Balancing Mixed Age Groups

We’ve touched before on how we, as a home-based Childcare setting, meet the needs and reap the benefits of our children growing up within a mixed age group throughout their Early Years.

But how does mixing ages present itself when the age gap is significantly greater and more apparent, as is currently the case as we commence our summer holiday care for all children?

Is it possible to adequately balance boredom and babies?!

In our opinion, yes.

In our experience, it is not as difficult to meet the needs of these age groups simultaneously as first thought. We are always apprehensive at the beginning of the summer holidays that ‘Early Years is what we do’ and so are we adequately equipped to meet the needs and interests of our older children, and yes we are.

We have found that allowing children to be in charge of their own play, day and routine during the summer holidays, does not require ‘double the work’ ‘extra resources’ ‘spending money’ or any other factors that may pose a problem if you are a home-based childcare provider considering offering wraparound care.

Last year we really put this theory to the test as we began settling in and welcoming our biggest cohort of babies to date over the summer holiday period and through much of the summer, our youngest child was 6 months old and our eldest was almost 11 and so as you can imagine this is quite a stark difference in needs and interests, however the transition from primarily Early Years care to the introduction of summer holiday care was as seamless as it could be whilst ensuring everyone’s needs were met.

We can often take for granted how adaptable our children can be, and for our new babies, they quickly adapted into our routine; sleeping after lunch, adjusting to higher levels of noise than they were used to, and our older children quickly understood that sometimes we would need to head back to base after an outing to enable to get the babies lunch and down for their nap, and they quickly adapted to this, utilising this time to chill out themselves with a movie or some device time whilst we met the babies needs.

We are always very conscious  of our older children getting ‘bored’ during their time with us and this is something we try and avoid whilst also trying to strike the balance between independent and co-operative play too, and so we always ensure within our environments there is a range of books, resources and objects to spark curiosity and imagination for all of the children.

Often we have a basket of resources that our younger children know and understand are primarily for the older children, whilst the older children are also aware that the ‘baby browser box’ is probably of little interest to them!

Throughout and prior to the summer holidays we always ensure we gain input from the children who will be attending to find out any new interests, things they’d like to do and places they’d like to go so we can ensure that the things we do and adventures we embark upon are of interest to everyone.

However, it is also important to point out, that particularly this year as the ‘baby cohort’ are not toddlers, that many of their interests and opportunities we provide capture both age groups’ interests and they play harmoniously together!

For example, our younger children love water play and so this is often set-up for them to explore as soon as they arrive, and generally they will play independently at this station for some time, however, this has recently captured the attention of our older children and they actively sought permission from the younger children to play alongside them to create their own ‘tidal waves’ of water to ricochet from the guttering – even involving the younger children and given them roles to contribute to the experiment.

Similarly, the older children have so far this summer taught our toddlers an array of hints and tricks of how to win at table football – there really is quite the balance!

It can be daunting to provide wraparound care for such a diverse mix of children during the summer holidays but the benefits on both groups of children are absolutely priceless in our opinion.

It provides older children, who perhaps don’t have younger siblings to develop an increased sense of understanding, empathy and begin to understand how to care for younger children, and for younger children, we have witnessed first-hand how their confidence increases, they are more confident and independent in risk taking, as well as the incredible benefits the mixed age groups has on their language and independence skills.

 

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