Outdoor Multi-Age Play

Thanks to a recent pupil-free day, my children had the opportunity to have a play date in our backyard with a group of kids of varying ages (from 2 – 12).  I encouraged them to make cubby houses, and gave them them access to the following materials:

  • one sheet
  • string
  • scissors
  • anything already in the backyard (rocks, sticks, bamboo, etc)

It was amazing to watch the kids interact.  The boys and girls naturally split into two “teams” and worked to make two separate cubbies.

The Girls

This cubby was built mainly by a 4 year old and 12 year old who worked together, sharing ideas and workload.  They identified “areas” in their cubby such as the storage area, entrance way, living area and even a toilet area!  They decorated their cubby with strips of palm leaves lashed to fabric which hung down over the entrance.  There was even a doorbell!  All over the cubby were labels either written on pieces of cardboard or directly onto rocks.  I especially loved the rocks at the front door (pictured above) welcoming visitors to the Girls’ Cubby House – with one rock scrawled in the emergent writing of a 4yr old and the other by a 12yr old’s hand.  Precious.

The Boys

The boys were brilliant at sourcing materials from their environment.  It was their idea to cut down some bamboo to use, so I showed them how to work the large secateurs safely and then let them chop down what they needed.  It was fantastic to see their careful and intelligent use of the tools.  They stripped the leaves from the bamboo, leaving sturdy sticks which they then used for structures in and around their cubby.  They lashed together a fence to identify the boundaries of their space, and built an impressive teepee shaped entrance way.  The entrance was marked by a bamboo arrow on the ground, and a circle of rocks sourced from the creek bed.

*  *  *  *  *

I was both challenged and encouraged by the differences between the girls’ and boys’ cubby houses.  Sometimes in my desire to give equal opportunities to both boys and girls, I neglect to celebrate the unique differences between them.  Watching these kids served as an excellent reminder.  But best of all, I just loved that for TWO WHOLE HOURS, seven children between the ages of 2 and 12 worked cooperatively, creatively, intelligently, safely, and with minimal adult interference – without a “toy” in sight.

Do your kids have the opportunity to play with children of varying ages?  And have you noticed differences in the ways boys and girls play outdoors?

9 thoughts on “Outdoor Multi-Age Play

  1. Where I live, all the local kids tend to go around together in the bakckyard, surrounding bush and school playground for hours, boys and girls (aged 3-9), making cubbies, finding insects, making insect playgrounds, making games etc. The younger ones following the older ones.
    I have noticed with my children growing up the differences in the way my son and daughter played with the same toys. EG play stroller – daughter lovingly placed soft toys in it, tucked them up etc whereas son didn’t care what was in it, just raced it from one side of the room to the other; dollshouse – daughter arranged furniture and people, son drove cars all over it!

  2. What great cubbies and interesting differences.

    My 4yo plays with children her own age at organized activities (Kinder, swimming, dancing) but outside of this most of her friends tend to be older (6-12), simply because our friends, family and neighbours have older children. She particularly adores one older girl who she helps celebrate her birthday each year with a trip out for high tea. The older girl is so patient and attentive to her, it is wonderful to see :)

  3. I just love this post. I just love play that is outside, when I can just enjoy watching the interaction and play with my children and the natural world around them. It’s more entertaining to me than any show I can think of. My kids get a fair amount of interaction with children of many different ages, and of course a large amount of interaction with each other.
    .-= Jane´s last blog ..Jane Eyre =-.

  4. This is great, my childhood memories are full of making cubbies in the vacant block behind our house with neighbours children of varying ages. so much important learning happened here.

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