When it comes to our child’s comfort, we are all worried about how they will adjust to a new situation or meeting new kids. We ask ourselves questions like how much will the other kids influence our child? Will my kid be too shy or too obnoxious when trying to get to know other students? Or the dreaded, what awful habits or bad words will my child learn from his or her classmates? It turns out, these are all completely normal worries. And while some of the unwanted is inevitable, there is a large part of kids interacting together that is excellent for their learning and understanding of the world.
Parents often come to me with concerns about their child being in a program or class with other kids that are younger or older than them. They are worried the older kids will be too mature or the younger kids will slow down their child. While in some situations, too large of an age gap can result in issues, in a classroom setting with the right classroom management, it can be used to the students’ advantages.
Reinforcing What’s Learned By Teaching Others
In our after-school programs, our instructors deal with students ranging from Kindergarten to 5th grade. If that isn’t quite the age gap, I don’t know what is! While it may seem concerning, our instructors use an age-old teaching trick that actually ensures better learning for both the older and younger kids. By asking the older or more advanced students to help the younger or slower students, the older kids are actually learning more themselves. It reinforces in their minds what the instructor just said if they have to turn around and explain it to someone else.
Kids Can Explain Things In a Kid-Friendly Way
Sometimes, if the instructor is having trouble explaining a direction or concept to a certain student, the other students often have better insight into how to say it on the struggling child’s level. Kids know each other’s languages. They are familiar with concepts in a way that only kids think. While we may know more or have more educational experience, sometimes all it takes is to teach a child in a way that is comfortable or familiar to them. Other kids are the best resource for further explaining concepts that our adult minds can’t break down.
Everyone Gets a Confidence Boost
It’s common for some students to be afraid to ask for help from authority figures. Often kids may turn to their peers to ask for help if they are embarrassed to raise their hand or nervous to speak with the instructor. When one of our instructors allows another student to help someone who is shy, it allows for that child to learn the concept in a comfortable way. Also, when an older or more advanced student is asked to help others, they gain a sense of responsibility and feeling important, leaving them feeling confident, too. Each year, we see many students rise to the occasion and help others, and each year we see the positive effects on students’ confidence no matter the age.
The More Diverse, the More Learning
With a wide variety of ages and understanding, kids’ minds are open to new concepts that they might not be getting otherwise in a same-age classroom setting. Younger kids look up to older kids, which encourages their curiosity and willingness to learn if the older kids are interested in a subject. And it’s not just the younger children that learn more with a wide variety of ages. Older students may see concepts in a new light when a younger child is trying to learn it. In our after-school programs, our instructors do this by encouraging kids to think about concepts they know in a different way. Rather than just looking at something the way they have already learned it, older kids get the chance to see already-learned concepts from a new perspective.
Whether mixed ages in a Classroom Antics program, a group of friends, or amongst siblings, kids are often much less worried about kids that are different than them than they think! They may not even realize there could be an “issue” with age differences unless you bring it up. Let your child explore meeting different-aged kids and see how they interact. You may just find that your child learns more!