CHILDHOOD—SIX TO TWELVE
No abrupt change marks the transition from the period of Early Childhood to Childhood, but development is continuous and rapid in every direction. The larger social world, entered through school life, and the new intellectual world, revealed through ability to read, widen the child’s vision and develop possibilities hitherto latent, because unneeded.
The Sunday School divides the period of Childhood into the “Primary Age,” from six to nine, and the “Junior Age,” from nine to twelve, basing the division as accurately as is possible upon the awakening of these latent possibilities. The development of this period will therefore be considered according to this classification.
THE PRIMARY AGE—SIX TO NINE
During these years the characteristics of Early Childhood remain in more or less modified form. Physical growth is still rapid in all parts of the body, the brain reaching almost full size by the ninth year. Parallel with this vigorous physical growth is a mental growth and development equally rapid and many sided. Curiosity is as hungry as ever, still more eager concerning things than abstract ideas, and still a goad to active senses. The mind has increased power to retain what is given it, and about the ninth year enters upon its “Golden Memory Period.” The ability to reason is gradually increasing, though it is used more upon relationships between things than between ideas.
The child’s feelings are still self-centered, yet development of the social and altruistic feelings is apparent. Children enjoy companionship more than in earlier years, but the longing for others does not reach the intensity which demands the club and gang until later. A feeling of sympathy and desire to help must still be awakened by definite cases of need, plus the influence of parent or teacher, as the child does not yet know life’s hard experiences well enough to read their meaning and give response to them of himself.
If nurture has met its opportunity in the preceding period, the child’s love for God and confidence in Him have grown stronger. The Heavenly Father will be as real to him as an earthly friend, and His help a living experience. “How is it that you always have a perfect spelling lesson at school?” a primary teacher asked of one of her boys. “Why, don’t you know that Jesus sits in the seat with me every day and helps me?” he replied. The teacher’s face betokened her surprise, and the child emphatically reiterated, “He truly does sit with me and help me.” Would that God’s older children could live as actually in the Presence that was promised for “all the days.”
Actions continue to be largely impulsive, carried out according to the strongest present desire, and though right and wrong are more clearly understood than formerly, they do not often determine an act unsupported by other considerations. This is evident in the matter of obedience, whose strengthening into a habit is one of the most imperative tasks of nurture during childhood. Abstract laws and principles of right, so weighty in middle adolescence, have but slight influence over the child, unless joined with them is a strong personality whom the child loves or fears, and whose favor he desires to win through obeying.