Friends with the Big Kids

After a busy day, I tucked Julia into bed and asked her, “What was your favorite part of the day?”

Without hesitation she replied, “Playing with Rebeca!”

Rebeca is friendly little eight year old girl who recently moved into our townhouse complex. Several weeks ago, Rebeca appeared in the townhouse playground and my four year old Julia asked her to play. She agreed and played Julia’s favorite game — ‘monster’ — and chased Julia around the playground. Julia has been fascinated by her ever since.

Rebeca and the other big kids are often out playing and Julia sometimes gets the chance to join in.

But today Julia was ecstatic to have Rebeca all to herself. There were no other kids around and 4 year old Julia was enamored with the attention of her 8 year old hero.

They played simple games — running around and getting messy in the dirt.

It reminded me of Jackson a few years ago. He was about 4 years old and his neighborhood hero was an 8 year old boy named Andrew who also lives in our townhouse complex.

Whenever Jackson came over to play, he’d ask if Andrew was around. Just like Julia, he’d sometimes play with Andrew and a pack of other neighborhood kids, but his favorite days were those when it was just him and Andrew. Andrew would share his 8 year old wisdom and Jackson would drink it in one excited gulp at a time.

What about your kids? Have you noticed your children loving the attention of an older neighborhood friend? Or is one of yours the big hero to a younger child?


  1. says

    Well, with five kids, I’ve got both ends of the spectrum working. I’m exceedingly thankful that my two oldest boys are great role models for the young ones that follow after them for play time. And they are kind and patient with them, even when I know they are antsy to move on to their peers.

    As for my “youngers,” I’m always grateful when they gravitate to kids younger than they. For two reasons: first, I think it teaches them such compassion and tolerance and patience (that their brothers HAD to learn naturally when the youngers came along). And secondly, I like the lingering of innocence and child-like-ness that playing with someone even just a year or two younger fosters in my kids. I realize it’s not that way for every dynamic but I’m grateful that it’s been that way for us most of the time.

  2. says

    Unfortunately, there aren’t tons of kids in our neighborhood…it’s something we’re hoping for in our next house. But, my middle son LOVES to be around girls a couple of years older than he is. Should I be worried? :)

    I really loved having an older friend when I was in school. She was my neighbor, about 5 years older than I was, and she was so nice to me.

  3. says

    Yep. My 7 year old son had a friendship with the older boy across the street (this started when we first moved in and our son was 3 1/2 and the other boy was 8).The got along great at first but we began to notice that the older boy was teaching him words and games that we were quite ready for him to learn. We tried to limit their time together and supervise well. Our son was VERY upset when he couldn’t play with this kid every day.

    The boy’s cousin started coming his house daily b/c they’d catch the bus together. She did not like our younger son hanging around, I guess, and the two older kids began taunting and teasing him, calling him a baby etc.

    Needless to say, we were very disappointed how at how things were working out and we ushered our son toward other friends/activities.

    Now, a couple of years later, they are friendly again. They don’t play together often, but get along well and are respectful when they do. We used the opportunity to teach valuable lessons about how to be a good friend, how to be an example to younger children and forgiveness. Not easy lessons, but important ones.

  4. says

    I suspect we just notice these relationships more because of the way we live these days. A while back all the neighbourhood children would play together in the streets after school without parental guidance so it was much more difficult to figure out all the tribal relationships. Now we get a much more intimate view.

  5. says

    We just moved so I haven’t noticed anyone in our neighbourhood yet, but the older kid’s at church have been wonderful with my youngest daughter Olivia (age 2). She adores the attention!

    My sons’ have had a couple older kids pay attention to them – specifically teenage brothers. They were AMAZING with my sons (age 5 & 7), even my son with special needs. It makes me cry to think about how patient and kind they were. So many older kids simply ignore my Autistic/ADHD son because he annoys them or pesters them or whatever (he CAN be VERY frustrating), but these two young men were wonderful. My sons both think of them as heroes.

    I think a lot of it has to do with parental influence. The parents of those young men had explained my son’s difficulties to them and also reminded them to pay attention to my YOUNGER (often left out) son. Lots of people will pay attention, albeit briefly, to my special needs son because I think they feel somehow compelled to do so. But my other son who is developmentally typical is often left out because he doesn’t demand the attention.

    I think the parental influence made all the difference. Those young men were taught to be kind to little kids like Jesus was and to treat them like you would want to be treated. I hope I will be able to pass on those same values to my kiddos.

  6. says

    My little guy just spent a whole evening chasing around older kids. Our friend was turning 30 and both sides of their family were there with TONS of kids. My son is 18 months old and ran like he was one of the big boys.

    The other kids ranged from 2-10 and they all played really well with him. They jumped on the trampoline and all piled on the birthday boy for rides. I think my little guy has no idea that he is little.

  7. says

    My 2.5-year-old son loves playing with older kids! At the playground, he usually seeks out a boy who is one or two years older than he is. If he can’t find a boy, then he’ll find a girl. One time at a water playground he even nabbed a 13-year-old girl! She was great with him and liked the attention.

  8. says

    With 6 children I have seen both sides of this. As my children have grown up they have all taken their turn being the young one in the bunch as well as the older child who teaches or tries to lead all I think that it helps them to build self esteem as well as ways to communicate. I hope your little one feels great about being the side kick or perhaps they are the leaders working on their skills

  9. says

    As a mother of 6 children I have seen both ways of this situation. I have seen each of my children be the youngest in the bunch as well as the oldest. I believe it is great for their self esteem, communication skills as well as builds leadership.

  10. says

    I have 3 kids and have seen the same thing in our neighborhood. In particular there is a boy (who is now 13) that just loves to play with my daughter who is now 5. But when she was a baby he loved to come over and hold her and play with her. He also plays with my sons who are 8 and 9. He can be really sweet as long as I’m nearby, but I have noticed that if he thinks I’m not looking he can get a little rough with the boys. I don’t think age is a “huge” issue but definitely keep an eye on the younger ones to be sure they aren’t being pushed around by the older ones.

  11. says

    Though my son does like playing with older kids some of the time, he is great with younger kids. He is very nice and patient with them and likes to entertain. He likes being the role model for them. Or maybe he just likes to play with kids that will follow all his suggestions – LOL!

  12. says

    We have neighbors across the street who have girls that are about 2 and 4 years older than Abby. My girls absolutely love playing with both of them and get excited any time they see them playing out in their yard. We’ve even had their 12-year-old babysit a few times (during the day and only when her parents are home), and the girls have a blast.

    I also get a ton of hand-me-downs – so it works out well in more ways than one! :)

  13. says

    oh yes! My kids love the older kids! but now that they are getting older it’s getting harder, they’re usually the bigger kids.

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