According to common law a boy or a girl was considered a child from the time he or she was born until the age of around twelve.
At this age the child was considered capable enough to differentiate between right and wrong, thus rendering them responsible for their acts.
The Initial months of life for medieval children were tough and only around fifty percent of children would survive during the first year due to a high child mortality rate.
Daily Lives of Medieval Children
The daily lives of peasant and noble children were very different; peasant children were very poor and were mostly uneducated. They had to work hard and support their parents from a very early age.
Young peasant children were assigned duties such as scaring birds from the fields, collecting eggs from the chickens, and collecting fruit, whilst older peasant boys were taught how to harvest a crop.
Noble medieval children lived in the castles with their parents and by the age of seven boys were sent to other castles to train to become knights, whereas girls were sent to learn how to manage everyday activities at home.
Picture of Medieval Children probably nobles by Bernhard Strigel
Medieval Children and their education
Medieval children were mostly illiterate and only a few were educated. The Church had a great influence on the education system of the Middle Ages and several cathedral schools were established by Bishops.
Noble medieval children were mostly educated during their training to become a knights as it was mandatory for them to be able to read and understand the code of chivalry.
Poor medieval children’s only hope was to be educated by priests who taught them a basic understanding of how to read and write.
There were some grammar schools in towns in later medieval times where middle class children were given an education.
Discipline was strictly maintained in these grammar schools and boys were often beaten there. There were also some chantry schools where priests taught children how to read and write.
Diets of Medieval Children
Noble and Peasant children ate different kinds of food. Peasant children, mostly ate thick stew made of grains and vegetables, called pottage.Pottage was cooked on a fire for a very long time and was kept for a week or two. Things were added to pottage from time to time.
Medieval children were not lucky enough to have meat on a regular basis, however noble children had all sorts of expensive foods, and their diets included white bread, fish, meat, vegetables and different kinds of fruits.
Children under the age of five usually drank milk, but were not allowed to drink wine, whereas the children between the age of 5 and 14 were allowed to drink watered wine that was less potent
Medieval Children are playing a medieval game on a village road
What Clothes did Medieval Children Wear
Medieval children wore clothes similar to that of their parents. Boys wore tunics that were loose garments and came down to their knees whereas girls also wore tunics, but the length of garments reached their ankles.
Medieval Children covered their legs with stocks or stockings and apart from the poorest children, most children wore leather shoes.
In the later middle ages boys from wealthy families started wearing doublets that were hip length jackets and hose that covered their legs from their waist down to their toes.
Medieval peasant children wore cloaks, tunics and woollen socks. Medieval children also wore different kinds of hats, for boys there were round hats whereas the girls had bonnets.
Medieval Royal Children’s Lives
Medieval Royal Children lived in castles or manors with their families, servants, advisor’s and knights. These castles were cold and uncomfortable as they were designed for defensive purposes.
In the early Middle Ages royal children slept in the Great Hall, a castle’s main room. In the later Middle Ages royal children slept in their own rooms that had fancy beds and curtains.
At a younger age royal children learned manners, reading, writing and dancing. At the age of seven, noble boys were sent to other noble households to learn how to become a Knight. Similarly noble girls at this age were sent to other noble houses to become a lady.
Medieval Musicians are playing their medieval instruments as medieval children play
Medieval Peasants Children’s Lives
Medieval peasant children lived in small cottages that had small windows and were mostly dark. Food was cooked in the main room over an open fire, hence these cottages were also smokey.
Peasant children, mostly spent their time helping their parents with day to day activities that included activities such as growing food, raising livestock and doing household tasks.
Peasant children’s lives were tough and they were more prone to diseases as farm animals also lived inside their homes. Some peasant children also worked in manor houses that were owned by nobles.
Medieval Children’s Toys and Games
Medieval children played with toys such as dolls, marbles, sticks, rattles and spinning tops. Ninepin bowling was also a popular medieval game.
Girls played with “poppets", dolls made from cloth, wax, wool, wood or clay. There dolls were dressed in different kinds of costumes. Peasant girls mostly had them dressed in working clothes whereas noble girls’ dolls were dressed in long robes.
Hobby and rocking horses were popular among the noble children. They were painted with different colours and decorated in such a manner that they looked like real horses.
Hide & Seek, See Saw, walking on stilts, swimming and tag were medieval children’s favourite games. Children from rich families also played board games such as checkers and chess.
Summary of Medieval Children
The lives of the medieval children were tough as most children died during the first years of their lives. Medical facilities were not advanced and quality of life was also not that good. Peasant children, mostly helped their parents in the fields and with household activities.
Medieval Noble children, mostly stayed at home with their parents and after reaching the age of seven both boys and girls were sent to other castles to continue their education.
There were less educational facilities and only a handful of schools were present in medieval times and children were also married at a very young age.