Caring for Mixed Age Groups in Early Childhood Education

It can be especially difficult to plan activities and curriculum that will suit the developmental levels of all the children in your care, while still holding the attention of both infants and older children. There are also several other considerations when caring for mixed age groups, such as safety, meal planning, nap times and play times. How can educators be most effective in these types of classroom settings?

Focus on the Advantages

While the challenges that come with caring for mixed age groups may seem hard to overcome, it is important to focus on the unique advantages that these types of classrooms offer. For example:

Social Emotional Learning and Development

A mixed age classroom allows children to interact and learn how to get along with peers of varying ages. This is a great opportunity for developing social skills and building confidence.

Family Connections

Siblings are able to remain in the same classroom together while still interacting with a diverse range of children.

Individual Support Plan Opportunities

Mixed-age classes allow educators to focus on the individual needs and skill levels of each child, rather than the overall skill levels of a same-age classroom as a whole.

Empathy building

Older children in mixed age groups will learn compassion, patience and problem-solving skills as they interact and assist younger children.

Challenge younger students

Younger children will find themselves challenged by the older students, even participating in more complex activities with their older peers.

Other Considerations

If you find yourself in charge of a classroom with a wide age range, keep the following in mind to deliver a program that is suited to all children in your care:

Open Ended Toys

Choose toys and materials that are open-ended. When you choose items that can be used in varying ways (i.e. blocks, craft supplies, foam shapes, balls), children of different abilities can use these items in a developmentally-appropriate way.

Safety Considerations

Be aware of safety at all times. Play areas must be designed with the safety of the youngest children in mind, ensuring toys and equipment do not pose hazards.

Empower Older Children

Enlist older children as “helpers” to keep your classroom organized. Giving older students a particular task to perform on a regular basis can help teach responsibility.

Small Group Activities

Break children into smaller, similar-aged groups often. Plan different small group activities for the older and younger groups frequently to avoid older children becoming bored.

Consider Flexible Lesson Plans

Be flexible! Ensuring you meet the needs of a mixed aged class means you need to be able to deviate from the plan if necessary. If your younger children need more quiet time, or your older children need more stimulation on a certain day, be willing to make adjustments.

Organize With Technology

Looking for a simpler way to keep your mixed age group classroom organized? Discover how HiMama can help you become a superstar center! Our easy-to-use documentation, administrative reporting and communication features empower you and your staff, freeing up your time and making activity planning easier. For more information on the HiMama child care app, get in touch with us today!

Ron Spreeuwenberg

Ron is the Co-Founder & CEO of HiMama, where he leads all aspects of a social purpose business that helps early childhood educators improve learning outcomes for children.