Your big kid is probably ready to start keeping themselves organized, have a little more independence (safely, of course), build their study skills, and use technology, too.
In third grade, they’ll move out of the “learning-to-read” phase of school and fully into the “reading-to-learn” phase. That means they’re going to be expected to get information from texts across subjects, and hopefully they’ll be reading for pleasure, too. It’s a big transition—but exciting, too!
What to Focus On
Thinking & Learning
Reading to Learn
There’s a big literacy transition between third and fourth grades: Unless they’re getting extra reading support, by fourth grade, your child will no longer be considered “learning to read” in school. Instead, they’ll be expected to read fluently across subjects. How do you know if your kid is on their way to becoming a comfortable and fluent reader? And why does it matter now?
It’s a Big Math World
Unless you’re a math whiz, these are the years when your child’s knowledge of math miiiight start to surpass yours. (Or at least, you might have to brush up on old skills to help them with their homework.) Get ready for math that goes beyond two plus two makes four.
Writing With More Complexity
During these upper elementary years, your child is probably (hopefully!) going to be asked to do a lot more writing in school. This will include some creative writing like stories and poems, expository writing on different topics, and persuasive writing, too.
The Standardized Tests Are Coming
Your child has probably taken tests of some kind already—likely benchmark assessments like the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP)—but for students in public school, state standardized tests start in third grade. (Students in private schools will probably take some type of standardized test as well, but not the same one the state administers.) There’s no need to panic. Read on for everything parents need to know about standardized tests.
We know what you’re thinking: They’re digital natives! Don’t they know more than we do about this stuff? And yes, your child might have spent a year or more in recent memory learning via laptop. But now that they’re getting older and have more independent exposure to technology, it’s a good time to start building the skills to use those tools safely.
Getting Ready for Middle School
Middle school still feels like it’s a long way off when your child is a third grader, but the big transition is looming. Once they hit sixth grade, they’ll be asked to do so much more on their own, in and out of school. These are the years to build their executive functioning skills—so they’re able to manage their time and keep themselves organized as they grow.
Social / Emotional
They’re still little kids in so many ways. (Don’t tell them that, obviously.) But they’re also starting to approach adolescence—and with that comes changes to their bodies, their brains, and their friendships. You’ll see a huge range of development now, too: Some kids are still their baby selves in mind and body, while others are on their way to tweendom. Building and maintaining their self-esteem is about to become a full-time job (as if you needed one more).
How to Help Your Big Kid
3 Ways to Support Your Child’s Development at Home
Encourage the development of their interests. They’re starting to figure out who they are and what they’re passionate about—and that passion for dinosaurs or soccer or painting might be fleeting, or it might be long lasting. Give them plenty of space to explore different activities, and look for opportunities to expose them to new things when you can, too. It’s still a great time to test drive sports or other activities they haven’t tried before. By the time they get to middle school, it can become intimidating to try new activities, because more advanced skills might be required to participate.
Keep reading together. It might seem like reading aloud to your kid is only for the early years, but there’s no reason to stop now. Choose books you both enjoy. Take turns reading. Rameisha Johnson, one of our veteran Navigators and mom to a high schooler, recommends reading the books they’re assigned at school, too, so you can talk about them together. Consider reading in different contexts, too—if you used to read before bed, try reading a family book over dinner, listening to an audiobook in the car, or having family reading time where everyone reads independently.
Give them a study space. Their space doesn’t have to be large or fancy. But ideally it should meet a few criteria: It’s quiet (or can be, at least some of the time), and free from distractions like TV. It should have a desk or table, a chair, and a lamp. It should have a spot for some containers and other organizational tools so they can create a system that works for them. And if possible, let them add something cozy or inspiring—whatever helps them get their work done! For more ideas, check out our learning space checklist.
It's time to
Start Planning for Summer
Yes, now. While it's still cold out. Whether you plan to send your kid to summer camp, have them hang out with a sitter or family member, or do something else, now is the time to start thinking about it all—because if you do want to register for any kind of activities or childcare, sign-ups often happen well in advance of summer. Here's our easy-peasy guide to summer planning to get you started. As a first step, check your school year calendar so you know exactly when school lets out (and when it starts again in the fall). Once you know which weeks you need to fill with something, you can start the fun (?) part of actually figuring out what to do with your child.
All Big Kid Resources
Summer Learning for All Ages
3 Things to Do Before the End of the School Year
How to Make the Most of Your Local Library
How to Email Your Kid’s Teacher
How to Get Your Child's School Records (and Why You Might Want to)
What Parents Need to Know About “Gifted” Programs
Is Your Child Ready to Be More Challenged in School?
Our Top Alternatives to Screen Time
Virtual Adventures for Curious Kids
Camp Kinda is an exploratory learning experience designed to keep kids ages 3-13 engaged, curious, and having fun—even if they're stuck at home. It’s like summer camp (kinda).Explore Camp Kinda
A Few of Our Favorite Sites for Living Life with Kids
Common Sense Media
Our go-to resource for trusted movie, book, and app reviews.
Our first stop for anything related to learning differences. This is a great place to look for initial guidance if you have questions about your child’s social-emotional development or their learning needs.
Massachusetts Family Guides
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education offers these helpful year-by-year guides for what to expect your child to learn in English language arts, math, science, and social studies. While they’re aligned to the Massachusetts standards (called the “MA Frameworks”), they’re great guides for families in any state.
Attendance Works Handouts
Tips and handouts for families on improving attendance.
What’s Next For Your Child's School Journey
Middle School Ahoy!
The middle school years are right around the corner. That might mean a looming school transition, and even if it doesn’t, it still means more independence and responsibility, more challenging school work, and more intense out-of-school activities. You’re also about to watch your kid become even more of their own person. Raising a human is many things, but it’s never boring.
Don’t miss a beat.
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