Mixed Ages vs. Separate Age Groupings in Preschool

Archived Q&A and Reviews

What are the pros & cons of mixed age preschools?

March 2003

Hi, we are looking into daycare/preschool for next year for my then-to-be 2 y.o. I am looking at schools that have isolated age groups (2 yo rooms, 3 YO rooms, etc) and others that have mixed age class room 2 - 5 yo. Is there a source for thoughtful discussion on the pros and cons of each type of learning? Is there a better age to move to a mixed age room? The 4 year-olds seem so much more advanced then my little fellow that I can't imagine the interaction! Any thoughts, resources, experiences, literature on this would be much appreciated. Thanks! Shahana

Not quite the same ages as you mention, but: My son is in a family daycare; he started there when he was 15 months old, and has been with two two year old boys and a three year old girl. As you say, the three-year-old was definitely much more advanced than my son. At least in my case, it worked beautifully -- my son really looks up to the two-year-olds and, I believe, has learned new skills by watching them and trying to emulate them. And the three-year-old girl has been very nurturing and ''motherly'' to him -- I often saw her giving him hugs, bringing him toys, and so on. So it definitely can be positive. Karen

My son was in a mixed age preschool from the age of 14 months and it was a wonderful experience. At his preschool, Via Nova, the curriculum had several times during the day when the different ages overlapped, as well as times when the ''Lion Cubs'' were separated from the ''Tigers'' and the ''Bears''. With strict supervision by the staff and some truly wonderful kids, my son had opportunitiy to mingle with the big kids. When he became a ''big kid'' himself, he often played with the little ones. It gave him a sense of pride to help the younger kids learn new things, and he liked feeling like an expert.

My son is now 8 and he continues to thrive in a mixed age after school program. I think that the staff and the school's philosophy play a big part in mixed age success. Good luck. Bennett

When my son was two and a half, he attended a Montessori day care that was of mixed ages. The theory was that the older children act as mentors to the younger ones. In my son's case, though, there was a top heavy tier of older kids about the age of four or so who hung out together and didn't really mingle with the fewer amount of younger kids. My son had a much smaller pool of like aged kids to relate to developmentally. While he ended up forming a strong relationship to one other child, the mentor intention just didn't work in his case.

My second son attended the same school but there was more kids his age group this time around. So he had an easier time fitting in.

My little daughter is in a school with all like aged kids and it's just wonderful to have so many peers around. Perhaps this situation works for our family since little sister already is exposed to older kids via her brothers that it's nice to be around other kids her own age.

It also depends on the dynamics of the certain kids in a school be it like aged or mixed ages. Mom of three