I’m so grateful to be able to watch my granddaughter Harriet develop. I’ll freely admit that as a father of four, my recollection of my own kids’ childhood is fuzzy. Partly due to the passage of time and partly because all parents are focused on protection and providing that they can be less attentive to the joys of growing up.
We live in a neighbourhood with lots of young kids. Unlike many kids their age, they play outside and it seems to be a bit of a throwback to my Wonder Years. Not only that but they are kind and caring. So when Harriet comes to visit, we often walk around to see if any are playing outside. She’s watched them play before and had small interactions but today they invited her to play with them.
They let her tell them a story, played The Three Little Pigs, tag and taught her London Bridge. I stayed well back and watched. It was a delight. Not just how Harriet loved the attention but how the kids showed patience and creativity as they played.
One of my beliefs is that children should not be confined to learning and experiencing the world exclusively with peers of the same age. Certainly, there are many advantages and reasons why this is a useful construct but diversity is another powerful idea that in itself is part of our education. Diversity is not just living with those with different cultures and backgrounds, it’s about developing a culture of care as older children mentor and support younger children. While reading buddies is likely the most common way this happens in schools, I would love to see both elementary and high schools consider more ways in which leadership and mentorship might be fostered through meaningful interactions with children who are not the same age.