Katz, an early childhood learning expert whose work influenced Ken Guilmartin and Dr. Lili Levinowitz, owners of Music Together LLC, firmly believed that mixed age setting were enormously beneficial to both older and younger children—and that it’s especially valuable these days since most kids get little opportunity for cross-age interaction.
Older children develop leadership skills in mixed-age settings. Often, children who may be shy in same-age classes emerge as leaders in mixed-age settings. They also develop empathy and patience, very important life skills. They show nurturing behaviors rather than competitive behaviors – and the adults in these settings are more likely to accept the child as a whole, with his strengths and weaknesses, rather than comparing him with others and expecting him to conform to some arbitrary standard.
Remember to use older kids as helpers in class. According to Katz, their “…sense of self-esteem and feelings of competence are strengthened by the clear first-hand evidence that they are being useful in a very real way.”
Katz suggests it’s not really natural for kids to spend large amounts of time in “age-segregated litters,” and mixed-age is healthier in general.
(BTW, I couldn’t ordinarily just spout this off the top of my head – it’s a column I’m working on for the next newsletter!)