By 1979 standards, your child might be a little slow

The Gesell Institute is a non-profit US organisation researching child development. They’ve been going since the 1950s, and published a series of guides on what the average child should be able to do at certain ages.

We have a fascination in the UK with marking progress against targets—Owen’s only one, and the NHS personal child health record already lists 42 different things he should be doing. When the Little Kids, Big City blog posted up the Gesell guide “12 things you child should be able to do by the age of six”, I thought I’d share it with you. It’s from 1979, but what’s a decade or four between friends?

With light paraphrasing away from some US-specifics, and because we now understand that not all children are male:

  1. Does your child have two to five adult teeth?
  2. Can your child say where they live, in such a way that their speech is understood by a school crossing guard or policemen?
  3. Can they draw and colour and stay within the lines?
  4. Can they stand on one foot with eyes closed for five to ten seconds?
  5. Can they ride a small two-wheeled bicycle without stabilisers?
  6. Can they tell their left hand from their right?
  7. Can they travel alone in the neighbourhood (four to eight blocks) to the shops, school, playground, or to a friend’s home?
  8. Can they be away from you all day without being upset?
  9. Can they repeat an eight- to ten-word sentence, if you say it once?
  10. Can they count eight to ten pennies correctly?
  11. Does your child try to write or copy letters or numbers?

(Those who can count beyond ten pennies will spot I’m one short of the twelve. Because this list was originally titled “is you child ready for first grade?” there was one about age, which I’ve skipped.)

Might I draw your attention to number seven?

In 1979, if your six year old child couldn’t walk themselves to school (crossing up to seven roads in the process), apparently this would be thought a little odd.

In 2015, parents are being prosecuted for letting a ten year old walk home from school with his six year old sister. The world isn’t any more dangerous and kids aren’t any more fragile, but over 36 years a bit of fresh air and (well-monitored) independence has moved from being healthy and natural to child neglect.

Much easier for everyone if children stayed at home in front of the TV, don’t you think?


PS: If you followed that link, you’ll notice that Danielle and Alexander Meitiv defended their actions by saying they were practicing “free-range parenting”, about which, more later.

PPS: Thanks to Sara, Alison, Clare and Sally for finding the Little Kids, Big City article again after I lost it the first time…

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