The community in The Giver is highly structured. Each individual citizen has a role to play in keeping the community functioning, with the exception of babies and the elderly. Children must internalize the rules which govern the community so that, when they are of age, they can become contributing members of society. The children are segregated by age group, with each age group being granted particular rights and responsibilities within the wider community.
Ones are babies who are formally adopted into the community by being given names and family units. Prior to the Ceremony of One, babies ("newchildren") are nameless and are cared for by Nurturers rather than parents.
Twos are not specifically mentioned, so the role of a child does not substantially change between adoption and the Ceremony of Two.
Threes are old enough to start school, where the main focus is on "the acquisition of correct language." Threes are also invited to participate in the family ritual of "dream-telling," where they can discuss their dreams and the potential meanings behind them.
Fours continue with language acquisition, learning to be more precise in their speech so that they can communicate clearly with others—a skill which is extremely important to all members of the community. Fours are also given special jackets which button at the back. In order to button their jackets, the Fours must help each other, which teaches them the value of interdependence.
Fives and Sixes, like Fours, wear back-buttoned jackets, and continue to learn precision of language. Early childhood mostly concerns learning how to communicate and how to rely on one's peers: these are the building blocks of community life.
Sevens are old enough to start becoming more independent. Their back-buttoned jackets are exchanged for front-buttoned jackets, symbolizing the Sevens' growing ability to take care of themselves.
Eights are given new jackets with smaller buttons and pockets as an outward sign of their ability to "keep track of small belongings." More importantly, Eights are no longer allowed to have "comfort objects," like stuffed toys, and are expected to volunteer part of their time each day helping the adults in their professional roles, such as farming, engineering, and care-giving. The Ceremony of Eight is the first major milestone on the road to adulthood, as Eights begin to shed the symbols of childhood and integrate with the adults of the community.
Nines continue the volunteer work they began as Eights and are gifted bicycles to enable them to transport themselves around the community. The bicycles are powerful symbols of the Nines' independence and distinguish them from the younger children, who still depend on their families for transportation.
Tens are given short haircuts as another marker of their maturity, shedding the longer locks of the younger children for the sensible, functional styles of the adults.
Elevens are given new clothes—long trousers for the boys and "different undergarments" for the girls, who are starting to hit puberty.
Twelves are children who have formally been inducted into the community as adults. The Ceremony of Twelve marks the official end of "childhood"; Twelves are given Assignments, the professional roles they will occupy for the whole of their adult lives until they are too elderly to continue. The Committee which governs the community gives Twelves their Assignments based on each child's personality and aptitudes: an intellectual child might be assigned to a scientific role, a nurturing child to a caregiving role, and a strong child to a laboring role. Although Twelves must continue their schooling in tandem with their Assignments for the next few years, they are considered adult members of the community after receiving their Assignments.