When I started my Family Home Daycare I didn't really give a lot of thought to the age groups I would have. How they would interact. How one age would influence another. How any age would influence our day. Well... I do now. I have had infants through preschoolers in my care and they all add something to our program. We have had to adjust our days to accommodate naps or feedings. We have had to keep prized toys out of reach or precious art work up on the shelf. People think I started my "preschool" program because of all the preschoolers I have at the time, but really it is just for the structure to our day. We want to be busy and engaged all day, so this was the best way for ME to achieve that.
Now, why toddlers today?? My toddlers have given me such joy this week. They have been interacting, playing with the "big" kids, getting ooey gooey, and learning to "sit" in circle time. Now, I only have 1 full-time early toddler, and then a friend comes periodically to have a play date or have a celebration, and this week we began our Advent Celebration and working on Christmas Crafts... so they have been here off and on.
To watch them is so wonderful, it reinforces why I do what I do. I love giving them the opportunities and experiences they crave. I love working with a multi-age group. The little ones learn from the big ones, the big ones learn empathy for their little counterparts, the big kids get to be the "teacher" and yet they love giving the toddlers a turn at being the teacher. The big kids have learned to share their environment and have made adjustments to make their "babies" part of their daycare family. Having just a few toddlers together is a blessing. They can learn without having to be on the look out for another toddler doing or wanting the same things as them. They can still be the "baby" of the family here, because the preschoolers are learning they had their turn and now it is time for them to be the "teachers" for the toddlers. It all seems to be working... well, most days :)
I remember working in the toddler room at a daycare center... having 7 to 10 toddlers together at one time... it was a long, hard day. Now we had a wonderful center, we did wonderful, engaging learning experiences... but the sheer number of toddlers together was overwhelming... mostly for the toddlers. We only had usually 2 people... which meant 4 arms and if your lucky you could get 3 children on you lap and in your arms for a hug... unless of course someone wasn't pushing another off :) I just couldn't do it all and they could not understand why not. I always felt I was falling short in that classroom.
With my group now, I feel like I can give all the hugs, kiss away the tears, wash up a boo boo, or just hold a sad/happy child... when I need to, as many times as I need to. We still have our days of stubborn tantrums, teething, and learning to share... but with only 1 and sometimes 2 it seems like I am having an impact on their lives. That they are learning here... about being a toddler and striving to be like those big preschoolers they see everyday.
I know multi-age groups are not always the ideal for every child, yet for us it seems to work. I love watching them blossom from the infant that comes first to the "big" preschooler that leaves to go to kindergarten. It is an amazing process and I am so glad to be involved in it.
Here are just a few out takes from our week...
reading with friends
green paint... loving the ooey gooey feeling in her hands
Look at this!!
smellin the candles from our scent tray
What do you think??
I can cook it for you...