How your Year 3 child develops

Group of year 3 pupils
As your child moves from infants to juniors, how will they develop and change in Year 3?

Does it feel like the teenage years have hit early? You’re not alone. Year 3 is a time of moodiness, worrying and complaining for many children, and the transition from infants to juniors, with its focus on more independent work, can add to the tension.

What’s going on in there?

Seven- to eight-year-olds can be stroppy, preoccupied and difficult. At this age, children often have a lot of fears, which can manifest in behavioural problems. “Your child may worry about having to speak out in class or being left out of a group, and takes friendship tensions to heart,” says chartered educational psychologist Julia Busch Hansen. They may start to use aggression to attempt to solve problems, so expect lots of door-slamming and backchat.

At this age, your child may feel like the world is against them, and complain that they’re being unfairly treated. Tearful outbursts (‘Nobody likes me’) and threats to run away are common. They want more responsibilities, but kick back if they think they’re being put upon, and may complain that you or their teachers are unfair or unkind.

While they can be hard to handle, your child is still keen to succeed and thrives on praise. They’re beginning to have more trust, loyalty and respect for their peers, and they’re also grasping concepts such as sarcasm and white lies, although they may not always use them appropriately.

“Your child’s sense of self is becoming much more developed, too,” adds chartered educational psychologist and educational adviser Susan Brooks. “They are more aware of themselves, how they appear to others and which children are most similar to them.”

Potential pressure points

Moving into Year 3 involves a big leap in independence for many children. Some of the challenges they’ll need to tackle include:

  • transferring from infants to juniors, potentially moving to a new building or a new school entirely.
  • taking more responsibility for themselves at school, for instance being dropped off in the playground rather than taken to the door.
  • coping with more academic work and more homework.
  • adapting to the loss of afternoon playtime.
  • taking on more extracurricular activities.
  • handling friendship issues, especially if they move to a new school.
  • becoming more aware of how they perform at school compared to others.

Warning signs to watch out for

Because your child is likely to become naturally more withdrawn at this age, it can make it hard to spot the signs of trouble, which include:

  • Struggling with homework or class work, or refusing to do it.
  • Verbally or physically bullying other children.
  • Sleep problems: insomnia or nightmares.
  • Tearfulness.
  • Complaining that their teacher doesn’t like them.
  • Worrying about everything, such as being late for school.
  • Being forgetful or distracted.

“Watch out particularly for signs of stress among girls, who tend to feel the pressure to conform at this age,” adds Susan. “Some children can become isolated and subsequently unhappy at school if they feel they don’t fit in.”