As with every aspect of our program, the reason we continue to encourage families to stay in our mixed-age classes when children enter preschool, although many programs do not offer this approach, is because of research. Early childhood experts worldwide point to the benefits of children attending classes with babies, toddlers, older kids, grandpa's, etc.
In "The benefits of Mixed Age Grouping" (1985), Dr. Lillian Katz writes that "Although humans are not usually born in litters, we can seem to insist that they may be educated in them." In a mixed age class, older children develop leadership skills that they cannot develop if they are in a class of their peers. They are valued as individuals, are more likely to cooperate then compete, they learn from the adults around them; they learn to help and to be helped by other children, thereby developing an important trait....Compassion!
Mixed Age classes offer the following benefits:
1. Valuing Individuality: With no pressure to perform according to age or stage, children are able to learn at their own pace and are also more likely to cooperate than compete.
2. Learning from each other: The mixed age environment creates an atmosphere where children learn to help and to be helped by other children, because they interact consistently with children whose ages and abilities are varied.
3. Creating Family Style Community: Mixed age groups most closely resemble our own families. Just like families, mixed age classrooms are special groups of people who support and take care of each other.
4. Supporting Social/Emotional Development: Mixed age classes offer opportunities for shy, older children to develop leadership skills as they relate to younger classmates and give the younger child the opportunity to participate in play that is more complex.