Teaching empathy through mixed ages groups   3 comments

There is an interesting article in the Independent

Link to Independent article

(Thanks to Lincolnshire Montessori for tweeting about it – and thus drawing my attention to the article).

The article is specifically about the benefits of a young baby visiting a class of 8 and 9 year olds – and the resulting empathy and behaviour.

My first reaction was ‘Gosh – have they only just realised!’

But then I realised that my personal view was that of a Registered Childminder – and so based on my experiences of always caring for mixed aged groups.

I had very temporarily forgot that many settings work in age groups – so babies together, 3 and 4 year olds together – and of course in schools they mainly work in year groups.

Childminders always have worked with mixed age groups, and have always been able to provide care for both under fives and school age children (and often care for siblings of all ages together).

However the article did prompt some self reflection on my own practice – which I have decided provides lots of opportunities for promoting empathy ….. and the related attributes of ; supporting and helping each other, learning from those who have developed skills beyond your own current level – all of which support the development of  something which I consider to be very important – morals – so the ability to ‘do the right thing’

In my opinion, caring for and thinking about the needs of another person rank among the most important ‘life skills’ that we need our children to acquire.

So just a few examples from my practice;

A 2 .8m old was made a very loud dinosaur noise which made the baby cry, he was upset that had frighten the baby and said sorry but more importantly with a little support – he continued his dinosaur play with very quiet, almost whisper like noises.

Two 3 year olds were cutting out pictures from a toy catalogue as part of research into what resources they would like to have in the setting . After some serious snipping of cars, trains, water guns, pirate dressing up clothes, lego sets and other items one could predict would be on a 3yr olds wish list, they started talking about the ‘babies’ in the setting – they came to the conclusion that the babies would not be able to play with the things they had chosen – and without any adult input they found the pages in the catalogue with baby toys, selected a few, cut them out and stuck them to the paper under the things they wanted.

When gathering the things to go out a 2.5 yr, found the babies comfort teddy and put it in the bag ready to go out.

A 5 yr old wanted to play with the small lego after school – and said ‘ Shall I play in the kitchen because the little ones might put the pieces in their mouth’  (Kitchen selected because table in there and more importantly a safety gate across the doorway)

A mixed age group of 1 -4 year olds were tidying up after  free play, the older children helped the younger children by telling which box to put things in – and one child even waited until everyone had finished – then asked if he could ‘sort’ the things that had been put in the ‘wrong’ box. Even at the young age he recognised that he should not directly criticise the younger child’s efforts.

When younger children are toilet training, children who have successfully toilet trained show delight and pride in toileting success of their younger friends, clapping and saying -‘He / she can have a sticker now’

As you can imagine I could cite hundreds of examples – because it happens all the time.

The scheme for school children is an excellent idea, and interestingly I was speaking about this to a member of the Pre-school Learning Alliance staff last night at a meeting – and she told me about a very similar scheme that the Alliance are piloting.

However what I struggle with is why no one is acknowledging that childminders already are very aware of the benefits of mixed aged groups – and as a profession have a vast combined knowledge and ‘bank’ of case studies.

With all the current government focus on the perceived  ability of childminders to deliver the EYFS and talk of deregulation – it would be nice if for a change there was some positive media coverage about registered childminders.

Posted January 11, 2013 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

3 responses to “Teaching empathy through mixed ages groups

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  1. Penny what you describe is I’m sure what cms up and down the land experience on a day to day basis. I know I have a do with the children in my care. The sad thing is though the number of parents who come to see me and then opt for a Nursery setting for an under one because ‘ they will be with others of the same age all the time so they can make friends’! or the ones who transfer to Nursery at 2yrs for a similar reason ‘oh they need to be with children of their own age and a lot more children’! The ones who choose to stay with a cm but gradually take up more pre school mornings as they move towards school love it and usually have a fab transition and are usually very familiar with the pre schools and schools they go to because they have grown up doing the school runs. Not something a Nursery child usually experiences.

    It makes me very sad that no one thinks to ask us, we all have such a wealth of knowledge ans experience when it come to children.

  2. i agree! i had a mum come to visit afterschool and was amazed that it was ‘like one big family’ and how well everyone got on, and that the older ones helped with the younger ones. this mum the loved the bond that her little one had with one particular big girl, and called her ‘your big sister’. equally, i had a little one who was so used to coming to school on the school runs, and going into the classrooms/hall for events, that when he went to school for his first ‘rising reception’ session, he waved his surprised mum a goodbye from the gate and told her he didn’t need her to go in with him! his teacher said it was as if he had been at school for years, which in a way he had been!

  3. Pingback: Friday 11th January | Debbie's Blog

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