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FAMILY : Pluses of Mixing Ages at Day Care

April 05, 1993|KATHLEEN DOHENY

At preschool day-care centers, children are often grouped into rigid age categories to promote harmony and learning. But mixed-age child care has some surprising benefits, say a pair of Ohio State University professors in a recent issue of the journal Child and Youth Care Forum.

Kimberlee Whaley and Rebecca Kantor worked at the university's A. Sophie Rogers Infant-Toddler Laboratory School where children ages 6 weeks to 3 years are grouped together and children ages 3 to 5 years are in another group.

Among the benefits: Children learn from each other and teach each other. Toddlers often "read" to younger children, for instance. Children gain nurturing skills. Toddlers often ask to hold or cuddle the babies.

The environment can increase feelings of security. Siblings can often stay together. Children are not moved as frequently to join a new age group. Such moves often come at a critical developmental point, Kantor says, and can sidetrack a child.

Parents often resist mixed-age child care, fearing for example that older tykes will bully younger ones. "There are fewer fights," Kantor finds.

"We don't have same-age families," Kantor notes, reasoning that it makes sense to pattern early childhood care more after families.

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