In a typical family, as God designed it, children are born at intervals and not all at once, like a litter of kittens. I often wonder what benefits are lost in a single age classroom such as are found in the typical daycare center or school classroom. That is one of the unique benefits of family childcare. It is arranged like a typical family in its original design with children from multiple ages interacting with one another.
Giving children the opportunity to lead and follow one another is a great way to build social skills as well as patience, tolerance, and nurturing. Children can learn a lot from each other. So why not let them teach?
In planning the activities for this summer, I asked the older children to help choose subject matter that they were interested in. They wrote down activities they wanted to do and then together, we came up with an idea. Why can’t they teach? Knowing it is difficult in a child care setting to keep older children engaged, I thought it was a great idea. After they chose activities, they were able to choose some they would like to teach.
As the summer began, some children showed natural leadership abilities and were able to engage the younger children with no assistance, while others needed help getting their attention. I took on the roll of facilitator helping them decide what they needed to be successful and get started if they had trouble. As they began to learn how to interest their audience in the activities they were presenting, I noticed several things.
The younger children were very eager to have the attention and focus of the older children they look up to. They were interested in what the children were teaching. But what I didn’t anticipate was the major effect that it had on the older children.
I encourage summer reading by having a summer reading program modeled after the one at the library. I give medals at the end of summer for participation and we have plenty of positive interactions involving reading. At the beginning of summer, I asked the older kids who wanted to read to the younger kids. Crickets…..chirp chirp chirp. The first time I asked the oldest child to read books to the kids at story time. He agreed then wanted to read to them every day. As the other older children saw the interaction between him and the younger kids, they wanted to read to them. As the days passed, I saw a noticeable increase in self-esteem and confidence in their reading that I had never seen before. Now they all want to read to the younger kids, even the one who is just learning to read.
As the summer has progressed, I have seen increased confidence in the older kids as they have learned to teach the younger kids. They have come up with additional science experiments to do with the group. They have begun to offer the younger kids first turns at things, share more, and think of solutions to more problems on their own. The fighting and tattling has significantly decreased, and instead they are problem solving. No one is being bossy or pushy, they are working together to find solutions that they were not before. And I can see each of the kids in both age groups gaining confidence as the days go by.
Children can be great leaders and it’s wonderful to give them to chance to build their skills and get experience in a safe environment. These skills will help improve their relationships with their peers when school resumes in the fall as well. And for now we are having a great summer…