One of the most unique things about Birdsall House is our mixed age group setting. In a home, children are not usually born in litters and the younger ones learn from the older ones. Yet for some reason the traditional early childhood setting separates children by age. When you do find a program that has mixed ages groups they separate the infants and toddlers from the older children, in fact in Missouri if you have more than 20 children in your care, you have to have a floor to ceiling wall between these groups. When I found this out I was very disappointed and decided the benefits of mixed ages was so great that we will keep all our centers at 20 children or less.
Here are the reasons I feel so strongly about letting our infants and toddlers interact with our 3,4, 5 year old’s and more.
Children learn by observing and mimicking, if children are only with children their age, they will not be inspired as much as if they are with older children.
Here we see a two year old being inspired to challenge himself by watching his 7 year old brother.
Children develop a sense of family with their fellow students and the older children get the opportunity to mentor and take a leadership role.
Children do not feel pressure to achieve a skill or reach a milestone. Everyone is at a different place in their development. The children accept each other for where they are and encourage each other when they try something new.
There is no better way to interest a child in learning than for them to see their bigger friends doing it.
Not only do the children learn from and teach each other, they also stay with the same group of teachers from infancy to when they leave for elementary school.
I can’t imagine going back to teaching in a single aged classroom, I see no benefit to it and would miss seeing magical interactions like this.