A Perfect Match

Posted February 18, 2016

by Amy Lemieux
The Little Boy and the Old Man   by Shel Silverstein
Said the little boy, “Sometimes I drop my spoon.”
Said the old man, “I do that too.”
The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.”
“I do that too,” laughed the little old man.
Said the little boy, “I often cry.”
The old man nodded, “So do I.”
“But worst of all,” said the boy, “it seems
Grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.”
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
“I know what you mean,” said the little old man.


I often use this poem to help people understand the ideal pairing between two age groups that, while far apart chronologically, have much in common. Retrogenesis is the theory that with dementia, the brain deteriorates in the reverse order of which it developed. Once seniors reach the middle stage of retrogenesis they need more supervision and become cognitively and functionally similar to preschoolers. Characteristics of both groups include; concrete, not abstract thinking, taking in information through the senses, short attention spans and being easily distracted, enjoying repetition and familiarity, are ego-centric and concerned with their own wants and needs.

When people learn we are a preschool inside of a senior building, they have one of two reactions; What a great idea! Or Why would you have little children with old people? While Silverstein’s poem tugs at the heartstrings and illustrates a deep psychological connection, it is equally important to articulate the research that supports this wonderful match. The research to support the benefits of intergenerational programming is strong and consistent. Long-term studies show lasting benefits to young and old who spend time together.
What does an intergenerational program DO for seniors?
It decreases boredom, loneliness, and helplessness, all things positively correlated with depression, heart problems, and a weakened immune system. In some facilities with intergenerational programming medication levels decrease.
What does an intergenerational program DO for children? It increases empathy, vocabulary and reading scores, and improves the quality of social interactions. It decreases misbehavior. These effects are long-term.
Under what conditions do children, families and communities flourish?
Renowned psychologist and author, Mary Pipher, writes, “Many communities are realizing the value of projects that connect the young and old. Older people are often wiser and less stressed than the rest of us and they have more time and patience.” Seniors are not checking their watches, laptops or phones constantly. Young children need the wisdom and patience of the older generation and older people need the innocence and vitality that only a young child can offer.
“You can have a nursing home that strives for the absence of pain, but that isn’t enough. There needs to be the presence of joy.” – John Greiner from Grace Living Center.

Boy Noise

Posted February 4, 2016

by Sarah Kern

Josh Luna


Enter any early childhood classroom and you are sure to find a group, mostly boys, engaged in superhero play. Even if it is not specifically superhero play, the theme of good versus evil permeates almost every type of preschool dramatic play. Superhero play, however, is typically the LOUDEST expression of this theme.
The topic of superhero play can be a hot button issue for adults. Common complaints against superhero play include themes of violence, weapon play, an aggressive appearance, and noise. Because these are accurate descriptions of superhero play, it makes many teachers uncomfortable to the point of banning it altogether. Even some of my own early childhood Master’s program colleagues don’t allow superhero play in their programs. While arguments could be made for the need for teachers to feel comfortable with their students’ activities, the job of the teacher is not to love every play scenario. It is the job of the teacher to understand play and to honor it, comfortably or not.
For young children, the role of the superhero is appealing because it allows them to feel powerful in an adult-controlled world. When portraying a superhero a child is invincible and in control, but as a “regular” four-year-old, a child may cry because she wasn’t able to select her shirt for the day. Superheroes are the helpers, while young children are almost always the helped.
Many opponents of superhero play focus on the perceived violence and aggression, but rarely does pretend violence or aggression escalate into the real thing. If a child does hurt another child, peers are quick to intervene. Recently a student touched another student while pretending to fight. The child who was touched said, “No, that’s not how you do it. Sarah, let’s show him how to pretend fight without touching.” After a quick demo, the superheroes were off on their own again, happily fighting bad guys.
We have to ask ourselves what messages we send to our students when we prohibit the themes they are most interested in. Children need a safe place to explore ideas and themes that interest them and even frighten them. A classroom that prohibits superhero play may appear more peaceful and easier to manage, but how do the children feel? By taking the time and effort to understand their play, we respect young children whenever we honor their interests. They need safe spaces to explore these “big themes” they’re grappling with – good and evil, power and control, rehearsing for adult roles. It’s what fighting bad guys is all about.