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9 Benefits of Mixed-Age Classrooms

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There was a time when children were in the 2’s class, then graduated to the 3’s. But more and more, early learning programs are harnessing the power—and seeing the benefits—of mixed-age classrooms.

Mixed-age classrooms follow the Montessori method, a renowned early education approach where the teacher’s role is to encourage children’s natural ability to discover and create. In this way of learning, the littlest ones learn from the bigger ones and then return the favor as they grow. It’s a beautiful process that each of our Vivvi campuses employs—with a high reward yield.

“One exciting aspect of mixed-age classrooms that people may not immediately recognize is their positive impact on social and emotional development,” Ajia Hunter Mueller, Vivvi’s Curriculum and Learning Manager said. “The social dynamics in mixed-age settings foster a sense of community, empathy, and collaboration. Younger students may benefit from the guidance and mentorship of older peers, while older students often develop leadership and nurturing skills as they assist younger classmates.”

Mixed-age classrooms encourage a beautiful way of learning between the littles and the bigs in the room. From the bonds children form with each other—and with their caregivers—to the way and speed at which they learn, utilizing mixed-age classrooms reaps many rewards.

Here are 9 benefits of mixed-age classrooms:

1. Children develop a sense of family with their classmates.

The mixed-age dynamic really improves your child’s social and emotional development. Younger children begin to seek support from older children in the classroom. Older children have the opportunity to mentor younger children and take leadership roles. A sense of cooperation and caring develops as children begin to take an interest in one another’s success across age groups.

2. Children spend longer with the same teacher.

In mixed-age classrooms, our children spend years with their caregivers instead of months. They’re able to bond and form special connections with teachers.

This allows teachers to build stronger relationships with children and better support their learning. Increasing the opportunity to build secure, attached relationships supports children’s social and emotional development.

3. Reduces the number of caregiver transitions.

When your child is in a mixed-age program they will likely have fewer caregiver transitions. 

Children with stable and nurturing caregivers have the opportunity to develop secure, supportive relationships.

4. Children learn at their own pace.

In early education, we know that there’s a wide range of development that happens over a wide range of time. Rather than getting labeled according to their ability as fast or slow learners, in mixed-age classrooms young children are able to learn at their own pace with no fear of retention or failure.

5. Improved academic outcomes.

With older children proud to take the lead and younger ones striving to keep up, studies show improved academic outcomes all around. Mixed-age classrooms also encourage a well-researched phenomenon known as the “protégé effect,” which posits that teaching someone else is the best way to learn.

6. Children are viewed as individuals with unique abilities.

In a mixed-age classroom, children can learn with targeted support according to their abilities. Not every child learns in the same way; in mixed-age classrooms, the teacher can meet the child where they are at in the learning process, unlike in many same-age classrooms that separate children by birth date instead of actual ability.

7. Younger children engage in more complex play.

Mixed-age classrooms stretch younger children to play in more advanced ways than they could with their age group. Make-believe play, small-world play, and dress-up play get way more complex when older children are in the mix.

8. It’s a motivation booster for all.

Mixed-age classrooms can also be motivating for both older and younger children in the classroom. When those at the earlier stages see older children succeeding, they are inspired to try harder themselves. And when older children see younger children learning new things, they are reminded of how much they have already learned.

9. They build social-emotional skills.

Mixed-age classrooms encourage older children to become nurturers for younger children, enhancing their social-emotional skills.

Older children can mirror adult caregivers as they help younger students. Developing these leadership qualities helps establish children not only as independent, confident learners but also as caring, compassionate people who are a part of a larger community.

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