For parents of 7-year-old children, parenting is more about guidance and reminders than close supervision. Seven-year-old children are becoming much more adept at taking care of themselves -- not only in those day-to-day routines such as bathing, getting dressed and even getting themselves a bowl of cereal in the morning but also in relation to making decisions and choices for themselves.
For instance, 7-year-olds may express preferences for certain activities or types of books or foods. There may be more negotiation over diet, extracurricular activities, how to spend leisure time, and even what chores they can and want to do.
Not yet adolescent and no longer a young child who needs constant supervision, a 7-year-old’s behavior and routines will be shaped by constantly balancing independence with reliance.
Eating patterns can fluctuate widely at this age. You may notice that your 7-year-old eats like a linebacker one day and then nibbles on a few crackers the next.
While parents of 7-year-olds may worry that their child is not eating enough or not getting enough vegetables and fruits, the focus should be more on the overall picture rather than what a child eats a one particular meal. As long as parents provide their 7-year-old with a variety of nutritious foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats, and lowfat calcium-rich foods such as cheese or milk, then chances are that a child is getting the nutrients she needs.
Parents can discuss their 7-year-old’s individual diet with their pediatrician, but as a general rule, the focus should be on establishing healthy eating habits in children as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Setting good food habits early will become increasingly important as children spend more time away from home and have the opportunity to make more food choices on their own, such as at a party or in the school cafeteria.
One of the most fun ways parents can encourage healthy eating is by having kids help out in the preparation of meals. Seven-year-olds are able to help mom and dad pick out fresh fruits and vegetables at the store, plan meals, and even help with some of the cooking. While 7-year-olds may not yet be able to handle a knife, they can certainly help mix ingredients, dish out food, and help serve the meals.
If you have a garden, your 7-year-old can help grow vegetables. Seven-year-olds can handle everything from pulling out weeds to watering the vegetables. And the pride that they will develop in their work will help 7-year-olds appreciate the fruits and vegetables they grow, and make it more likely that they will enjoy them in their meals.
School-age children generally need about 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night. But your 7-year-old child’s individual needs may dictate that he can do with a bit less or a bit more.
Seven-year-olds may find it difficult to get to bed at a reasonable hour because children this age may have more challenging homework and be involved in after-school activities such as team sports -- things that can cut into the amount of free time kids have between the end of school and bedtime. Add to that TV time, socializing with friends, and wanting to spend time with family, and you have a lot of things packed into a few hours.
Since so many distractions and activities can make it difficult for a 7-year-old to get to bed on time, it can be especially important for parents to set up good sleep habits in children this age. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye out for signs that your child may not be getting enough sleep.
Behavior and Discipline
By this stage of development, children are better able to handle transitions and setbacks, and are less likely to need reminders to mind their manners (such as by saying "thank you" or "please"). At this age, child discipline is more likely to be focused on guidance and less centered on consequences for bad behavior.
As 7-year-olds continue to explore their identities and develop socially and emotionally, they will naturally explore boundaries and limitations. They may experiment with behaviors such as lying, defiance, or talking back. And while behaviors such as tantrums may be behind them, 7-year-olds are not fully "big kids" just yet. Parents can expect to still occasionally see younger-child behavior problems such as whining in children this age.
Seven-year-olds will take great pride in being “big kids” who can handle more responsibilities. Chores can also help your child feel like he is contributing to the family. Assign your 7-year-old some age-appropriate chores such as setting the table, sorting laundry, and feeding pets.
The great thing about 7-year-old children is that they will not need as much close supervision when they are tackling their chores. Parents may still need to give 7-year-olds reminders, and may want to help their child finish up a task such as sweeping the floor, but many 7-year-olds will be able to generally handle things on their own as long as the chore is age-appropriate.
Many 7-year-old children can develop a love of collecting toys or other knick-knacks. (Toy marketers often take advantage of this phase of development, and create lines of toys that children will want to collect.) Seven-year-olds can also develop obsessions with games, such as a favorite video game, or subjects (wanting to discuss and learn everything about Star Wars or animals, for instance).