In the modern digital age, the concept of “play” has changed immensely from the previous generation. Those over the age of 35 will no doubt remember playing outside with school friends, neighbours and siblings with the only instruction to “be back for dinner time”. It was an era when children of all ages mixed and it is now somewhat different according to findings by social scientists which was reported in Ivanhoe Newsletter.
Children mix but nowadays play tends to be more organised rather than something that happens naturally. Unfortunately, this can mean that kids of different ages don’t engage like they did a generation ago. At our kindergarten in Bangkok, this is a trend that we are keen to reverse, understanding the importance of children of all ages playing together. It is beneficial to all ages and helps their development and progression into adulthood. Here are just a few of the benefits that your child could experience.
Throughout our lives, whether it be in family life, our social lives, working lives or just in society in general, we will need to learn to cooperate and interact with people of different abilities. When children of mixed ages play together strengths and weakness will present themselves, and it is a good life experience to see how all parties respond and adapt.
We must learn to cooperate with each other, and while it is common for younger children to look up to their older peers, the feelings are not always replicated. Learning that you need to mix from an early age will better prepare youngsters for the challenges that the world will throw at them. The benefits are even more significant in a multi-cultural city such as Bangkok when people of all nationalities and cultures interact. This understanding and cooperation will build solid foundations for becoming “good” human beings.
One of the most common misconceptions regarding mixed-age play is that it is only younger children who benefit. Often older children gain more from the experience, assuming natural leadership roles and practising nurturing. According to Peter Gray Ph.D., a research professor in the department of psychology at Boston College and author of many books on the subject, children of both sexes demonstrate more compassion and understanding of children at least three years younger.
An excellent example of this would be adolescents taking on the role of a babysitter for a younger sibling or family friend. Initially, it may not be a role that they wish to fulfil, but over time they will start to appreciate the benefits. Younger children will learn to be away from their parents and learn from people more of their own age.
Peer learning will occur naturally when children of different ages mix, maybe learning social skills, practical skills or even involve academic learning. Inevitably, teenagers find themselves in a position of explaining situations to the younger members of the group. A consequence of this is that the older children must have a clear understanding of the concept before they can teach it, so this allows more mature children to further their own learning and understanding.
It is common for younger children to ask questions. As parents, we are all familiar with the question “why?” after we have told a child to do something. Asking questions where the social difference between student and teacher are not so apparent makes younger children more confident when challenging ideas or concepts. It is something that will help both parties throughout their academic and working life.
Learning is more fun
Learning through play is undoubtedly more fun than classroom learning. Juveniles of all ages will be learning new skills during playtimes. Learning becomes something that the child enjoys, mainly because it is not overtly apparent that this is what they are doing. Often older children are keen to pass on their knowledge and demonstrate their intellect with the younger child eager to listen. Once again, elders will benefit from reinforcing their learning, while juniors will learn something new.
In the modern age, where criticism of digital technology and kids is common, having almost constant access to Google can again reap many rewards. Children immediately get answers to questions and check the authenticity of information that they have been taught – something that would be frowned upon during classroom learning.
Children are more confident engaging in natural discussions rather than ones which are forced or “encouraged” upon them. Children are often known to debate things that they have been taught in class when playing with older students who offer less difference in status or authority to a teacher joining the discussions. The back and forth questioning is believed to develop an understanding of all ages. It is even evident in strategy games such as chess. For example, an older child makes a move, and the younger one asks for an explanation of why the move was made.
Extended discussions also help children to articulate their views better. Elders will need to adapt their terminology for juniors to understand. Likewise, younger children will need to extend their vocabulary to understand points that interest them, so the benefits are two-fold.
Iron out differences
We must recognise that differences in opinion do exist throughout life. Children of all ages are frequently known to “fall out” with friends, but after some discussion, the problems are resolved. Older children can play a role in nurturing and encouraging friends with differences to talk. The mature members of the group will be able to adopt a big brother or sister role, offering help and advice.
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We hope that this article and helped explain the importance of interaction between children of all ages. At Kidz Village, it is something that we feel passionate about and believes it forms a key part of their education. Our acclaimed International School in Bangkok strives to provide the ideal environment to promote learning. For more information, please call us on +66 2888 3337 and we will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.