The benefits of social development and learning with three year age grouping.

Many parents often wonder why Montessori classrooms contain classes that are not categorized by exact age like many public and private schools. To help with this question, Montessori looks to the teachings of Maria Montessori who placed emphasis on the need for mixed age groups spanning at least three years.

Montessori programs classrooms typically have children aged between three and six years, six and nine, nine and twelve, and so on. Keeping your children in these groups of three-year age range is not only important for learning and development in children, but many times it can be a requirement for accreditation in some international Montessori organizations.

Maria Montessori taught us “When children have access to an environment built around the three-year age grouping nature and nurture work hand-in-hand”. “The main thing”, said Montessori “is that the groups should contain different ages, because it has great influence on the cultural development of the child. This is obtained by the relations of the children among themselves. You cannot imagine how well a young child learns from an older child; how patient the older child is with the difficulties of the younger.”

Five and six year olds naturally become caretakers of the classroom, care for and become role models for the 3 and 4 year olds. Socially, this allows for a level of engagement that developmentally is not favored when 3 and 4 year olds, and 5 and 6 year olds are split in two groups. The fact is that one single year of difference does not let children feel younger or older in relation to their peers. Their skills are far too identical. The propensity is then for contention and competition rather than for cooperation.

Social development is one of the main benefits of this mixed age grouping. We often hope that children behave “nicely” towards each other, become “sociable”, and learn how to “share” and so on. Adults often try far too hard to teach “good habits,” “good manners” and “kindness” to children when all these naturally and spontaneously develop in a Montessori prepared environment.

In this environment, children develop self-confidence, self-motivation and consistently build on previously learned skills. Since children are natural scientists and love to experiment in myriad ways, any newly learned skills are exhaustively applied to all areas.

Cooperation rather than competition becomes a natural response to all sorts of different situations and challenges. Children will help each other when cleaning up after work, putting things away and caring for the environment in general, as well as each other, and that includes peaceful conflict resolution.

Children learn through imitation as well as experimentation. They not only look up to their peers, they also look forward to becoming like them one day, and being able to help others and show others what they are able to do and have learned. This becomes a natural process and part of their being.

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