Family grouping is the name given in childcare to groups of children of mixed ages, and is so named as its composition more closely resembles that of a family, than the more popular choice of grouping children in care by age. We firmly believe that the family grouped environment provides an appropriate setting to foster all areas of children’s development across the full age range and is beneficial to children of all ages.
Language development occurs very well in mixed age groups where children act as role models for others with fewer language skills. Toddlers grouped only with babies and other toddlers in child care are exposed to a limited range of language skills. In family groups, the younger child is surrounded with language interactions of various levels and complexity, and as a result, may often develop language skills more rapidly than their peers in age group care.
New children settle more easily and feel secure with help from older children. The settled children help guide children who are new to the setting to learn what happens during the day, and in the process develop their own self-esteem and self-confidence. They model sharing and turn-taking for new or younger children. A less out-going child can relax and interact more comfortably with younger children.
Children of varying ages do not have to compete for the same equipment as their play interests are often very different, and they tend to interact in more positive social ways. There is less aggression and more nurturing of others. Early years practitioners who have experienced both same and mixed age groups say toddlers are more apt to display negative behaviour when with other toddlers. This is because they are all asserting their independence and only just learning co-operation skills. In family groups children learn more positive behaviours from a wider age range of children.
The safety of babies is sometimes raised as a concern about family grouped settings, yet we believe babies in age group care have more to fear regarding aggression or injury from another baby or toddler, than from an older child.
Physical and intellectual development is also well provided for in a family grouped setting, since each child is able to play and learn at their own pace. Children learn to accept and respect others’ abilities and can themselves attempt any experience without embarrassment or a sense of failure. Older children are able to model appropriate play and problem solving to younger children while mastering and extending their own development. Older children also develop caring skills, empathy skills and development their communication more quickly that they would if they were in groups with peers of their own age only.
Benefits are not only for the children. Staff have a more varied and less stressful work day in the family grouped environment. The workload is evened out as the demands from different age groups varies. Staff and children can relate in different ways depending on the situation and age and stage of the child.
Another feature of family grouping that benefits all concerned is that there is no beginning or ending to each year. The evolving nature of family grouping and the continuous booking system that we have in place ensures that our programs operate smoothly all year round.
Family grouping has many benefits to the children, their families and the staff, and as this approach is based on the principle of consistency and continuity of care for children, it enables us to provide your child with an environment that they not only can feel safe and secure in, but one in which they can develop a sense of belonging.
Don’t take our word for it! There has been a substantial amount of research into mixed age groupings, all with very positive outcomes. We have selected a few studies and research articles that may be of interest to you; you can download them using the links below: