Growth and Development

Your Child's Checkup: 8 Years

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What to Expect During This Visit

Your doctor and/or nurse will probably:

1. Check your child's weight and height, calculate body mass index (BMI), and plot the measurements on growth charts.

2. Check your child's blood pressure using standard testing equipment.

3. Ask questions, address concerns, and offer advice about your child's:

Eating. Schedule three meals and one or two nutritious snacks a day. Serve your child a well-balanced diet that includes lean protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and low-fat dairy. Kids this age should get 2 cups (480 ml) of low-fat milk daily (or equivalent low-fat dairy products). Limit foods and drinks that are high in sugar and fat, and offer no more than 8 ounces (240 ml) of juice per day.

Bathroom habits. Bladder and bowel control should be mastered by this age. Bedwetting is a problem that is more common in boys and deep sleepers. In most cases it ends on its own, but talk to your pediatrician if it continues to be a problem.

Sleeping. Kids this age generally need about 10-11 hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep can make it difficult to pay attention at school. Set a bedtime that allows for adequate sleep and encourage your child to follow a relaxing bedtime routine.

Physical activity. Children this age should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Limit screen time, including TV, DVDs, video games, smartphones, tablets, and computers, to no more than 2 hours per day of quality children's programming.

Growth and development. By 8 years, it's common for many kids to:

  • show more independence from parents and family members
  • have a group of friends, usually of the same gender
  • look up to role models, such as professional athletes, actors, or superheroes
  • know the difference between right and wrong
  • enjoy reading
  • solve simple math problems
  • have longer attention spans and cooperate more
  • problem solve in a more organized and logical way
  • tell time and know the days of the week and the months of the year
  • ride a bicycle independently

4. Perform a physical exam. This will include listening to the heart and lungs, examining teeth for cavities, and checking your child's hips, knees, and ankles. Because some children start to show signs of puberty as early as age 7, your pediatrician will check pubertal development. A parent or caregiver should be present during this exam.

5. Update immunizations. Immunizations can protect kids from serious childhood illnesses, so it's important that your child receive them on time. Immunization schedules can vary from office to office, so talk to your doctor about what to expect.

6. Order tests. Your doctor may assess your child's risk for anemia, high cholesterol, and tuberculosis and order tests, if needed.

Looking Ahead

Here are some things to keep in mind until your next routine visit at 9 years:

School

  1. Encourage your child to participate in a variety of activities, including music, arts and crafts, sports, after-school clubs, and other activities of interest.
  2. Praise accomplishments and provide support in areas where your child is struggling.
  3. Poor school performance could be a sign of a learning disability or of being bullied. Get to the heart of the problem now so your child can receive the help needed to succeed.

Self

  1. Explain to your child that his or her body will change as he or she gets older and that this is normal. Teach the proper names for sexual body parts and explain their functions. Let your child know that it's never OK for an adult to ask a child to keep a secret. No one should look at or touch your child's private parts, or ask him or her to look at or touch theirs.
  2. Make sure your child brushes his or her teeth twice daily, flosses once a day, and sees a dentist once every 6 months.
  3. Establish reasonable consequences for breaking the rules. Spanking or other corporal punishment should not be used.
  4. Give your child a sense of responsibility by letting him or her participate in simple chores, like making the bed and setting the table.

Safety

  1. Your child should continue to ride in the back seat of the car and use a belt-positioning booster seat until he or she is 4 feet 9 inches (150 cm) tall, usually between 8 and 12 years of age.
  2. Make sure your child wears a helmet while riding a bike, skateboard, or scooter, and that he or she only rides in the daytime.
  3. Teach your child the skills needed to cross the street independently (looking both ways, listening for cars), but continue to help your child cross the street until age 10.
  4. Teach your child what to do in case of an emergency, including when to dial 911.
  5. Teach your child to swim, but do not let him or her go swimming unless an adult is watching.
  6. Apply sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher on your child's skin at least 15 minutes before going outside to play and reapply about every 2 hours.
  7. Limit your child's exposure to secondhand smoke, which increases the risk of heart and lung disease. Explain to your child why he or she should never try tobacco products.
  8. Monitor your child's Internet usage. Keep the family computer in a place where you can watch what your child is doing. Install safety filters and check the browser history to see what websites your child has visited.
  9. Protect your child from gun injuries by not keeping a gun in the home. If you do have a gun, keep it unloaded and locked away. Ammunition should be locked up separately. Make sure kids cannot access the keys.

These checkup sheets are consistent with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)/Bright Futures guidelines.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: July 2013



Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses and treatment, consult your doctor.

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