In the introduction to my book, “Plant a Garden of Kindness, A Child’s Guide to Filling a Year with Weekly Acts of Kindness,” I wrote:
“Having children of different ages interacting and playing together also has huge benefits. Too often, we have our children only interacting with kids the exact same age – whether this is in their class or in extra-curricular activities.
Younger kids learn amazing things from older children – and you will often be surprised at how a sensitive side can come out when an older child is playing with a younger child. Younger children will always look up to older children, and sometimes this admiration is hugely important to the older child. It is another source of positive reinforcement that all children thrive on.”
I do believe so strongly in the importance of having children of different ages play together.
We have a super group of kids that stay after school to play in the school yard – in nice weather we stay out until 5:00. Some of the kids are there with their parents, some are there with their caregivers.
Kids of all ages play together – they play sports, or they play in their “forts” in the bushes along the outside of the school yard, or they play awesome imagination games with warriors and elves and dragons, or they play “family”. The adults just let it happen, we only step in if things start to get out of hand. It is so beautiful.
I am there after school with my own two children, and up to five other children most days. One of the boys who stays with us when he wants to is our friend Rohan, who is in grade six. And another one is our friend Devlin, who is in grade three.
Devlin ran in the 5K at the Ottawa Race Weekend this past weekend. After school on Monday, Devlin ran up to Rohan and exclaimed, “I can’t believe I saw you at the race!”. It turns out that Rohan was there watching his brother run the race. He was watching at the Pretoria Bridge. He saw Devlin running past him and called out to him. And Devlin actually heard Rohan and saw him in the crowd! Devlin yelled back, “Hello Rohan!” as he ran by. Both boys were so excited to have seen each other at the event. It was so heartwarming to watch. I do believe that because it was an older boy calling out to Devlin at the race, that probably made him feel even a bit more special, a bit more like a rock star.
And this opened up an opportunity for Devlin to tell us all about the race and his amazing time (he did the 5K in under 30 minutes!). You could tell that Devlin was proud to be able to tell his story to me and all the other kids. We all congratulated him and the kids asked him questions. Devlin got to be the star for that moment, and every child needs lots of chances to be the star throughout their childhood!