Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood Educational settings provide opportunities for several different age groups to be cared for at the same time. There are many benefits to this type of setting. Younger members observe, emulate and imitate a wide range of skills modeled by the older children. Younger children are not equally mature in all areas of development. Older children can offer leadership, tutoring experiences and may assume some of the responsibility for less mature and knowledgeable members. There are greater opportunities for children to develop friendships with others who match, compliment or supplement their own needs and styles.

Children need a sense of community that includes people of all ages, interests and skills. This support enables them to grow into healthy, socially-skilled adults. They can learn empathy, patience and they develop a healthy self-esteem while helping others.

Mixed age classes resemble families. Individuals in a mixed age group learn to care, support, grow and play together. A mixed age class helps to focus more on each child’s developmental level, rather than age.

Another benefit is the children’s language and cognitive development. Most language and cognitive development occurs when the child is stimulated with similar but not identical levels. The children who are more language proficient learn how to explain or demonstrate the skills they have mastered. They adjust their communication to their listeners. Then the listener is gaining more and new information while the speaker is learning how to best communicate to all types of listeners.

Children benefit socially and emotionally. While all children go through the same developmental stages, they don’t progress at the same rate. This class is a wonderful opportunity for those shy, older children to develop leadership skills as they play with their younger friends. Mixed age is also great for that three year old who has been playing with older siblings at home and can easily play with older kids. The younger child benefits from a more complex play. The child with low self control often improves when helping younger children follow the rules. Less mature children will model expected behavior of the older and more mature children.

Mixed age classes help develop life skills. The children will begin to look to each other, and not just the adults for guidance and assistance. For example, one child may help another in reaching a paper towel or helping put together a floor puzzle. The children are using their thinking, knowledge and confidence when helping each other in tasks. Each child becomes appreciated and accepted for his particular contributions to the class. They learn to mentor and seek out mentors within each other. Their life skills of communicating, showing empathy, helping, asking for help, and accepting limitations are strengthened.

For more information on mixed-age groups read, The Case For Mixed Age Grouping in Early Education by Katz, Evangelou, and Hartman