As all my families know I love having a mixed ages program. Continually I see the benefit to all age groups in the day to day interactions.
Today’s snow day meant a small group. I decided to get the kids involved in swapping out toys. The group decided the Little Tykes people sets needed to come out for usage. To make space small figurines and some block sets were taken out.
I taped the play once it started just to have as a record of daily activity.
This video is even school-age and preschool. Notice the imaginative play that develops a solid story line. Everyone who wishes to be involved can be.
The next program day the children were excited to see the sets out. This group had no school-age, but rather preschool to 2 yr. olds. A different interaction among the children as they all tried to use the toys. Story lines were independent and not as involved. Still had fun playing with.
As the week went on the more interaction with the school-age, the more modeling of story line, the more it has begun to appear in the play of the younger children.
This is the benefit of a mixed-ages program: natural modeling in play provided by the older children and the willingness to follow along and begin internalizing by the younger children. The older children are learning patience, empathy and leadership. Language is developed.
I truly believe that learning that occurs in this natural manner between children stays with them and supports the building of a strong foundation for future learning. It not the same if I’m sitting there directing the play.