Mixed age groups?

At a founding Curiosity Approach settings we offer an open plan and mixed age group nursery - 36 children from 0-4 years.

It’s amazing to watch as older children support and engage with babies.

As babies watch and observe their more capable peers. Together they play, engage and learn.

Maria Montessori believed in mixed age groups she felt that through:

“Observation: Younger children learn by watching older children as well as adults. In a mixed-age classroom, older children who are completing challenging lessons are an example to the younger children; they show what is possible.”

We appreciate it is not feasible for all settings to offer mixed ages, however we celebrate the mixed age groups of childminders who offer a family type set up with a variety of ages playing and learning together.

Let’s consider. ... We ourselves as adults understand what it’s like to start a new job, to move to a new place, with new faces & a new environment to get used to.

It’s unsettling, nerve wracking and it’s hard!

Let’s consider the impact of moving children from room to room, changing key persons every year can add unnecessary upset and challenges for young children, especially in these Early Years where they are developing self regulation skills?

It can be unsettling to transition to another room, new faces and a new environment to negotiate and settle back into.

Could we, as Early Years nurseries, do more to provide family style set ups?

Or perhaps? The adults move with the child?

Children who stay with specific Key Persons from the beginning to the end of their time at nursery? (as in Waldorf Education).

Imagine 🤍

Challenging but not impossible?

A change of mindset!

Working in a mixed age environment is a wondrous experience for all children and staff. Opportunities for sustained shared thinking, empathy and relationships.

A cohesive family unit. Let’s face it children have endured so much recently with Covid, isolations and 2 years of restrictions, how amazing would it be to offer a family unit inside your setting?

At The Curiosity Approach we talk about being “an extension of home instead of a watered down version of school”.

What better way than allowing mixed age children to stay and/ or play together?

Something to consider?

Something to reflect on?

We all have different Early Years settings and it’s impossible to do everything, but we CAN do something.

Look to our childminding colleagues or home educators to inspire us 🎉 They work SOLO and manage mixed age groups.

Therefore isn’t it feasible and possible for nurseries to do the same?

Who has ever visited or worked at a setting whereby there is a barrier, mini wall between the age groups? What do the children do? Spend the majority of their time trying to hang over the divide, looking, watching, engaging with the children on either side!

Then what do we do as adults? Constantly tell children to come away, get off the fence, divide. Leave those children alone. Are we not attempting to ‘break the thread of social life’ as Montessori explains it?

Let’s look at the images below. A Curiosity Approach setting with mixed age groups. How amazing is this:

The benefits:

▫️Often, a child will like to spend time with younger children as they will allow them to be unsophisticated longer than his or her peers will.’ (Katz et al, 1990)

In an age-mixed environment, older play companions erect scaffolds that draw toddlers into collaborative social play.’ (Konner 1976)

▫️ ‘In a group of children of mixed ages, they have different expectations of each other. The younger children may look to the older ones for some contributions, whereas the older children look upon the younger ones as needing their contributions. It is recognised that there is more turn-taking, social responsibility and sensitivity in mixed-age group children.’ (Chase and Doan, 1994)

* Perhaps mixed age groups are NOT for you and that’s OK.

Then consider HOW to make transitions seamless and easier for children!

Remember we can’t do ‘everything’ but we CAN do something.

Further reading from Nursery world