The Benefits of Mixed-Age Play

Traditionally, infant and toddler centers structure their classes with age-like children. This means that children who are at similar stages or ages are grouped together. However, mixed-age grouping is becoming increasingly more popular among early childhood center-based educational settings. Also known as multiple-age or multi-aging groups, mixed-age grouping means putting children who may be more than two years apart in age in the same group or class.

Centers that offer mixed-age groupings provide an environment where children and caregivers are kept together in a familiar and consistent group over a longer period of time. This is known as continuity of care (COC). According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, COC has become a highly recommended practice for infants and toddlers. This consistency is based on the logic that young children thrive with familiarity. So, without the rapid changing of caregivers depending on the child’s age, children can become that much more comfortable with their caregiver.

Centers that use this model of mixed-age groupings help to really strengthen the relationships between child and caregiver as well as caregiver and family. The consistent exposure of children to a particular caregiver provides room for secure attachment, and in turn, a positive environment for healthy growth.

Mixed-age groupings can have significant benefits for children and caregivers alike. As stated above, children involved in this structure of learning are less exposed to the switching of caregivers and environments. This is equally as beneficial for caregivers. Extended time with each child gives the caregivers the ability to really learn each child and evolve with them. It also gives caregivers the ability to build a strong rapport with families, which can be extremely beneficial in a child’s development.


Learn more about mixed-age groupings and continuity of care: