About Middle Childhood, and discovering and nurturing passions

tuesday tips middle childhoodA few weeks ago I was talking to one of my friends, a psychologist, and she was mentioning that her oldest, who just turned 11, is nearing the end of her middle childhood. Intrigued by the term middle childhood, which was new to me, she explained that it is the timespan roughly between the age of 6 and 12. It is the period when children start to develop their independence and are discovering the context of the society outside the family home, but in which we, parents, still have an opportunity to connect and influence them. When puberty kicks in around the age of 12, our children will start to become physically mature and they will naturally distance themselves from our parental influence, seeking more independence and autonomy.

Intrigued about the concept of middle childhood, I started to think about this period, especially since I apparently have two children in this phase (Pim is now 8 and Sara 10). My friend told me that it is important to offer children in their middle childhood some handles to make their puberty easier and to positively develop their sense of self esteem.

Apparently it is super important to give children enough chances to develop interests and abilities in different fields inside, but especially also outside the house and the school. Organised after-school activities (like art, sports, or music) can help them to discover what they love and/or are good at, and compare it to other skills they are maybe less competent in. This will help them grow their self esteem and feel stronger towards areas in which they possibly not excel (perhaps they have disappointing school results). They will learn to understand that they can grow to get better in things, that if they fail at doing something at first they can actually train and develop to get better and eventually be successful — a valuable lesson for later in life. Also, they can find a positive place-to-be outside the family home, develop relationships with other children and teachers/trainers  — it is nice for them to have a safe place to go when they feel the need to escape the house later in puberty.

All in all, it is healthy and important for our middle childhood kiddos to start to expedite their surroundings, to discover what their passions are and to start nurturing those. I feel it is a super interesting phase, and although one part of me feels a bit sad that my kids will be flying out of our nest in just a few years time, I also feel excited for them to start exploring life, to learn and to fail, and to be happy and successful.

Just wondering, what are your thoughts on this subject? Do you have tips or experiences you can share? As always, I would love to hear!

xxx Esther



Comments (11)

June 2, 2015

Lieve Esther!

Such an interesting topic especially as my David is the same age as Sara. I can see such a huge change over the last year in him. His confidence has grown enormously and he loves loves schooltrip – a week skiing in Austria, a week in France and now next week he’ll go boarding with his class (;-)) boarding department is 5 min walk from our house!) as a lot of his peers will become boarders when leaving Dpl at 13years old.
It is totally not in our plans for any of our boys, but I do think it will give them small tastes twice year I preparation of leaving our house and spreading their wings….oh now I well up as I can’t bear the thought yet, but am like you excited for them.
We are also allowing David for the first time this summer term doing clubs after school, indeed for him to figure out what he likes and doesn’t like and again it is giving him such pleasure to discover new things he is good at or just never thought of he would enjoy so much. I am happy to hear that is a good thing to do. I can just say – I am excited seeing my lovely ‘big Dave’ growing up into a loving caring, happy, creative, gentle and kind soul! Xxxkim

June 2, 2015

I agree with your friend that middle childhood is such an important age – I think it is often overlooked because perhaps this age doesn’t require as much physical strength as the little ones and as much emotional warfare as the teenage years…seems like the easiest time! As a violin teacher, I work with this age the most – it is so fun to work with this age as they begin to discover more about themselves, how to work towards a goal, what excites them, etc. I also love seeing kids with similar interests start to form friendships – so much creativity and deep bonds. I am often approached by parents to discuss auditions, how to practice, and organization skills with their parents and over time students come to me with all sorts of “issues” that they are dealing with at home and school. As a parent of two little ones still in the “toddler” years – I hope one day to find them a teacher or a coach that can do the same and be an advocate for them and a passion they can share with friends. I am under the firm belief that once your child latches on to something (art, drama, dance, a sport, music, outdoor recreation, etc.) it is the role of a parent to support and fuel that flame as best we can.

Esther in Amsterdam
June 4, 2015

Thanks for your lovely reply Stephanie! It’s so nice to hear your view as a trainer/teacher. xxx

June 2, 2015

Oh wow I loved this post so much! I’m full of excitement about when my children will reach this age (currently only 4 ,2 and 6 months) and develop a special interest to ‘lose’ themselves in. My worry is helping them find this without over scheduling them as I’m such a firm believer in simplicity parenting…I don’t want them running here there and everywhere to out of school dance, music, sport lessons etc…in their precious free time! Perhaps parents of older ones can reassure me?…Do they show their passions without you having to orchestrate a trial period of everything under then sun?! Also what about trying to’ round them out’ by encouraging the arty child to join in with sports? This doesn’t seem right to me but lots of my friends are going down this route to keep all options open to their children in later life. Oh boy parenting can be pretty confusing when you start to think about it…you just want to do your very best by your precious little ones! Thanks so much for sparking the thoughts though Esther, I love these Tuesday tips. Rachel x

June 3, 2015

Thanks for this comment, Rachel, as it expresses my queries too. I think it’s wonderful to see children explore different avenues and look forward to seeing mine discover passions and special interests. But how do we do this without overscheduling and how do we retain the magic of a simple, uncluttered childhood?

Esther in Amsterdam
June 4, 2015

Hi girls, I couldn’t agree with you more — childhood should be simple and relaxed and free. However, I personally don’t think that following some after-school classes necessarily stands in the way of this at all… I have found that my kids greatly enjoy them and fills them with joy and energy. If they are given by the right teachers/trainers, it’s all about enjoyment and having fun — perfectly in tune with the child’s age, interests and abilities. It’s really fun for them play football or to dance around the ballet room with other kids. My kids’ classes are not about achievement, and shouldn’t be competitive at least not before the child is ready for that.

I find it an interesting question as I’m all about relaxed parenting. But to me (and this is my personal take on it), being a relaxed parent is not so much about keeping my kids at home for as much or as long as possible. I think the key to me is to be open and free and not over-expecting in general — be it school, playtime, or activities. I absolutely agree about the danger of over-scheduling and I think it depends on the child and their interest and energy levels — if they want to follow classes and how many. (And of course, it also depends of us, parents — how much energy we have to drive/cycle the kids everywhere!)

One more thought I think is interesting: schools in the Netherlands end quite early, at 3PM, and Wednesdays even earlier, at 12:30 PM. So even with the classes my kids follow, it’s still quite relaxed and doesn’t feel over-scheduled.

To give you an idea as to what my kids are up to: Sara (10) has violin class once a week, but I think she’s going to quit with that as she’s not really passionate about it. She’s been playing for 4 years but it doesn’t have her heart. She has followed classic ballet classes since she was 3 and started street dance classes once a week as well which she loves. Then, she has horse riding classes which she’s passionate about on Wednesday afternoon. At home, she’s totally into cooking and generally loves crafting and sewing. Sara is super interested and has lots of energy — she keeps telling me she wants to start tennis lessons too! (In her case, I sometimes feel that I should keep her back a little, but then again, she’s so into everything that my stronger feeling tells me — let her explore it all!)

Pim (8) has been playing the trumpet for a year now and loves it. He’s always had a strong interest in music — he’s the kind of child that will sit and listen to music, and pick up his trumpet on weekends for some play. He used to play football but didn’t love it (he liked having fun with his friends but I think didn’t like the competitive attitude of some of those friends) — he now plays tennis which he seems to like a lot. He also recently joined Sara’s street dance class, which I think is so cool!

Ava (5) has been taking weekly ballet classes since she was 2, the cutest thing. She loves it. Her ballet teacher (also Sara’s teacher) is the sweetest woman in the world — it’s all so very playful and lovely. And then she has swim class once a week — this is obligatory for all Dutch children!

Casper (2) no classes yet, but he’s so much into balls that I’m thinking to take him to toddler football classes. He would love that, I think!

Thanks for all of your comments, and cheers to being relaxed parents! 🙂 x

June 3, 2015

This post is really wonderful, so so interesting. I am really happy to know that your blog will grow and evolve as your children do. It is something I have been wondering about as my eldest is the same age as Sara and Easton and your blog has been so helpful over these wonderful years of childhood that I cannot even begin to Thank you…but I was concerned that it might no longer be relevant in the pre-adolesent and teenage years ahead. I am one very, very happy Mum knowing you will still be there, helping us all wing it through the more complex years ahead. Thank you ever so for all the advice, ideas and support and just so you know I still use my dishmatique scourer dispenser ALL the time : )

Esther in Amsterdam
June 4, 2015

Oh my Keri, that was one of my first posts!! And I still use mine every day too! What’s life without a dismatique?? Thanks for your lovely feedback, and isn’t our the age of our oldest kiddos so wonderful. Can’t wait to see them discover the world even more! x

June 3, 2015

Dear Esther,
Oh wow, how timely this post is for me. My goodness it is so welcome. My son is just entering this age (8) and l am struggling a bit with it. He seems to want to do so much on his own now. His play is more independent, he wants to ‘have chat time’ with his friends! He is also wanted to have his first sleepover, which l think he is ready for (am I?), yet l feel it would be wrong to hold him back. I will be very honest and say l feel a sense of sadness around this age, like my little boy has gone and yet a sense of pride is there too when l see the lovely young (man!) he is turning into, dare it be too much to say, l am in awe of him sometimes, we are very blessed too call him our son. He is interested in so many things, space, minerals, history, art and he teaches me things, isn’t that one of the many great gift they bring you, to show you the world through a child’s eyes again?
However we do not, just from choice at the moment and will change with him if he wants too, have any structured after School activities apart from swimming. I feel the days may be long but the years are so short, that we have selfishly wanted to spend as much time as possible with him before he does not want to know us!! l am also a great believer in Steven Biddulph’s theory that a child will find what he is great at without being forced if he is exposed to all elements of arts, sports, crafts etc.
I could not agree more with Rachels take on this about simplicity parenting. However l am sure that would not suit all parents styles. l also agree so much when Keri says she is thank full that your sight has included this age range, as l too have often felt my children are moving out of toddler stage and that Babbyccino may not have so much to offer me, although l always have a peek anyway!!!

Esther in Amsterdam
June 4, 2015

Hi Irene, I love your comment — I agree, I can sometimes see the young (wo)men our children will turn into and it fills me with pride and gratitude! I also agree that we are all different, and we all have a slightly different take on parenting. I think it depends on so many things — your own upbringing, your partner’s upbringing, your own interest, your location and school system, etc etc. And I hear you about keeping them with you for as long as possible — we’re still quite lucky to have our weekends free, but I’m sure the day will come soon where weekly competitions will take over our lazy weekend mornings… xxx

June 4, 2015

Really interesting read and all the comments too! My eldest is just entering this stage. He tried a couple of different after school clubs and activities and I think they (and you) figure out which are the things worth pursing without the parent having to overschedule them trying lots of different things. He started off doing football but similar to Pim maybe, he mostly enjoyed the running around part, not the goal scoring and competition! Now he does drama, piano and swimming. That seems enough for now and he really loves those three activities.

By the way, I would be very interested in a Tuesday Tips on sleepovers. We haven’t yet started them but already I am dreading them! Thanks. xx

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