My first experience with ten-year-olds was right after high school when I was working as a camp counselor for the summer at the Bob Mathias Girls Camp up near Kings Canyon National Park. Ages ranged from as young as seven or eight and went all the way up to sixteen if I am recollecting correctly. I had the pleasure of spending ten weeks with a cabin full of ten-year-olds. Some came for the two week session, some for one of the four week sessions, and a few spent the whole summer with us.
Let me tell you two things about ten-year-olds in case it has been a while since you have been near one. First, they want to be close but not too close. They are past the huggy stage but not fully into the independent stage. Therefore, they are always close physically, but they are becoming more emotionally detached.
Second, they count. Everything. And all the time. I remember taking them for a hike once, and they counted––out loud––every step––some 6,000+ steps, mind you––to our destination. Then to make sure they had it right, they counted––out loud––every step––back to camp. Still 6,000+, and my guess is it was probably exactly the same.
At eleven they begin to be more independent both in thought and activities. Suddenly, they aren’t afraid to tell you they don’t agree or don’t want to do something. (Fortunately, this budding rebelliousness doesn’t last too long––just until they are about nineteen, with fifteen being a really fun year!)
In literature, twelve is the demarcation line between childhood and adulthood. Twelve is considered the last year of childhood. This is why William Golding’s oldest boy in Lord of the Flies and Ray Bradbury’s Douglas Spalding in Dandelion Wine are twelve. In both, the innocence of childhood is shattered and the reality of life, death, good, and evil gains a foothold.
Like seniors in high school who have one foot still in compulsory education and the other testing the waters of personal choice and decision making, tweeners also find themselves at the cusp of two worlds: childhood and adulthood. It's right about now that they realize adulthood is coming and there is no turning back.