Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Mixing the ages!

By: SARAH O'LEARY

Tuesday 14 August 2018

With the introduction of the second free preschool year, we in Cheeky Cherubs began questioning how we could best integrate children of varying ages into the same space. We operated as a traditional preschool up to 2014, where children were cared for in separate rooms according to age, only having the opportunity to mix with siblings and children of different ages during overlapping outside times.

We reflected on how best to adapt practices we had seen on study trips across Europe which would be suitable to our context and environment. We created mixed age groups with over two year olds cared for together, supported by consistent key teachers, with opportunities to experience daily activities with each other, building meaningful and authentic relationships. We have seen many benefits since we introduced this.

Often these groups have two or three siblings who demonstrate empathy, compassion and create a sense of family for themselves and their peers. For children who don’t yet have siblings, they can see kind interactions being modelled and in turn act in similar ways with their friends. The siblings share their interests and explore their peer’s interests in innovative and fun ways. There is no longer a sense of preschoolers Vs toddlers. With mixed age groups, families no longer feel the need to fast track their children through childhood.

The children love having friends older and younger, as their experiences are extended and challenged through observing and sharing with each other. Children have varying abilities within our mixed age groups; some children present with speech and language issues, others first language is not English, or with sensory processing challenges, ASD or Downs Syndrome. It has been our experience that these children have transitioned into mixed groups well. With varying ages, abilities and expertise within each group, the children are very accepting of each other and understand that everyone is different and unique. We have observed that being in a mixed age group gives children opportunities to develop meaningful relationships with a variety of children, who all have their own interests, abilities and challenges regardless of any diagnosis’. Somewhere within the group there will be others who share a special interest or level of expertise because of their varying ages. A four-year-old non-English speaking child may find it difficult to integrate when joining a group of other four-year olds who all speak English fluently, feeling isolated as the group communicates comfortably. In a mixed age group, the norm is that everyone is developing their communication skills, therefor no one feels inferior in their ability to communicate.

While there was a lot of apprehension making this change initially, the feedback from our early years teachers and the children’s parents has been very positive. Our image of the child as capable and competent has been enhanced through this transition. There have been many days where our conviction has been challenged, but when you see two sisters support each other in risk assessing, or a boy congratulate his little brother on his drawing, your faith is restored. Parents have also shared that they have noticed positive developments in their children’s relationships and a reduction in conflicts on transitioning home. Our experience of mixed age groups has been a very positive one to date.

You might be interested in reading this previous blog post: Developing curriculum for children in mixed age groups

 

What are your views on mixed age provision? Let us know in the comments below. 


Bio:
Sarah O’Leary and Michelle Akerlind are the Directors of Cheeky Cherubs Early Years Schools. They have 3 locations in Cork. One in Bishopstown, one in Ballincollig and one in City Hall, a workplace creche for City Council staff. We have created three beautiful yet individual centres where the uniqueness of each child is celebrated and supported through providing opportunities to play, explore, share and learn with their peers, while being cared for and educated by wonderful, qualified and experienced teachers.

2 comments Comments

2 Responses

  1. Margaret Bermingham says:

    I believe mixed aged groups are more natural and reflective of family life. Unfortunately in Ireland we don’t consider grouping children in mixed ages because the sector is driven by regulation and budgetary limitations (ie it more financially viable to group 3-5 year olds by 1:8 or 1:11) instead of being driven by what is best for children. Well done for trying this out and documenting your observations. It would be great if policy makers would take this into account. In my own playschool I mixed the younger and older ECCE children and I believe it had many benefits for both age groups and the adults.

  2. I believe policy and legislation needs to be reviewed around this area .I believe mixed age groups would be more beneficial to children in the preschool. It is part of trivialities in every day life from school ,family life and into adult hood working life .

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

Síolta QAP(1) ECEC(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) Environment(2) child-centred approach(1) UD(1) Vertical grouping(1) friendships(1) Trade union(1) Performing(1) Albert Einstein(1) dublin(2) animals(2) TRAP(1) Maria Montessori(1) play(32) Childcare(2) Titles(1) PIP(1) Mathematicians(1) MECPI(1) Drawing(2) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Sport(1) Thanks(1) Learning Story(1) STEM(3) Weather(1) INTO(1) Interests(1) Irish(1) Plastic(1) mushrooms(1) eating(1) listen(1) Plants(1) respect(5) Dance(1) Queues(1) Inclusion(3) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Degree(1) Awards 2018(3) Iraq(1) Oireachtas(1) Cognitive development(1) Creative(1) Trick or treat(1) Glitter(2) Afghanistan(1) Flowers(1) Playschool(1) Primary School(2) Sweets(1) pets(1) Graduate(1) Gardening(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) RIE philosphy(1) Anxiety(2) Learning journals(1) ECCE(6) Mark Twain(1) Building Resilience(1) Family wall(1) Love(2) National Awards 2018(2) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) curriculum(5) Awards 2019(1) Pobal(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(1) Mo Scéal(1) Childhood(1) CPD(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Motor neuron disease(1) planning(1) Reggio(1) New Appointments(1) Trigonometry(1) Yoga(1) Wonder(1) Graduation(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Mantra(1) Sustainability(3) College(1) Identity and Belonging(4) Kids Own(1) conversations(1) food(1) Engagement(1) DES Inspection(1) First 5(1) documentation(3) Supernanny(1) Recycle(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) bonds(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Socioemotional development(1) Communicating(1) Elders(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Community involvement(1) Names(1) Easter(1) Maternity Leave(1) Interaction(1) dogs(1) Confidence(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(1) risk assessment(1) Employee(1) Line-ups(1) Advocacy(1) Academics(1) communication(4) Deirdre Rogers(1) Document Learning(1) Loss(1) Consent(1) Communications(1) Universal Design(2) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) St. Patrick's Day(1) Budget 2020(1) budget(1) Mayo(1) baby room(1) Thank you(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) Learning Journal(1) Mount Everest(1) ears(1) Inspections(1) Prexit(1) SPICE Framework(1) Visual Impairment(1) babies(7) Síolta(108) journey(1) Inspired Practice Award(5) Design(1) grandchild(1) Art(6) Mixed age groups(2) Staff Motivation(1) Children's Rights(3) Games(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Routines(1) learning(19) Japan(1) Thinking(1) overhear(1) School Age Childcare(1) purpose(1) Book Club(2) Grief(1) life long learning(1) Little Buddies(1) Reggio Emilia(1) National Holiday(1) Storytelling(4) Budget 2018(1) Rich Documentation(1) Budget 2019(2) Limerick(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) experience(1) San Minia(1) environments(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Child mental health(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Aistear(113) RTE Investigates(1) Blocks(1) Cork(1) dining experiences(1) Ariana Pucci(1) Feeding(1) Santa(2) InspireMe.ie(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Trade Unions(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) First 5 strategy(1) routine(2) Montessori(3) transitions(10) Masterclass(2) research(6) Body Language(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(1) Technology(3) Challenges(1) Reflective Practice(1) AIM(2) Children's Voice(1) Shapes(1) Party(1) Children(3) Facebook(1) Magda Gerber(1) Norway(2) social media(1) Impact(1) Competent(1) Creativity(4) Siolta blog(4) Horizon 2020(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Italy(1) Death(2) preschool(2) Diversity(1) Arts(1) maternity health(1) Qualifications(1) Arithmetic(1) Favouritism(1) Leargas(1) Buddies(1) Laughter(1) Giraffe(2) Penguins(1) Scéalta Blog(91) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Jenga(1) Vietnam(1) emotional environment(1) memories(1) Well-Being(9) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Study Trip(1) Early Learning and Care(1) Map(1) EM Standing(1) Sociodramatic play(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Independence(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) curiosity(3) NCCA(3) Upcycling(1) science week(2) Reggio Children Network(1) christmas(9) Care-giving routines(1) MA(1) United Nations(1) Music(3) Nutrition(1) Awards(2) Family(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Sleep(1) Laugh(1) Funding(1) Exclusion(1) Scents(1) Training(2) Snack Time(1) Wrapping paper(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Mud kitchens(1) Fee Play(1) Summer(1) ICBN(1) Sustainable(1) Culture(2) Decisions(1) Capable(1) Breathing(2) Treasure Chest(1) Bereavement(2) Brain(1) Hand Hygiene(1) Learning Stories(9) Decision Making(1) Arlene Forster(1) Wesco(1) Behaviour(3) Leprechauns(1) Self-regulation(1) Quality(4) AsIAm(1) Digital(1) Teamwork(1) Margy Whalley(1) risk(2) listening(1) Online(1) Visitors(1) role playing(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Lego(2) books(4) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Celebrate(1) Magic(1) Gratitude(1) refugees(1) Winter(1) Time(1) Book Review(1) Shoes(1) Affordability(1) The Jelly King(1) DCYA(4) educating(1) Appreciation(1) Pen green(1) Kerry(1) Sculptures(1) Mental Health(3) Infection Control(1) Traditions(2) CCTV(1) Inter-generational learning(2) General Data Protection Regulation(1) ReCreate(2) Maynooth University(1) meals(3) early years research(1) Intention(1) E.coli(1) UNCRC(1) Maths Week(1) Social Skills(1) Halloween(2) dining(1) Playdough(1) Maths(5) Early Childhood Care and Education(1) Snakes(1) blog(28) Positivity(1) Iceland(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) risky play(2) Potential(1) Inspirational(2) National Pyjama Day(1) development(8) relationships(17) Biting(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Fantasy play(1) Workforce(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Engineering(3) Participation(2) University(1) Maynooth(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) worries(1) Research Conference 2019(1) education(2) Nuturing interactions(1) reading(5) Frustrations(1) outdoors(3) IGL(1) Snacks(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) Autism(3) European Project(1) Health(2) Belonging(3) Leaders in Practice(1) Professionalisation(4) TOY Programme(1) HR(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) supportive environments(2) Research Seminar(1) Event Guide(1) Settling in(4) Human Resources(1) Sequins(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) trust(3) Leadership(1) Recycling(2) Orla Kenny(1) Inter-generational(2) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) NAEYC(1) Academic Skills(1) Infectious diseases(1) Mealtimes(1) Care routines(1) Self Help Skills(1) parents(5) GDPR(1) Confident(1) Investment(2) Seas Suas(1) linc(1) Painting(1) scéalta(29) Workplace Relations(3) Engineers Week(2) Story(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) early childhood educator(1) EECERA 2016(1) collaboration(1) emotions(2) Twitter(1) Exercise(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) science(3) Ceremony(1) Time Out(1) Imagination(3) Policy(2) Photographs(1) Stress(2) Builders(1) Change(1) Exit interview(1) Buddy Bench(1) Children's Research Network(1) Performance Management(1) Mindfulness(2) Magnavacchi(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) outdoor play(6) Digital Devices(1) toddlers(3) community(5) Whole Group(1) Obesity(1) Meet the Members(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Wilenski(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Fabric(1) play stories(1) San Miniato(4) Home Corner(1) Role play(1) Light table(1) Xbox(1) Self-Esteem(1) Smiles(1) Through the looking glass(1) Adoption(1) Running(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Patterns(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) Our Little Seed(1) Learning Story Awards(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Celebrations(4) Wendy Lee(3) educarer(1) Valentine's Day(3) Spiders(1) feisty(1) Kilkenny(1) story time(2) Certificate(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Syria(1) ERASMUS+(3) Malaguzzi(1) outdoor space(3) Meal time(1) Craft(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) stories(2) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) UN(1) CIT(1) Identity(5) Empathy(1) Window(1) Administrative Burden(1) National Awards 2019(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Rituals(1) The Lullaby Book(1) Workplace well-being(1) Exploring(1) Traffic Lights(1) Early Years(1) value(1) Children and families(1) Relaxation(1) Learning Stories Award(3) interacting(2) Nonverbal(1) Educators(1) under 3's(3) Eritrea(1) Treasure(1) Interactions(2) Support(1) Early Years Educators(2) Touch(1)

SIGN UP FOR BLOG UPDATES

SUBSCRIBE
Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine