Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Mixing the Ages: Part 2


Tuesday 28 August 2018

In the last Scéalta post, Mixing the ages, Sarah O’Leary described how in her setting, Cheeky Cherubs in Cork, children of mixed ages play and learn together very effectively.

I have long been an advocate of children being in mixed age groupings. My initial training was as a Montessori teacher and the Montessori approach views three year age groupings as very beneficial. Maria Montessori believed that younger children learn from an older, more experienced peer and that the older peer learns caring, nurturing and patience from interacting with younger children.

In June I travelled to San Miniato in Italy, on an Early Childhood Ireland Erasmus Plus Leargas study trip. Susan Quirke Crowley spoke about her impression of the San Miniato approach in her blog "San Miniato: Quality Early Years Eucation - A Tuscan Approach".  I too was very taken with the approach to the care and education of children under three in the settings we visited. We were in 2 settings that have children under one right up to three years of age. In one, there were three rooms. In each room there were 15 children. Within that 15 children, at the start of the year, there are 5 children under one, 5 under two and 5 under three. It was fascinating and lovely to see these children playing, interacting, caring for and learning from each other.

The other setting had a more open space. A group of children, again all aged from under one to just over 3 wandered from area to area, played, sometimes alone, sometimes with others, sat, observed and learned in such a natural, organic way. Conflicts were few, I think because there wasn’t a big group of children all the same age and similar stage, trying to play together in the same way and not being able to self-regulate, especially at that age. Meal time was a delight: the children all came in from outside, washed hands and sat at the table. The table was set with real delph and glassware, children helped themselves to the food, some children needed more help than others and sometimes other children helped the younger ones. The meal was relaxed, conversation flowed and everyone clearly delighted in each other’s company. It was idyllic….and everyday practice.

Jim Greenman and Anne Stonehouse, in their book Prime Times (page52), outline the benefits of mixed age groupings. These include:

  • Greater continuity and fewer transitions from group to group
  • Older children have the opportunity to be the most competent and learn helping and sharing skills
  • Siblings can be together
  • Young children learn new skills from older children
  • Routines may be easier to manage and individualise because of the range of needs
  • Staff and children avoid the tension that can come from a group consisting of all toddlers

Many settings have always had mixed age groupings. In some ‘under three provision’ for example, there have not been enough children (or rooms) to have 3 rooms for children under three years. In these settings, there is a group aged from 8 to 18 months and from 18 months to three years. Sometimes, people are afraid that younger children won’t be able to cope or that older children will be held back. This is not the experience of most settings that have mixed age groups. 

We would love you to share your experiences!



Máire Corbett is an Early Childhood Specialist at Early Childhood Ireland. She trained in Montessori teaching and has completed an MA in Integrated Provision for Children and Families with the University of Leicester, at Pen Green.

Visiting member settings inspires me as I see the passion and energy educators put into providing great experiences for the children in their settings. I love seeing competent children at play! 

0 comments Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

CPD(1) Thinking(1) Belonging(3) Technology(2) Montessori(3) early childhood educator(1) Facebook(1) Vietnam(1) Mount Everest(1) Japan(1) UNCRC(1) Learning journals(1) Educators(1) Sustainable(1) Trigonometry(1) Challenges(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) ears(1) Routines(1) purpose(1) documentation(2) Family wall(1) St. Patrick's Day(1) IGL(1) Thanks(1) Mental Health(3) Time Out(1) story time(1) Grief(1) Window(1) Treasure Chest(1) outdoor space(3) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Reggio Children Network(1) AIM(2) Child mental health(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Leargas(1) Interactions(2) Wesco(1) listen(1) Design(1) experience(1) Self-regulation(1) Interests(1) Norway(2) Imagination(3) ReCreate(2) Wilenski(1) curriculum(5) Pen green(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Inspired Practice Award(5) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Horizon 2020(1) Santa(2) Empathy(1) maternity health(1) Arithmetic(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Love(2) science(3) Sport(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) Traditions(2) Seas Suas(1) meals(3) Albert Einstein(1) Affordability(1) Study Trip(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Rituals(1) Community involvement(1) Anxiety(2) Deirdre Rogers(1) Giraffe(2) Little Buddies(1) Primary School(2) Early Years Educators(2) Health(2) Administrative Burden(1) Playdough(1) Mathematicians(1) Valentine's Day(3) Titles(1) Mark Twain(1) Relaxation(1) collaboration(1) feisty(1) National Awards 2019(1) Teamwork(1) Early Years(1) Funding(1) Masterclass(2) Reggio Emilia(1) overhear(1) Degree(1) Limerick(1) Decision Making(1) emotional environment(1) UN(1) Death(2) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Maynooth(1) Book Club(2) RTE Investigates(1) Building Resilience(1) Impact(1) relationships(17) Hand Hygiene(1) University(1) dogs(1) Penguins(1) First 5 strategy(1) Wendy Lee(2) Role play(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Glitter(2) Laugh(1) Support(1) Autism(3) Cork(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Iraq(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Margy Whalley(1) Drawing(2) Leprechauns(1) Lego(2) mushrooms(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Participation(2) EM Standing(1) Care routines(1) MECPI(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Through the looking glass(1) Weather(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Awards 2018(3) Investment(2) NAEYC(1) Research Conference 2019(1) Fantasy play(1) Storytelling(3) trust(3) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Children's Rights(3) Growing up Outdoors(1) Kilkenny(1) babies(7) Valerie Gaynor(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Communicating(1) Photographs(1) SPICE Framework(1) Feeding(1) Recycling(2) Síolta QAP(1) Sweets(1) Wonder(1) Craft(1) Stress(2) Inter-generational learning(2) Learning Stories(8) MA(1) Arts(1) Self Help Skills(1) New Appointments(1) Human Resources(1) Sociodramatic play(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(1) risky play(2) Mixed age groups(2) transitions(10) Quality(4) Sleep(1) Change(1) DCYA(4) Arlene Forster(1) AsIAm(1) Workplace Relations(3) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Flowers(1) Behaviour(3) Budget 2020(1) development(8) child-centred approach(1) life long learning(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Brain(1) Children and families(1) Appreciation(1) Independence(1) Leadership(1) Professionalisation(4) Exercise(1) planning(1) Intention(1) UD(1) Visitors(1) Adoption(1) Malaguzzi(1) Identity and Belonging(4) Nutrition(1) Home Corner(1) Identity(5) Childhood(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Patterns(1) Shapes(1) Our Little Seed(1) CIT(1) Map(1) listening(1) Reggio(1) Mantra(1) Games(1) NCCA(3) dining(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Vertical grouping(1) PIP(1) Síolta(105) social media(1) Qualifications(1) Summer(1) Jenga(1) National Holiday(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) Maria Montessori(1) Celebrations(4) Performance Management(1) Childcare(2) preschool(2) Interaction(1) Ariana Pucci(1) stories(2) grandchild(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) TRAP(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Family(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) ICBN(1) Iceland(1) TOY Programme(1) Meet the Members(1) Engineering(2) Well-Being(9) Sustainability(3) Pobal(1) Body Language(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Fabric(1) Environment(2) Plastic(1) Graduation(1) Twitter(1) GDPR(1) Research Seminar(1) Supernanny(1) The Jelly King(1) Light table(1) routine(2) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Mindfulness(2) educarer(1) San Minia(1) Care-giving routines(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) Whole Group(1) Mo Scéal(1) Loss(1) Socioemotional development(1) E.coli(1) Music(3) School Age Childcare(1) Gardening(1) Plants(1) Trade Unions(1) risk assessment(1) Spiders(1) play stories(1) EECERA 2016(1) Online(1) Buddy Bench(1) Reflective Practice(1) Snakes(1) Communications(1) Staff Motivation(1) Touch(1) Party(1) Settling in(4) Potential(1) Irish(1) Inspirational(2) books(4) Laughter(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Christmas Creativity(2) Academic Skills(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Maths Week(1) Employee(1) Halloween(2) Mayo(1) educating(1) Time(1) Consent(1) risk(2) Recycle(1) Exit interview(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Obesity(1) Blocks(1) Breathing(2) National Pyjama Day(1) research(6) friendships(1) Magda Gerber(1) Exploring(1) Policy(2) First 5(1) Culture(2) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(1) National Awards 2018(2) Advocacy(1) Winter(1) Biting(1) Infection Control(1) education(2) respect(5) Learning Story(1) HR(1) College(1) value(1) Siolta blog(2) RIE philosphy(1) Art(6) Names(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) outdoor play(6) Snacks(1) play(32) Prexit(1) Gratitude(1) Engineers Week(2) Traffic Lights(1) Infectious diseases(1) Orla Kenny(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Competent(1) Ceremony(1) Italy(1) memories(1) Event Guide(1) reading(5) Academics(1) CCTV(1) ECEC(1) toddlers(3) Shoes(1) interacting(2) Children(1) Playschool(1) Snack Time(1) STEM(2) Decisions(1) Nonverbal(1) Kerry(1) Celebrate(1) Scents(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Book Review(1) Afghanistan(1) Scéalta Blog(90) Easter(1) baby room(1) Capable(1) ECCE(6) Favouritism(1) Sequins(1) conversations(1) Learning Story Awards(1) role playing(1) early years research(1) Elders(1) Diversity(1) Buddies(1) Frustrations(1) San Miniato(4) Confident(1) animals(2) eating(1) Universal Design(2) dublin(2) Early Learning and Care(1) Budget 2019(2) Xbox(1) Engagement(1) Children's Research Network(1) Graduate(1) Fee Play(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) outdoors(3) scéalta(29) environments(1) Smiles(1) journey(1) Maths(4) Bereavement(2) Wrapping paper(1) Oireachtas(1) curiosity(3) Maths Week Ireland(1) Trick or treat(1) Motor neuron disease(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Magnavacchi(1) Builders(1) Budget 2018(1) Self-Esteem(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) science week(2) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) European Project(1) Inclusion(3) Maynooth University(1) parents(5) Story(1) Awards 2019(1) Yoga(1) Mud kitchens(1) Workplace well-being(1) Confidence(1) Line-ups(1) Mealtimes(1) Awards(2) Eritrea(1) Aistear(110) christmas(8) United Nations(1) Nuturing interactions(1) Exclusion(1) Creative(1) Upcycling(1) Magic(1) Syria(1) learning(18) under 3's(3) Sculptures(1) Positivity(1) pets(1) bonds(1) Trade union(1) Social Skills(1) Training(2) Performing(1) Workforce(1) worries(1) community(5) supportive environments(2) Cognitive development(1) communication(4) ERASMUS+(3) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(1) budget(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Treasure(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) linc(1) Meal time(1) Leaders in Practice(1) emotions(2) Thank you(1) Kids Own(1) Certificate(1) Queues(1) INTO(1) The Lullaby Book(1) Inter-generational(2) Running(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) food(1) Visual Impairment(1) Maternity Leave(1) Creativity(4) blog(28) refugees(1) Children's Voice(1) Painting(1) dining experiences(1) Dance(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine