Benefits of Mixed Age Groupings

Image of a stacked tower of blocks
Image of a stacked tower of blocks

Benefits for Older (or more skilled) children

  • Leadership opportunities! Older children become natural leaders and models
  • Older children benefit from the opportunity to give help, teach, explain concepts to younger children, model sharing behaviors, and show greater sensitivity to the complexities of group dynamics
  • Older children often facilitate the efforts of others, rather than trying to outdo, thwart, or compete with less skillful children
  • Older children become models of positive social behavior and interactions
  • Older children who may still be struggling with self-regulation often improve their own behavior when encouraged to help younger children observe classroom expectations
  • Older children have naturally occurring opportunities to explain things to younger children, write things down for them, read to them, and do other activities that strengthen their own skillfulness 
  • Older children develop stronger problem-solving skills by supporting younger children to resolve conflicts and solve challenges
  • Opportunity to increase self-esteem and strengthen feelings of competence
  • Older children will develop more helping and caring behaviors and will take the initiative and coach younger children in the routines of the room

Benefits to Older (or more skillful) Children:

Benefits for Younger (or less skilled) Children

  • Younger children who have been assisted by older children will do the same when they are the “seniors”
  • Younger children learn how to provide comfort, assistance, and help those needing it, establishing lifelong patterns of nurturing and supporting others through peer modeling
  • Younger children are inspired to greater independence and self-sufficiency through peer modeling (including self-help skills like toileting)
  • Greater participation in complex play. Older children tend to initiate and set up the activity, the younger children are stimulated to follow and contribute as they can, and engage in more complex play through exposure
  • Exposure to more mature problem-solving behavior, stimulating their own development
  • Younger children develop self-help skills, including assisting older children
  • Younger children will often follow the lead of the older children, using new language, practicing new routines, trying new skills
  • Younger children benefit from a more complex language, literacy, and skill-building play

Benefits for the entire classroom:

  • Reduces temptation to treat all children alike and expect them all to develop at the same pace across domains
    • Evidence shows that when children are in the same age group and developmental status, adults are more likely to compare them and pressure them to be alike in behavior and development. 
  • Encourages adults to be more individually responsive and address individual differences between and within children; wider age difference makes it easier to acknowledge differences
  • Continuity of care
  • Allows classrooms to operate on a strengths-based focus, on what children “Can do”
  • Supports a focus on cooperation versus competition
  • Reduces competition amongst children because all children are assumed to be on individual stages of development
  • Better preparation for life:
    • Family & neighborhood structures & dynamics are almost always mixed-age
    • Successful mixed-age interactions are a critical life skill!

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