hansen. “This can be a challenge for some children, particularly boys.”

What’s going on in there?

Your five- or six-year-old is a bundle of energy. They may be noisy in the classroom, constantly chatting, humming or fiddling with things, and finding it hard to wait for their turn to speak. They’re in a permanent hurry, and will rush through everything they do – whether that’s eating breakfast or doing homework.

This is an inquisitive age. Your child now has a better grasp of the difference between fantasy and reality, and is also becoming more adept at problem-solving. They love to ask questions and learn best through discovery; co-operative classroom projects and group activities tend to be a big hit.

While your child’s enthusiasm is infectious, they can also be hard work. They’re sometimes boisterous and ‘hyperactive,’ and your child is becoming increasingly competitive. They may be a bad loser at this age, and will complain bitterly at any perceived injustice. And at times, they can be bossy and dramatic. This, combined with their newfound ability to bend the truth to avoid punishment, can make friendships rocky.

“At around six, there’s often a sudden switching-on of masculinity among boys,” adds chartered educational psychologist and educational adviser Susan Brooks. “They want to be with their father and imitate him, and may show some challenging behaviour just to get him to take an interest. Dads may need to make themselves more available to ease tensions at this stage.”

Potential pressure points

At this age, the main pressures on your child are academic, as they get used to a more formal style of learning. Some of the challenges this year include:

  • adjusting to more independence at school: going in by themselves in the morning, for example.
  • spending more time on sedentary ‘table-top’ activities.
  • doing more homework, including learning spellings.
  • getting used to being assessed at school, with spelling tests, times tables and more streaming of groups.
  • managing friendships, with children learning about the consequences of their actions on others’ feelings.
  • coping with teasing and potentially even bullying.

Warning signs to watch for

Now your child is having to buckle down more at school, the pressures of toeing the line all day may make for behavioural difficulties. Signs that they’re feeling the pressure could include:

  • Being melodramatic, especially when in trouble: "I wish I’d never been born!"
  • Resistance to doing homework.
  • Tearfulness or anger.
  • Teasing other children.
  • Going through a clingy phase of not wanting to be left.
  • Sudden fears: of the dark, perhaps, or of going upstairs alone.

“As a parent, try to help your child to deal with any conflict that arises in their games and negotiations,” says Susan Brooks. “Children need to learn that conflict and disputes are not necessary negative experiences, and that learning how to resolve them is an important skill.”