If you’re a parent of more than one child, or spend time with children of varying ages, you may already see the benefits of those children interacting with each other. In early learning, while we arrange for children of similar ages or development together most of the time, we do make time and space for children to spend time with older and younger children. Why? There’s a lot of research supporting children of various ages and abilities spending time together. We’ll look at a few of these studies and hear from some of our Little Scholars educators who can attest to the advantages of mixing things up!

As an early education provider, we tend to group children together who share similar abilities, who are at similar stages of development or of similar ages. The benefits of this include:

Keeping children together of similar also means they’re stimulated appropriately at each age. Educators can tailor the curriculum to meet the specific developmental needs and milestones common to that age group, making learning more targeted.

As well, being with peers at the same developmental stage allows for more accurate assessment of a child’s progress and needs, aiding in early identification of any learning or developmental challenges, and children of the same age often share similar interests and play preferences, making it easier to form friendships and social bonds.

With a narrower age range, the skill gap between the most and least advanced children in the class is reduced, making group activities more cohesive, and children may feel more at ease and less intimidated when surrounded by peers who are at the same developmental stage, boosting their confidence in social and learning situations.

It also allows educators to be able to use age-appropriate language and teaching methods that resonate with the entire room, making instructions and lessons more effective.

The studios at Little Scholars

It’s of course true that within ages of studios, for example the nursery, the milestone range can be large – a six month old infant isn’t at the same place a 12-month-old is, and even a 15 month old, but they’re similar enough in their needs that it makes sense to group them together. Our educators plan experiences that focus on movement skills, language development, fine motor development, and strengthening of developmental milestones based on the interests of the babies and research.

For toddlers, who are roughly 18 months to three years old, most are walking by this stage, some of them are learning to speak, sharing with other children and becoming potty trained. For toddlers, the curriculum includes a lot of opportunities for little ones to move their bodies and expel some of that endless energy, but a big focus is on communication and language development, which is why we help your child get to know sounds, words and language, including early literacy and numeracy and social and emotional development.

Then of course, there are our three to five-year-olds, who are further developing their language and literacy skills, fine and gross motor development and more. They are learning to work together in groups as well as individually, all in the build-up to formal schooling.

This is all to say there’s important reasons why our little scholars generally are grouped within similar ages and abilities in their studios. But this does not mean we don’t want them interacting with other children! The opposite, in fact.

The theorists who supported mixed-age grouping in early childhood

 

The idea to mix aged groups in early learning is of course not a new concept. Here’s two of many theorists of early childhood who supported the idea of bringing children together of mixed age and abilities.

Maria Montessori, the founder of the Montessori method, was a strong advocate for mixed-age classrooms. She believed that older children could serve as role models for younger ones, fostering a sense of community and collaborative learning.

“One of the most important aspects of our education system is the use of the mixed age group which allows all the children to find what is suitable for them, irrespective of their age, and which allows the younger children a graded series of models for imitation, and the older ones the opportunity to reinforce their own knowledge by teaching what they know.”

Now, Montessori classrooms often have children of varying ages working together, which she believed promoted social and emotional development.

Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist, also supported the idea of mixed-age play through his theory of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). According to Vygotsky, children can learn more when they interact with peers who are slightly more advanced than they are. This aligns well with the concept of mixed-age play, where older children can guide younger ones, helping them to reach higher levels of understanding and skill.

Siblings 1024x1024

Theo (5) and little sister Mila (3) often get to spend time with each other at our Nerang campus, despite their age difference!

The benefits of mixing ages in early education

The benefits to having children visit with different age groups are plentiful.

Older children provide leadership and support to younger ones, enhancing skills and confidence for both.

At all of our campuses, there are several sets of siblings. By allowing siblings to interact, it can help younger ones adjust to the care environment.

Even if children don’t have siblings at their campus, mixing with younger children gives them the chance to take on ‘big sibling’ roles.

The benefits also include:

  • Improved social skills – mixing age groups promotes turn-taking, sharing, and reduces conflicts as children have different needs and interests
  • Complex play – older children elevate the play ideas of younger ones, making play more engaging and creative
    Language development – Younger children are exposed to advanced language, while older ones learn to adapt their communication
  • Confidence boost – Spending time with other children of varying ages helps shy or less confident children build social skills by interacting with younger peers

Fosters tolerance and diversity, benefiting children with developmental delays as well.

“I believe that children should have the ability to socialise with children of various age groups,” says Claire, the educational leader at Little Scholars Nerang. “Allowing opportunities for siblings to group together while at the service can assist children to feel a sense of belonging and ease separation anxiety throughout the day.”

For younger children, they can learn from a peer more knowledgeable than themselves, it teaches them problem solving skills and more, says Claire. For the older children, it teaches them nurturing, patience and understanding.

Claire shared a story of one mixed age grouping of two children who weren’t related.

Jacobandfinn E1698385321793 274x300

Jacob and Finn are six years apart, share a birthday and have a unique bond at Little Scholars Nerang

“Jacob and Finn are six years apart. Finn began his Little Scholars journey at four months old and took an immediate liking to Jacob aged six at the time. Throughout their friendship, Jacob has assisted Finn to learn how to talk, build and walk. Finn shows great excitement to see Jacob each day by looking for him and can now ask where he is. Finn and Jacob spend time reading and playing together. Jacob uses the abecedarian approach of see, show, say when reading to Finn to build his cognitive skills more specifically language. Each morning and afternoon they spend time together and Finn continues to develop his skill set.

The research

Mixed age grouping for children struggling socially

In 1990, a study in the United States looked at how being in a group with children of different ages could help preschoolers who were having a hard time making friends. The study had 24 children who were either acting out or keeping to themselves. These little ones were put into one of three groups:

  • A group where they played with a younger child who was good at making friends.
  • A group where they played with a child their own age.
  • A group where they didn’t get any special playtime.

The results showed that the children who played with younger, socially skilled children improved the most. They were more likely to make friends and were less likely to act out or keep to themselves.

So, this study tells us that mixing children of different ages can really help those who are struggling to make friends. It can boost their social skills and help them get along better with others.

Complex play in mixed age groups

Another American study found that children in mixed-age classrooms were more likely to engage in complex play modes than children in same-age classrooms.

Over a course of 18 months, there were 47 children who participated. The researchers, from George Mason University, used a variety of methods to collect data, including direct observation, parent questionnaires, and teacher reports.

One of the key findings of the study was that children in mixed-age classrooms interacted more with their same-age peers over time. The researchers suggest that this is because children learn from each other. For example, older children may teach younger children new skills, and younger children may help older children to develop their social skills.

The study also found that older children in mixed-age classrooms became more like younger children, and younger children became more like older children. This is known as bidirectional socialisation. The researchers suggest that bidirectional socialisation may benefit both older and younger children. For example, older children may learn to be more patient and nurturing, and younger children may learn to be more independent and self-reliant.

Overall, the study provides evidence that mixed-age classrooms can have a positive impact on children’s social and behavioral development.

Vocabulary growth in mixed-age groups

A Danish study found that children in mixed-age classrooms had greater gains in vocabulary growth than children in same-age classrooms.

The researchers followed the same group of children over time. The study began when the children were two years and nine months old and ended when they were six years and 11 months old.

The researchers didn’t specify how many trials they conducted, but they did report that the study included 2,743 children. The minimum age difference between children in the same classroom was six months, and the maximum age difference was 24 months. The researchers found classrooms with a maximum age range of 24 months were associated with the greatest gains in vocabulary growth.

To measure children’s vocabulary development, the researchers used a standardised vocabulary test. They gave this test to the children at the beginning of the study and again at the end of the study.

The researchers did not directly observe how the children interacted with each other. However, they did collect data on children’s social interactions through teacher reports and parent questionnaires.

Overall, the study provides evidence that mixed-age classrooms can support children’s language development. However, more research is needed to understand the specific mechanisms through which mixed-age grouping benefits children.

How teachers support mixed age groups

Another study, this time from Sweden in 2022, focused on how preschool teachers implement curricula in different age group settings. The study involved 3,340 children between the ages of two years and nine months and six years and eleven months, from multiple preschools and was based on interviews with teachers.

The study aimed to answer two main questions:

  • How do preschool teachers express that the curriculum is implemented in age-homogeneous groups vs. mixed-age groups?
  • What are the teaching strategies in the different age formations?

In age-homogeneous groups, teachers felt they could focus on specific age-related goals, whereas in mixed-age groups, the curriculum was more flexible, allowing children to learn at their own pace. The study concluded that both age-homogeneous and mixed-age groups have their own sets of advantages and challenges when it comes to implementing the curriculum.

Researchers focused on the impact of mixed-age groups on children’s development, particularly in vocabulary. The study found that mixed-age groups could be positively linked to individual children’s development, especially in vocabulary.

Advantages of mixed-age groups:

  • Children can contribute different knowledge and experiences, helping each other
  • No need for children to compare themselves; there’s always someone who knows more or less
  • Allows for learning at their own level and pace
  • Teachers can focus on spontaneous teaching based on children’s play and interests.

Disadvantages or challenges:

  • Requires special teacher attention to ensure every child has learned what they need to transition from preschool to school
  • Teachers have the responsibility to motivate children to become interested in the learning process.

The study suggests that mixed-age groups can be beneficial for children’s development, but they require a specific type of teaching approach.

As you have now read, the benefits of mixed-age play in early learning are plentiful and supported by a wealth of research and educational theories. While it’s common to group children by age or developmental stage, there’s undeniable value in allowing children of different ages to interact. Studies have shown that this kind of grouping can enhance social skills, encourage more complex play, and even boost vocabulary development. Our educators at Little Scholars witness these benefits daily and incorporate mixed-age interactions into our curriculum.

However, it’s not just about mixing ages for the sake of it; it’s about creating a dynamic learning environment that caters to the individual needs of each child. Whether it’s older children mentoring the younger ones or everyone learning to communicate at different levels, the advantages are clear. But it’s not without its challenges; it requires a nuanced approach from educators to ensure that each child’s developmental needs are met. So, while there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to early education, the evidence points towards the value of a mixed-age setting in helping our little scholars grow into well-rounded individuals.

Resources:

The Case for Mixed-Age Grouping in Early Education (1990) by Lilian G. Katz, Demetra Evangelou, and Jeanette Allison Hartman

The social and behavioral ecology of mixed-age and same-age preschool classrooms: A natural experiment (2002) by Sarah Caverly and Adam Winsler.

Does mixing age groups in early childhood education settings support children’s language development? (2017) by Nina S. Mounts, Jaipaul L. Roopnarine, and Peter B. Smith.

Teaching and learning in age-homogeneous groups versus mixed-age groups in the preschool (2022) by Lena O Magnusson and Kerstin Bäckman

The Little Scholars School of Early Learning recently joined forces with Southern Cross University for an innovative project, looking at how children engage and interact with social robots. NAO is a social robot that has been programmed to interact socially with people and this digital tool has the potential to serve as an educational aide in early learning settings.

Robot1 1 E1698896543171 1024x1003

Little Scholars’ Yatala campus was buzzing with excitement as it welcomed Dr Michelle Neumann, Research Assistant Ruby-Jane Barry, and of course, NAO. The visits were part of an educational initiative that captivated the preschool and kindergarten children, as well as educators. The children couldn’t wait to see if Dr. Neumann and NAO had arrived and would dash to the parent lounge to check, educators reported.

The children had the opportunity for one-on-one interactions with NAO, participating in games like ‘Simon Says’, Q&A sessions, and activities focused on literacy.

Dr. Neumann, who leads the project, is an associate professor in early childhood education at Southern Cross University. She believes that this is a frontier that early learning is just starting to venture into.

Interestingly, Dr. Neumann’s journey into early childhood education began after becoming a mum to five children. With an honours degree in science, she decided to pivot her career towards education and early learning. She went back to university, earned her Graduate Diploma in Education, Bachelor of Primary Education, and then completed her PhD focusing on early literacy development. Her dedication has earned her a recent award for research excellence from Southern Cross University, recognising her work in early literacy, digital technologies (tablets, apps, social robots), child development, parent-child interaction.

Helping with social development

While NAO has been used to support children’s learning about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) and coding, social robots also have the potential to be used to support language, literacy and social learning in the classroom, according to Michelle

“As a physically embodied version of a screen, a social robot may help young children from a range of diverse backgrounds develop their language and social skills,” Michelle said.

“Michelle and Ruby were so approachable and more than willing to let our little scholars meet NAO,” says Raylene, lead educator in the senior kindergarten room. “I was fascinated with NAO’s abilities, and the potential social robots could have in a classroom setting. As a lead educator, the benefits of having an additional learning assistant was something I was happy to advocate for, so I was quick to start drumming up more families to participate in the visits.”

Raylene said she had a lot of conversations with children preparing them for NAO’s visit, even conversations that maybe one day, the children might have robot friends to help their teachers in the classrooms.

“This was super exciting for the children. I did have to remind them and to the families that it wasn’t happening straight away, but the concept was well received. Families enjoyed the debates of whether it would take jobs from educators, and I enjoyed discussing this with them. By day two, Michelle and Ruby were needing to organise additional days to attend the service due to the influx of families wanting to participate,” Raylene said.

Raylene said on the first day, it was evident that although the children were excited, there were also plenty of nerves. Most of the children participated well, with a small handful quite shy, she said. As the program continued, the children got used to seeing Michelle, Ruby and NAO in the parent lounge, those children who were a little shy to begin with looked eager to have another turn.

Robot2 E1698896619569 876x1024

“This was obvious in my own son Tannen. Tannen was one of the few who participated on day one. The whole lead up was a confident ‘I’m having a robot friend’ until he got his robot friend,” Raylene said. “After his turn he told me he didn’t like it a lot because it was scary, however as the days went on, and more friends started to participate, and NAO became a familiar face, all of a sudden he was eager to come to the door to see if they were there yet, and talk to other children on the way in to see if they were going to go and play games with NAO that day. This is the way it unfolded for several children,” Raylene said.

After a few one-on-one visits to introduce NAO to children, Michelle made a final visit to introduce more campus children to NAO and play some games.

“You could see the comfort of the children who were already familiar with NAO, and it acted like a scaffold for the children who hadn’t had the chance yet to interact with him. Comments from children like ‘Oh, that’s just NAO’ and ‘I already played this game and it’s really fun’ to encourage peers along were incredible to hear because it was listening to four- to five-year-olds comforting each other and being confident with the experiences they had just had,” Raylene said.

The future of social robots

Michelle said one day she’d love to introduce a full program which sees social robots in more early learning classrooms. But, she says, these are still relatively early days. Social robots are a work in progress, and she acknowledges they’re limited in what they can currently do. She’d love to also work with children who would benefit from additional language and literacy support. For that to work, NAO’s voice recognition needs development as it would need to have the ability to understand a spectrum of language milestones, she said.

“It would take a lot of time, guidance and professional development for educators… and a lot of support to be able to use the social robot in its current form,” she said. “But they’re working on AI generated social robots and these innovative opportunities may make using social robots more usable in the classroom.”

And, the robots are not cheap. NAO can cost up to $20,000 AUD, which she acknowledges would be financially prohibitive to many early learning settings. Michelle says her hope is that more research to can be done to better understand the role that social robots could play in supporting young children’s early learning experiences. With emerging advances in robotics, it may be possible that the production costs of these devices could one day become a more affordable educational tool.

The collaboration between Little Scholars and Southern Cross University has opened up new avenues for early learning, showcasing the potential of integrating social robots like NAO into educational settings. The overwhelmingly positive response from both children and educators alike underscores the limitless possibilities this technology could offer. As we look to the future, the hope is that advancements in AI and robotics will make these educational tools more accessible and tailored to the unique needs of early learners. This pioneering initiative serves as a testament to the boundless curiosity and adaptability of children, and the commitment of educators like Michelle and Raylene to push the boundaries of what’s possible in early education.

Jae Fraser, founder of Little Scholars, wholeheartedly supports the NAO project with Little Scholars.

“This is such an exciting project for our little scholars to engage in,” he says. “Introducing social robots to Little Scholars, isn’t just a leap in technology; it’s a giant step in nurturing young minds.

“We look forward to where this will go, and how we can use resources like this to continue the learning journey for Little Scholars.”

Additional information

The potential of social robots in early learning includes:

  • Fostering learner engagement and attention to tasks
  • Acts as a guide or teaching assistant in the early years classroom
  • Reduces educator workload
  • Makes learning fun

Potential barriers and obstacles for social robots in early learning:

  • Limited functionality of social robots, such as voice recognition, conversational turn taking, understanding context
  • Financial and technical maintenance of social robots
  • Professional development for educators
  • Ethical considerations

Do your children play with dolls? There have been some fascinating research findings that highlight the advantages of dolls as a tool for nurturing social and emotional skills in children. Recent studies have shown that doll play provides children with opportunities to engage in imaginative role-playing, develop empathy, and enhance their communication about others’ thoughts and feelings. There’s also been some research that looks at traditional notions of gender preferences in toy choices, emphasising the importance of providing children with diverse play experiences, all of which we’ll explore here.

Research challenges the notion of innate gender preferences in toy choices. Studies have found that even baby boys can and will show a preference for dolls over trucks, indicating that toy preferences may be influenced by environmental factors rather than biological predispositions. By encouraging children to play with dolls, we can help them develop a broader understanding of the world, challenge gender stereotypes, and promote equality.

Doll play provides opportunities for children to practice social and emotional skills by creating imaginary worlds, taking others’ perspectives, and talking about others’ thoughts and feelings, according to 2020 research titled Exploring the Benefits of Doll Play Through Neuroscience. The study, conducted by researchers from Cardiff University and King’s College London, saw 33 children between the ages of four and eight freely play with Barbie dolls and accessories, or tablet games with a social partner or by themselves.

The children were left to play spontaneously, but their chat was monitored and they were also fitted with a specialised cap containing state-of-the-art, functional near-infrared spectroscopy equipment – a form of brain imaging technology, making it possible to track brain activity while the child freely moved around.

The study found that the children talked more about others’ thoughts and emotions when playing with the dolls, compared with playing creative games on a computer tablet, such as a hairdressing game or a city-building game with characters.

Social play also activated the right prefrontal regions in the brain more than solo play, researchers found. These areas of the brain are responsible for regulating thoughts, actions and emotions.

The children in the study were also more likely to talk to the dolls versus characters in the digital games, which showed they were developing important social and emotional skills, according to the lead researcher.

“When children create imaginary worlds and role play with dolls, they communicate at first out loud and then internalise the message about others’ thoughts, emotions and feelings,” says lead researcher Dr. Sarah Gerson in the university release. “This can have positive long-lasting effects on children, such as driving higher rates of social and emotional processing and building social skills like empathy that can become internalised to build and form lifelong habits.”

343287416 283802440637715 3263136742193202938 N E1682991249621 275x300

Boys and dolls

Closer to home, research conducted at the University of Western Sydney in 2013 found young baby boys seemed to prefer dolls to trucks, challenging the theory of an innate preference among babies for typical feminine or masculine toys. Researchers gauged the preferences of four and five-month-old babies by showing them pictures of male and female humans and dolls, as well as cars and other items.

Researchers then measured how long their gaze lingered on the objects, and calculated their preferences based on that length of time. Researchers found there was a general looking preference for dolls or doll faces over cars or trucks for both the male and female babies observed at five months old.

Other studies conducted at U of WS have found as babies age, there are sometimes preferences toward toys marketed at their own gender, but those preferences, researchers hypothesised,  could be environmental or a result of nurturing, so if they’ve been given more opportunities to play with toy trucks than dolls, they may show a preference for toy trucks.

Dolls1 E1683596482356 256x300

Babies don’t typically show gender preference until at least their second year, according to some studies, indicating that preference later may be the result of their physiological changes, cognitive development or social pressure.

Making sense of the world through play

Playing with dolls is a version of role-playing, and that’s a great thing in child development. Dolls are used them to create narratives while playing. When children do this, they’re learning to make sense of the world and helps them see things more broadly.

Other research has looked at how gendered toys are approached by each sex. One study in the 1980s had a few dozen girls and boys (aged four to nine years) presented with toys in three sex-labeled boxes and were given six minutes to explore the objects. The children’s memory for information about the toys was tested one week later. Results show that the children tactually explored toys labeled for their own sex more than similar objects labeled for the other sex, and remembered more detailed information about own-sex than other-sex objects. Between ages three to five, gender is very important to children, according to an an associate professor at the University of Kentucky. So when children are presented with very specifically-marketed gendered toys, they pay careful attention.

This is a time we should encourage children to play with all kinds of toys, as it sets the foundations for free thinking, creative play and removes the constraints of gender.

The benefits for children, regardless of their sex, of playing with dolls are numerous and supported by research. Doll play provides opportunities for children to practice social and emotional skills, develop empathy, and engage in imaginative play. Studies have shown that doll play leads to increased communication about others’ thoughts and emotions, activating important brain regions responsible for regulating thoughts, actions, and emotions.

At Little Scholars, we recognise the importance of supporting children’s interests and providing them with a diverse range of toys and play opportunities. Our home corner, which includes dolls and role-playing materials, encourages children to explore, imagine, and develop important skills and dispositions for learning. By embracing doll play and role-playing activities, we foster autonomy, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and a sense of agency in our children.

References:

  • Exploring the Benefits of Doll Play Through Neuroscience (2020). Cardiff University and King’s College London.
  • Study on baby boys’ preferences for dolls (2013). University of Western Sydney.
  • Gendered toy exploration and play: Sequelae of the gender identity interview (1986). University of Kentucky.

In today’s fast-paced world, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are the driving forces behind innovation and progress. To equip the next generation with the skills they need to thrive in this exciting landscape, we have to recognise the incredible impact of early childhood education. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of California Irvine has revealed the transformative power of high-quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) in nurturing children’s STEM achievements throughout their educational journey.

The study’s findings are both exhilarating and promising. They show that children who have access to top-notch ECEC before starting school are more likely to excel in STEM subjects as they progress into high school. This underscores the vital role of investing in early education and providing children with the necessary tools and support to build a strong educational foundation.

The Secret Ingredients: Curiosity and Care

The researchers identified two key factors that contribute to the success of early childhood education in fostering STEM abilities. Firstly, igniting children’s curiosity through cognitive stimulation has a profound impact on their problem-solving skills and overall STEM performance. Early childhood educators who create engaging learning environments and incorporate hands-on experiences play a pivotal role in nurturing children’s passion for STEM. Secondly, the study emphasised the crucial role of educator sensitivity and responsiveness. When educators demonstrate empathy, attentiveness, and genuine care for children’s needs, it not only supports their overall development but also significantly influences their STEM achievements. The emotional connection established during these early years lays the foundation for children’s social-emotional skills, which are closely intertwined with cognitive development.

Promoting STEM Equity and Inclusion

Interestingly, the study also revealed that sensitive and responsive caregiving in early childhood has an even greater impact on STEM performance for children from low-income families compared to their peers from higher-income backgrounds. This finding highlights the importance of addressing equity in early education and ensuring that all children, regardless of their socioeconomic status, have equal access to high-quality early learning that fosters STEM engagement. Speaking of STEM, did you know that Little Scholars offers an exciting STEM program for our kindergarten children? In collaboration with our friends at Lab Kids, we provide an incredible educational STEM program that aligns with the Early Years Learning Framework and the Australian National Curriculum. From exploring motion and states of matter to learning about light, sound, and chemical reactions, our curious little scholars embark on an exciting journey of STEM discovery!

353857679 282057504202504 9148982461303956586 N 225x300

Finally, the University of California Irvine study reinforces the immense value of early childhood education in nurturing STEM success. By providing high-quality early learning that fosters curiosity, responsive caregiving, and an inclusive learning environment, we begin to realise the full potential of our Little Scholars.  Book a tour at Little Scholars.

For parents leaving their babies or young toddlers in care for the first time, it can be a stressful experience. When the paid maternity leave ends, parents must make the decision of whether or not both parents will work outside the home. The choice to leave their young child in early learning and care can create a number of concerns, one big one being how their relationship with their young child will be affected if the parent is not spending the majority of the child’s time with them. These are valid concerns, but research has suggested infant attachment to their parents is not generally affected by being in care, so long as the parents have a strong bond with the child when they are with them.

Understanding Attachment Theory

Attachment theory was first introduced by John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst and psychiatrist in the 20th Century. Bowlby observed that early attachments could significantly affect a child’s emotional development and adult relationships in later life. He concluded that children between six and 30 months were very likely to form emotional attachments to familiar caregivers, especially if the adults are sensitive and responsive to child communications. This led him to propose the Attachment Theory after he studied the negative impact of maternal deprivation on young children.

Mary Ainsworth, an American psychologist who worked under Bowlby early in her career, later devised an assessment technique called the Strange Situation Classification (SSC) to investigate how attachments might vary between children. Her research in Uganda, then her well-known Baltimore Study in the 1960s, in which she noticed distinct individual differences in the quality of mother-infant interactions over time, led her to categorise these different attachment styles into three types: secure attachment styles, insecure attachment styles, and not-yet attached. She found a connection between maternal sensitivity and secure attachments. Sensitive mothers were familiar with their babies, provided spontaneous and specific detail about their children, and babies of sensitive mothers cried less and felt free to explore in the presence of their mother. Generally, she concluded that babies of sensitive mothers have secure attachments.

Attachment and Caregivers

344300630 1195060771203844 4368542649275784042 N

While Bowlby’s initial findings focused on maternal deprivation, later studies have contradicted his emphasis. Schaffer & Emerson (1964) found that specific attachments started at about eight months and shortly thereafter, the infants became attached to other people. By 18 months, very few (13%) were attached to only one person, and some had five or more attachments. Rutter (1972) noted that several indicators of attachment, such as protest or distress when an attached person leaves, have been shown for various attachment figures – fathers, siblings, peers, and even inanimate objects. Weisner, & Gallimore (1977) found that mothers are the exclusive carers in only a very small percentage of human societies, and often there are a number of people involved in the care of children, such as relations and friends. Van Ijzendoorn, & Tavecchio (1987) argue that a stable network of attachment figures is more important than the number of figures.

The Positive Effects of Early Learning and Care

344290675 1878257989222068 676973973707181813 N
Some studies in the 1970s and 1980s found negative effects on young children in daycare and attachment, but arguments against those studies included that few mothers worked outside the home during those times, and the quality of the care facilities themselves were perhaps lower than you’d see today. Since then, much has changed, and research has shown many positive effects of early learning and care for young children, including social relationship development. One study conducted in Norway found that infants who were in early learning settings scored higher on tests measuring cognitive and language development than infants who were cared for at home. Another study conducted in Canada found that children who attended high-quality care were more likely to to have better cognitive and language development than those who attended lower-quality care or stayed at home. Both the Norwegian and Canadian studies highlight the importance of high-quality early learning for children’s cognitive and language development. High-quality early learning centres provide a safe and stimulating environment where children can learn and develop essential skills. They also offer opportunities for children to interact with other children and adults, helping them develop social skills and emotional intelligence. In Australian early learning settings, we follow a National Quality Standard which lays out seven quality areas on which centres should meet or exceed. The fifth quality area is ‘relationships with children’ and its intent is to promote relationships with children that are responsive, respectful and promote children’s sense of security and belonging. Relationships of this kind free children up to explore the environment and engage in play and learning. Please rest assured, when you’re leaving your child at one of our campuses, your child’s wellbeing is our number one priority. We support children to develop in a holistic manner, including socially, cognitively, physically and emotionally. If there are tears (from either of you!), we’re here for both of you, and know it means your relationship with your child is not only in tact, but flourishing. Read more:
Logo
Come and see the Little Scholars difference

Let us hold your hand and help looking for a child care centre. Leave your details with us and we’ll be in contact to arrange a time for a ‘Campus Tour’ and we will answer any questions you might have!

Come and see the Little Scholars difference

Let us hold your hand and help looking for a child care centre. Leave your details with us and we’ll be in contact to arrange a time for a ‘Campus Tour’ and we will answer any questions you might have!