Childhood required special clothes, from infant wrappings to miniature versions of adult dress. In wealthier families there were cradles, walking frames, and specially made toys. The metal toys already mentioned were only a small part of the stock of toys in use. Dolls, known as “poppets,” must have been widespread, but they have not survived since they were made of cloth or wood. Children are mentioned making their own toys: boats from pieces of bread, spears from sticks, and small houses from stones. Many games were played, from games of skill with cherry stones or tops to activities such as archery, football, and dancing. The oral culture of children is not recorded until the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, when scraps of verse and songs are noted in books, especially school notebooks. These point to the existence of nursery rhymes similar to (but not identical with) those of later times, as well as to children knowing and sharing in the songs and phrases of adults.
The education of children in England can be traced from the seventh century. Initially it centred on the training of boys as monks, girls as nuns, and other boys as “secular clergy”—those clergy who lived in the everyday world and eventually ministered in parish churches. This education was based on the learning of Latin and was usually provided in monasteries and nunneries. Education spread to some of the laity as early as the seventh century, and by the end of the ninth century it often took the form of learning to read and write in English rather than Latin. Schools of a modern kind, free-standing and open to the public, first appear in records in the 1070s and became very numerous thereafter, although monasteries and nunneries continued to do some educational work. Boys were usually sent to school, while girls were taught at home. We cannot say how many children were educated, but the number was substantial and probably grew considerably after about 1200. Education began by learning the Latin alphabet, and many boys and girls proceeded no further, using the skill chiefly to read in their own language, either English or, between the twelfth and the fifteenth centuries, French. Only a minority of boys went on to learn Latin grammar and to become proficient in the language. Women (even nuns) rarely learnt Latin grammar after 1200, and their abilities in the language were chiefly restricted to being able to pronounce texts from Latin prayer-books in a devout manner, without a full understanding of the meaning.
Growing up involved acquaintance with religion, but there was little structured education of children in this respect until the Reformation. Parents and godparents were expected to teach them basic prayers in Latin (Lord’s Prayer, Apostles’ Creed, and later Hail Mary), and how to behave in church. Church law after the twelfth century asked little of children in terms of duties. Only when they reached puberty did they acquire the adult obligations of confessing to a priest at least once a year, receiving the eucharist at Easter, attending church, and paying church dues.
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Little survives about adult attitudes to children during the Anglo-Saxon period from 500 to 1066, although burials show that children were often buried with grave-goods, like adults, and that children with deformities were cared for and enabled to grow up. Information about adult attitudes grows in the twelfth century, an age of law-making in both the Church and in lay society. Making laws involved arrangements for children, because they could not be expected to bear the same responsibilities and penalties as adults. Medieval law-makers tended to place the boundary between childhood and adulthood at puberty, coventionally 12 for girls and 14 for boys. The Church led the way in making distinctions between childhood and adulthood. It came to regard children under the age of puberty as too immature to commit sins or to understand adult concepts and duties. On these grounds they were forbidden to marry, excused from confessing to a priest, and excluded from sharing in the sacrament of the eucharist. Secular justice developed a similar concept of an age of legal responsibility beginning at about puberty, although there are rare references to children receiving adult punishments.
When we understand the conscious life of children at different stages in their development, we can better help them adapt to the real world, and parents will be less confused about what sort of discipline is appropriate to teach the child self-control.
Public awareness will find more support for these programs, which allow children who are hospitalized to deal with their illnesses and also learn, grow, and succeed along with their peers.
Recently I visited two pediatric hospital schools where teachers set the stage for children to learn: The National Children's Hospital (NCH) in Tokyo, Japan and The Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids) in Toronto, Canada.
In reading multiple essays on the psychological nature of the relationship one question came to mind: to what extent are the characters aware of the psychological effect they have on each other in performance....
In many cases reassurance by the parents is enough to allay the children's fears, but Henry's fear may have had a deeper cause, the fear of losing his parents, which the parents must address.
Toys give us a positive view of medieval childhood. Demography, the study of births and deaths, shows more of its darker side. The death rate among medieval children was high by modern standards. It has been suggested that 25% of them may have died in their first year, half as many (12.5%) between one and four, and a quarter as many (6%) between five and nine. There is no evidence that these deaths lessened parental affection and care for children, however, and the interest of adults in children can be traced throughout the middle ages. Medieval people inherited ideas about human life from the classical world. They thought they knew how infants grew in the womb and developed and matured after they were born. Life was viewed as a sequence of stages—“the ages of man.” Infancy up to the age of 7 was viewed as a time of growth, childhood from 7 to 14 as one of play, and adolescence from 14 onwards as one of physical, intellectual, and sexual development.
"I can't think of a single good children's movie that adults can't enjoy," critic Pauline Kael opined in her excellent Kiss Kiss Bang Bang essay, "Movies for younger children." For the most part, I agree. However, E.T., Star Wars, Jurrasic Park come to mind as pictures that children sincerely adore, I, an adult, abhor.
More than 30 children arrived at the sunny playroom decorated with their own art work, some in wheel chairs or on carts, many dressed in street clothes which made them feel normal.