Medieval Times for Children

Updated November 21, 2016

Medieval time, or the Middles Ages, refers to European history from the year 500 to 1500. Children living at this time had a different way of life than kids today and had to survive without certain necessities. Their hardships included a lack of education, working from an early age and life-threatening disease.

Life Expectancy

The life expectancy of a child in medieval times was very low. According to the University of Exeter, it is estimated approximately 25 per cent of all children born in this time died before they reached the age of 1. According to Minnesota State University, 5 per cent of babies died during childbirth. The majority of other deaths were from fatal accidents and diseases, which spread easily because of poor hygiene, health care and medicine distribution. Lower-class children were most at risk of early death because they couldn't afford medicine and a clean environment. The Black Plague was a deadly disease that particularly affected children in the 1360s, according to BBC History.


The level of education a child received during this time depended on his family's income. A girl from a poor family didn't receive a formal education. She learnt from her mother how to become a housewife and mother. A boy from a poor family would attend a village school run by the local church at the age of 7. Boys learnt prayers, songs, a bit of Latin and math.

Children from middle-class families received a formal education at local monasteries and nunneries. The curriculum focused on learning to read, write and the Latin alphabet. Some boys went on to learn Latin grammar and speaking fluently in the language. Girls were taught only enough so they could read a Latin text in church, but they wouldn't understand it.


Children were put to work from an early age. They would start by learning to feed animals, look after infant siblings and clean dishes, according to Minnesota State University. Children of poor families had to work to help keep the household functioning. When boys went to school at 7, the girls would stay home and learn how to be a housewife. This included weaving clothes, cooking, cleaning, growing vegetables and looking after children. After boys finished school, they would either work as a labourer with their fathers or take an apprenticeship in a nearby village.

Play Time

When children weren't working or in school, they could spend their time playing. According to scholar Sophie Oosterwijk, children were considered innocent and playful. Young children would play with toys made from readily available material -- wood, clay, leather and metal. These included rattles, dolls, kites, spinning tops and rocking hobby horses. Middle-class children had more options for toys, while poor children would be given toys made by their fathers.

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