Benefits of mixed-age groups in Early Childhood

The nursery practitioners at Third Door understand the importance of family and we work closely with parents to achieve an outstanding parent/carer relationship. We ensure we listen and respect individual needs and follow the routines of life at home. By providing a mixed-age group environment we promote the relationships similar to that within a family setup. The children learn to play and communicate appropriately much like brothers and sisters. In fact Third Door child care includes siblings where the parents see the mixed age group as an advantage to building on a great sibling partnership.

Many parents will wonder whether it’s best to leave their babies in a mixed age environment or not. Mixed age groups are more likened to a natural family environment with older and younger brothers and sisters.

“Babies, who are around older children, like my son is at Third Door, often learn a lot from the older ones and learn through watching how the older children play and communicate. I am from a big family and feel that this is the natural place for my son, as he’s part of a tight-knit family group who meet, play and learn with each other, every day.” Third Door member, Kath Clarke and parent of 7 month old

Research shows one of the greatest ways children learn is from each other rather than adults, so the mixed age child care we provide sets the stage for this type of learning and development. Studies have also displayed children in small multi age groups often display less competitive behaviour and greater displays of helpfulness. Having gained experience in a variety of settings over the past decade, I have found the dynamics of the relationship between the children at Third Door reflect this research. The older children understand that you need to be patient with the younger babies whether that is reflected in sharing the resources or why they cry as they become tired.

Another example is that of an 18 month old, who recently had to manage the arrival of a new sibling, the child’s mother commented how gentle and kind hearted he is towards his sister and we too observed the child kissing a younger child on the forehead as they slept. This demonstrates the compassionate and caring relationships between the different age groups that Third Door embraces and cultivates.

As experienced nursery practitioners, all of us agree we benefit from observing each child grow and develop over a longer period of time which in turn allows us to form closer, longer term relationships with them. This in turn allows us to fully understand and plan a vast variety of activities that they all can enjoy and draw on their interests to truly support their development.

“Recently we created a potion lab in the role play area; the 3 year olds loved the story telling pretending to be a good witch, ‘writing’ ingredients for potions and creating spells. The two year olds enjoyed investigating the water, pouring and mixing the different colours as the one year olds explored the textures of the custard, flour and pasta.” Vicky Heggie, Deputy Manager

Our mixed age nursery is a fulfilling and sensitive learning environment that adopts a healthy approach and style towards learning. We achieve this by respecting the learning needs of all the children that attend and thrive at Third Door.