Back when I regularly ran rituals in the Midlands (UK) I made a point of including children. If you don’t include children, you exclude their parents and the burden of that falls disproportionately on women.
It helps that Druid rituals are often public facing, community oriented and celebratory, because it’s a lot easier to include children in that, than in intense, focused magical workings. Even so, you can’t expect children to stand quietly in ritual for an hour or two – sometimes they will, but you can’t count on it and there has to be room for who and how they are.
Most of my rituals were held in woodlands, with room for our younger humans to be around but not obliged to join in. Having them free range outside the circle worked well. They did what they needed to do and were only disruptive if they were unhappy – which was usually about tiredness, temperature or hunger, which is fair enough. I think it’s really valuable to give children space where they can be themselves and do their own things while also asking them to be responsible and considerate.
It can be tempting in ritual to want to focus inwards. You face the centre of the circle, in your magical time out of time, and you step away from the world. That might make sense for some kinds of magic, but for a Druid group honouring the wheel of the year it makes little sense. Most of nature is outside of that circle, surrounding it. It’s good to let that in – all the sights and sounds of it – and absorb that into the ritual experience. Children can be part of that.
Children can be powerful forces of nature in their own right. Children can be enchanting and magical. It depends a lot on how they are growing up, whether they feel able to explore and to express themselves and whether they have learned to do that cooperatively rather than trying to run roughshod over everyone else. Children being natural are not necessarily loud or inconsiderate. I’m inclined to think that most children in history would have learned to be quiet so as not to be eaten by large mammals. Being noisy is only an option if there are no predators.
On one occasion, the children at the edge of the ritual decided they were a wolf pack, and howled accordingly. It was a surprising thing for those of us in circle, but actually lovely, and felt right.
If you give children the chance to participate in a ritual, a lot of them will. They have things to say and to share, they want to be taken seriously and they like to join in, is my experience. Let a child stand in ritual with the same dignity as an adult, and many of them will. And you can absolutely count on them appearing, as if by magic, whenever the bread, cake and ritual drinks appear.
When I’ve been able to work with children, I’ve found them fantastic at actually making circles – going round the edge with something noisy to mark out the space for example. If you want to bless people in mirth and reverence by flicking water at them, children are often far better at doing this than adults are. Give them a chance to learn and participate, and they will.
When one of the adults felt unable to call a quarter during a funeral, my then very small son said he could and would do that – and he was magnificent. Don’t under-estimate what your youngest folk in circle can do or will want to do. Give them the opportunity and they can bring a great deal.