Building community within a mixed age group of young children

If you haven’t figured it out by now, you should know that the children in my class range from age 3 to age 5. My 3/4 year olds come to preschool 2 days a week and my Pre-K students come 3 days a week. One thing I am working on in my classroom is the sense of community. I want all the children to feel like they belong and I believe part of making them feel like they belong is teaching them how to care about and serve each other….

Last week, I shared with you how my pre-k class made nature shadow boxes.  Having the Pre-k do this on pre-k day worked out great because when I decided to have my threes give this a try, my Pre-K kids were ready to help them out and already knew all the ropes of how to make a nature box…

I assigned each pre-k child a three year old partner and asked them if they would help their partners create a nature shadow box.  I can’t tell you how impressed I was with these kids – both the threes and the pre-k children.  The threes were so excited to have an older partner and the pre-k kids were clearly proud to help their partners complete their projects…

It was one of those moments that you just want to stop and hug everybody in the room! With just a few instructions from me, the pre-k kids led their partners through each of the steps. My instructions were only that the pre-k kids had to let their partners do as much of the process as they could all by themselves…

It is only natural that each child has their favorite friend or is drawn to play with one child over another -this is human nature. My goal isn’t to dictate who needs to be friends with who but to promote kindness and support for each other regardless if it is their best friend or not…

Once we got to the painting part of our process, I invited the pre-k kids to join in and paint too.  They had been so patient and willing to let the threes do most of the process but I could see they were just itching to try the painting too.  The threes loved painting with their partners…

Partnering is a way to help strengthen our community of learners. The older children looked so grown up as they were helping their younger counterparts and the joy on the three’s faces as they got all that special attention from the older children was priceless…

By |2011-11-20T06:00:42+00:00November 20th, 2011|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Jill November 20, 2011 at 8:42 am - Reply

    FANTASTIC!! i love this! My daycare (i honestly hate that word I need a new name) is built of new babies -5 year olds and i am ALWAYS encouraging helping and showing and being a leader! Its wonderful!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. November 20, 2011 at 10:47 am - Reply

      That is a challenging age span – well done! I love it when the children enjoy helping and serving others:)

  2. Kristah November 20, 2011 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    This was great to see. They are so cute when they are big helpers.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. November 20, 2011 at 11:41 pm - Reply

      I think so too Kristah!

  3. JDaniel4's Mom November 21, 2011 at 8:02 am - Reply

    I love how well they worked together. I would want to hug them too.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. November 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm - Reply

      I was quite proud of them all!

  4. Sabina November 22, 2011 at 7:33 am - Reply

    I work in a mixed age group setting, too. Children from 19 months to 5 years old all together in a room. It just puts great big smile on my face whenever I see them playing together in a harmony. I think we as adults have a lot to learn from the children.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. November 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm - Reply

      I love watching the children work together and helping each other. A mixed age group really lends itself to teaching all kinds of non-tangibles like empathy and gentleness and social skills!

  5. Emily December 9, 2011 at 10:57 am - Reply

    Did you paint while the gludewas still wet? It looks like so much fun!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. December 9, 2011 at 10:58 am - Reply

      Yes – we added drops of paint to the wet glue:)

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