I have been blissfully immersed in a new group of friends. I am so happy about this because as Solshine grows, more and more of his friends disappear into the world of school, and of course, I want community for him (and for us) that mirrors our normal way of living.
We are about five weeks into this new group and I am just sinking into the warm embrace. My kids are happy playing all afternoon and I am able to socialize amidst shared snacks, origami and soccer balls. Somewhere in between the rice crackers, lively conversation and impromptu talent shows I realized something: the reason we are so happy has a lot to do with the successful nature of multi-age play.
I have been on the play date circuit for almost five years now. I’ve been in all sorts of situations but almost all of them consisted of the main group of children being around the same age (and sometimes the same gender). These are the play dates where the moms spend the entire time negotiating the terms of whose turn it is to yield a stick and, “Solshine, sticks hurt, please be careful!” I’ve left play dates exhausted because I spent most of my time and energy trying to navigate the choppy waters of similar aged boys.
In this new group there are children of all ages–from womb to 15 years. The parents themselves represent a spectrum of age and we’ve had a grandmother come, so you might say we are involved in a multi-generational playgroup and I think it’s the best kind. The older kids play with the younger kids, freeing up mother’s hands for a bit, leading to less stress and more laughter. While the older ones continue on with their experience of responsibility and independence they are providing a wonderful stepping stone for the little ones to navigate, at their own pace, a wider world away from mother. It’s a continuum of experience and when we follow the natural order of life, which includes children of all ages interacting freely, life is made easier for all and our community becomes a fertile ground for all parties (grown-ups included) to grow and thrive.