The benefits of Multi-Age learning ...

Think back to when you were a child. Where did you play? Who did you play with? Did you have siblings? Who did you look up to? What were your favourite games and who taught them to you? You probably didn’t realise it at the time, but if you answered yes to any of these questions, your life and your childhood development was enriched and enhanced for the better by the presence of children of different age levels and abilities.

One of the most attractive aspects of multi-age learning is that everyone benefits from the experience. Older children learn to be leaders, teachers and careers of the younger children. Similarly, quiet or reserved children can also find younger children with which they can show confidence and self-assurance. We learn and remember much faster when we teach another person something we have learnt.

Equally, younger children also benefit from their older role models. Children mimic each other and learn most effectively through play. Theorists as Montessori & Vygotsky that within mixed age settings language development is significantly enhanced through the interaction with older children. We challenge you to think about this; even though we try hard to give as much ‘one on one’ attention to a child as possible, when we also attend to the daily rhythms of nutrition and hygiene of children in our care, how can we possibly compete with the enthusiasm and attentive care a young three year old will show to a one year old?

Some parents, especially those of very young children, are concerned about safety issues associated with children of multi-age learning and in some cases such as in art and crafts where older children use scissors, or handle small objects that could be choking hazards to younger children; this concern is valid and in all such circumstances children should be separated for these activities. Statistically however, the majority of incidents are actually lower between mixed age groups than same age groups. This concern can nevertheless be addressed by careful management of the environment and careful supervision of certain activities. Younger children should be allowed spaces to crawl or walk free from high traffic areas of older children. Running across such areas should be restricted and discouraged not only by good supervision but by the set-up of care environment. Other areas for potential mishap include swings, slides, tumbling, climbing and other gross motor activities which can also be closely supervised, as they equally would be in ‘aged-grouped’ settings, to ensure that larger children do not hurt younger children.

Finally another important benefit of multi aged learning is that it facilitates the ability of siblings to spend time with one another and to support each other’s development within our service. New children settle quickly with the support of siblings, whether they be older or younger. Children can also carry on their play and development experiences such as new songs, stories or games learned within the service into their homes.

 

In summary, we hope to achieve the following with our multi – aged environments:

  • Empowerment of our team by providing support, professional development, leadership opportunities, and shared decision making.

  • Teams to collaborate and communicate frequently, and there is an increase in skill development among educators.

  • Provision of adequate materials, resources, and space exist to create and support a multi-age environment.

  • Commitment to allow consistency to children with the educators who manage their development and programs.

  • Use a variety of instructional techniques and implement developmentally appropriate practices in the multi-age rooms.

  • Children of multi-age and abilities are actively involved in learning and progress at their own pace.

  • Cooperative learning is evident, and children’s work independently as well as in group settings.

  • Older children to have the opportunity to demonstrate helpfulness, leadership, patience and tolerance. They model social and academic behaviours for younger children.

  • Educators, children and parents develop a meaningful relationship by sharing common experiences over a extended period of time.

  • Parents become involved in all aspects of the multi-aged program.

  • Authentic assessment techniques and qualitative reporting methods are used to assess children’s development, plan future instruction and communicate with parents.