How To Protect The Middle Years of Childhood In Four Easy Steps

We read a lot about protecting early childhood in the literature of  Waldorf education and Waldorf parenting, but did you ever stop to think that the time of middle childhood is also a time to also be honored and protected?  There are certain watermarks in Waldorf education where the child is seen as undergoing substantial developmental and transformative change – usually at six/seven, age nine, age twelve and age fifteen/sixteen. So, the logical conclusion is that a child experiences the nine year change and the twelve year change before he or she enters the fifteen/sixteen year old change.  This seems so obvious when one says this – that the years between ten and fourteen are steps leading up to the changes at fifteen and sixteen –  and yet in our society it all seems to become rather blurred.  I think we should honor and protect this time instead of rushing through it on the way to driving, dating, and getting ready for college.    The years in which  a child is ten to fourteen is truly the heart of childhood in so many ways, this truly golden middle of childhood if we as parents and we as a society can really take a step back and protect and honor this time.

Nourishing play is one of the top ways to protect these years.  Ten to fourteen year olds still really play and play hard if you let them and this impulse for play has not been squashed!  This is a ripe age of all kinds of outdoor play, large games of different types of tag and pick-up games of any kind of sport are enjoyed typically.   If you give a child unstructured time instead of a busy structured schedule, this can be such a gift in nourishing play!

Simplicity is another key in protecting the middle years…simplicity in scheduling (and not over-scheduling) a child in these ages leads to the time to play, daydream, rest their growing bodies, read, create and tinker.  These can be some of the most fruitful years for this sort of exploration and freedom.  Ten to fourteen year olds are full of wonderful, innovative ideas.

Autonomy  is another way to protect this beautiful age of the golden age of childhood…but perhaps not in the way we often see  in society.  Please, please remember that there really is a difference between a ten and sixteen year old, and yes, even a fourteen year old and a sixteen year old.  Let us not rush into freedom of technology without boundaries, or such a peer-oriented state that we associate with those who are on the verge of young adulthood.  Freedom for this age group might mean being able to shop alone in a store for a few minutes while you are in another part of the store , maybe it is the ability to ride or walk somewhere  in a group of peers,  or being able to find and be in some secret place outside alone.  All of this, of course, depends upon what kind of place you live in and safety factors, but I think it is safe to say that many of us remember being this age and having the freedom to be gone most of the day riding our bikes or being outside between after school and dinner without parents knowing where we were every second.  Every family will feel differently about this, of course, but I think that is one example of the type of freedom that seems normal for this age group and wanted by children of this age.

Lastly, I think one of the most important ways to protect this stage is seeing the sacred.  One of the things I have noticed about children today of these ages compared to years past is this “dropping down” of an attitude of toughness and boredom and “I am too old for that”.   I am sure many of the mothers out there remember playing dolls or Barbies at ages ten to twelve, whereas for many little girls these days, these are not activities for ten to twelve year olds anymore.    Nurturing wonder, nurturing joy and  love and compassion are really important for these ages.  Toughness, boredom, rolling of eyes and not wanting to participate in family activities may be considered part of these ages these days, but I think parents of children these ages really need to step in and gently guide and lead.  Lead with love and connection.

Please share with me your favorite ways to honor the child who is ages ten to fourteen…and how to make this a lovely,  slow stage that is honored and not rushed into the realm of being an older adolescent.

Blessings and love,


7 thoughts on “How To Protect The Middle Years of Childhood In Four Easy Steps

  1. Thanks so much for this! This has been on my mind a lot lately. There is so much on protecting early childhood at one end and adolescence at the other end but nothing for this middle stage. I would love more discussion on what Waldorf in the home is like for these 10-14 year olds. How does one responsibly introduce technology and media? How does discipline change for these years? I agree with you – they are not 7-9 year olds, yet they are not 14-16 year olds either. So important.

  2. Thank you for this Carrie. Thank you for the support, and for a positive view, and simple heart-warming angles for us to refocus – I constantly need refocussing as children change and also as busyness of life creeps in and I lose the plot of what is important. I know these things deep within me, but I need to be reminded.

  3. Hello Carrie,
    Thank you for this post. I too struggle with this age (12) as it seems that our culture is stealing the innocence of our children. How do we protect it? I am constantly fretting about this and could use some help. This summer, we plan on bringing our girls on a 2 week trip to see some regions of the country (national parks) that none of us have seen. Im hoping to spark some wonder and joy in their souls. Adventure is the word that comes to mind. Any ideas on big and small adventures for children,especially girls, at this age?
    Thank you!

  4. Hello Carrie,
    I wanted to take a moment to tell you how helpful your writing have been to me. Regularly reading them as they arrive in my email have helped me be mindful and stay focused on my family goals and the parent I want to be. I find guidance and gentle reminders that help me stay on track. This write up especially has reached me at a good time as I have a twelve year old at home. I am presently facing the challenge of family dynamics and routines often being challenged and changed due to his getting older and us trying to allow more freedom. More freedom while keeping him safe and making sure schooling is still occurring with the same focus and schedule has been a constant concern for me. Anyway, thank you. You are great.
    – Jennie Toohey

  5. Thank you, Carrie, this is such an important topic to be getting “out there”! I love your characterization of middle childhood and a golden age of childhood; I completely agree, but hadn’t crystallized it into words. I see in my 11-year-old so much joy and innocence, coupled with great abilities, which make exploring, reading, time in nature and boisterous outdoor games and sports so much fun for him.

    I am a strong advocate for holding off on media use during this time; there will still be plenty of time to model good habits and teach about media use in the later teen years. I have seen too many children lose their innocence, their ability to play and their unique expression (it becomes very affected by the sarcasm and cynicism that is so rampant in popular culture) when media enters the picture during this time of middle childhood.

    Great topic!

    • I agree – we have pretty stringent rules about media, computer usage, phones etc and nothing really changes until age 14 in our house. I know that is not for everyone, but it has worked out well for our family.

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