Everybody Wins :: Multi-Age Play

by flowers on May 26, 2009 · 11 comments

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.

E, A & Koala Navigate the Playground....and the World

E, A & Koala Navigate the Playground....and the World

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.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

PureMothers May 26, 2009 at 4:45 pm

You know, I read about multi-age play groups in Europe and thought they sounded perfect – they just made sense. Life is multi-generational and I completely agree with your post. I am in a play group with my 22 month old and all the children were born between Jan 07-July 07. In this case, all the moms are in their 20′s or 30′s – and I just turned 40. In a multi-generational group I would probably meet more moms closer to my age too. You just sparked my interest to check meetup.com to see if there are any in my town. Maybe I’ll start one! Thanks for your post!

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miranda May 26, 2009 at 5:15 pm

You were right, that is a great picture! As a mother of some of the older kids in the group, I can say that it is just as gratifying for me to see them play with the younger kids. E is all into the idea of babysitting now because of this group. She is gaining such a sense of responsibility, not to mention how great it is to be the one looked up to!
We missed you guys last week! Hope you can make it tomorrow.

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flowers May 26, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Deborah, I’m so glad this resonates with you. You won’t regret it. Not sure if you are open to homeschooling, but that’s how I found this group, hence the older kids around during the week.

Miranda, You can tell E I can’t wait until the babysitting begins!

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TheOrganicSister May 26, 2009 at 8:00 pm

So well said. I’ve seen here that the younger kids take their social cues from the older ones that they look up to and the age differences tend to help keep the peace when quabbles do occur. It just flows so much more easily. I wonder if this is the reason we’ve been having much less flow in our group – the core group lately has been boys between 7 and 9. The girls have all moved away or come less frequently or are growing up and doing other things. We’re in a state of flux with other members and even a bit stagnant with new members. Sheesh. It’a all Miranda’s fault really. ;)

~Tara

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flowers May 26, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Yes, maybe the peaceful, happy vibes are Miranda! lol!

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exhale. return to center. May 26, 2009 at 9:02 pm

we have absolutely found this to be true as well!

i’m actually planning a road trip with my kids at the end of next month and just made plans to bring a friend’s nine year-old along with us because life just flows so nicely and is so much fun when she is around!

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Simply Mother May 26, 2009 at 10:24 pm

I’m glad you’ve found a good group. I have a couple homeschooling friends here and it’s nice. Their kids are roughly the same age as mine though, but they play pretty well together. At least outside at parks. I really like the idea of having lots of different ages though.

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L.J. May 26, 2009 at 11:39 pm

I love multi-age play, it is so important and nurtures everyone.

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miranda June 11, 2009 at 3:03 pm

I know I am way late on this convo, but I had to say that if Tara would just get herself to NY, her problems would be solved. We need more 9 yo boys in the group!

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