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On MY Way

The Importance of The Middle Years

Today’s middle years children

Ontario is home to more than one million children ages 6–12. This number is expected to increase to 1.26 million in the next 20 years.1 Because of Ontario’s aging population, this group is becoming a smaller, yet ever more important part of our province.

Middle years children in Ontario today are different from any generation before them. They are growing up in a dynamic time of rapid change. Technology plays an increasingly prominent role in children’s lives, and brings with it many new opportunities as well as challenges.

Ontario’s middle years children are very diverse, with 32 per cent identified as being a visible minority and 45.5 per cent identified as first or second generation Canadians.2 While most middle years children in Ontario are thriving, some children in certain groups face greater challenges than others.

A distinct and important stage of development

There is new and emerging research that sheds greater light on this important developmental stage. The middle years are now understood as a key developmental turning point that set the foundation for personal identity, lifelong skills, habits and values.

Middle childhood is a period when children are exploring who they are and who they want to be, establishing basic skills and health habits, grappling with puberty, physical changes and gender roles, making friendships and forming attitudes about the world they live in, and taking first steps toward independence. This is a time of challenge as well as opportunity for children and for the people caring for them. Families, extended families, and caring communities all play a central role in supporting children throughout the middle years.

The middle years are also a time when early indicators of mental health and behavioural and learning challenges become more visible, and when early interventions can make a significant impact on long-term outcomes. Parents, caregivers and other caring adults can support children during this critical window by providing them with the opportunities and resources to help them thrive, and by identifying "early warning signs" of mental health, behavioural, and learning challenges.