One of the unique features of the Children's Garden is in the mixed aged program. We have one-year-old through 5 years old children in one group. The most preschool program divides up groups by age. One year old will be in the classroom with children up to two years old or maybe three. Three to five maybe together if lucky. Lucy Lodge who birthed the Children's Garden decided the age limit and it has always stayed the same. We try not to have too many one-year-old at the same time. One year old turns the classroom to a family room. When we have one year old, the two years old children suddenly become capable of helping themselves. Most children try hard to take care of the little one who is not talking or sometimes not walking yet. The older children use their senses to work around the little one. The caring and thoughtfulness naturally come out of the child.
We have had R join us for visits in November and December. Children brought cup and napkin at snack time for R and even set up the chair so that R can sit in front of the teacher and be helped by the teacher during the snack time. During the walk, other children made sure that R's hat was not covering his eyes.
I am thankful for the mixed age program because it gives real needs and reasons. When I gave R early snack and explained to other children his stomach is smaller and he needs to eat more often, no one said, "I want to eat too". When children understand what we do make sense, they are willing to cooperate. I admire this kind of maturity for even two years old children.
I often talk to one year old and send messages to the children who are watching and listening to me. It helps with the transition time and also when there is conflict. It is a little sneaky way, but sometimes things are better not said directly to a child with eye contact that diminishes their confidence while building guilt and shame. Softened messages are received with much appreciation by tender souls.
The mixed aged program naturally encourages both older and younger children to offer their best. It makes everyone to be aware of how we continue to grow our body and understanding, and it helps everyone to strive for the higher self.