Tim and I, along with our colleague Russ, have been working in a school over the last few weeks – recording podcasts, and this week filming TV, with some delightful primary school pupils.
It’s been a long while since I have been able to spend this much time with children. Whilst I was a student, I used to work at a play scheme during the Easter and summer holidays. It was a job I really loved, as it put me in an entirely different headspace from my academic studies. When caring for children, you are always reacting and responding to how they are feeling: a huge contrast to the monotony of reading and reading and reading and eventually turning it all into an essay… and also very different from sitting at a desk all day.
A couple of months ago, Tim wrote a blog about the benefits of intergenerational interaction between the young and the old. However, as somebody who doesn’t have any children myself, I am rarely able nowadays to spend that much time with children directly. As a researcher for a children’s production company, my role involves working on a handful of projects for young people… but very often in an office full of adults! Nothing can replace those times with the children themselves.
For me, there are two big things that we can learn from children.
Firstly, they bring us into the present moment. How many times have you looked at a child playing and seen them completely absorbed in their current activity? Unlike us adults, who have better memories and wandering minds, children at a younger age in particular, are less distracted from the present. And I have found that being around them, has brought me far more into the moment myself.
Secondly, children teach us to play again. In her TED Talk, Dr Shimi Kang (who I mentioned last week – it’s a great TED talk!) discusses how people have lost the ability to play in an unstructured, imaginative and limitless way. Free play activates the frontal part of the brain and this stimulates the pathways for abstract thinking and problem solving. It amazes me the pure imagination that children have. They can create entire stories out of seemingly mundane objects through role-play, simply using imagination. Children teach us that we can create and enjoy, even with the simple things in life.
As adults, we often feel that we are the ones that should be teaching children. In schools the grown-up teachers educate the children. At our company, we make programmes through which we hope to teach children something (and also inspire and entertain them too!). I think it can be easy to forget how much we adults can learn from the children around us.
‘…relationships between young and old make us feel connected. They make us feel connected not only to each other, but to something bigger, to the past and to the future, to the flow of life.’
Susan V. Bosak
Children can be such a source of joy, laughter and fun. They allow us to return to the aspects of our youth that can really benefit us, even as adults. And I am so pleased that the last few weeks have given me the opportunity to discover this!