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Why Does Music Together Mix Ages?

Updated: Mar 7

Parents are sometimes surprised to see that Music Together doesn't separate one-year-olds from four-year-olds. After all, the children are in very different stages; worlds apart, developmentally! Some parents of three and four-year-old children, in particular, are concerned that their child is too old to be in a group of babies and toddlers. Will the activities be too basic for them? Will they regress? It is typical for schools and other activities to divide by age, so why do we mix children together in our classes?

Beyond the convenience of bringing siblings to the same class, there are compelling educational reasons to mix ages during early childhood. One reason we do so, in Music Together, is because the opportunity to observe many different models of music expression is beneficial for both younger and older children. The social-emotional learning opportunities are another. An environment where all students are free to respond and participate in their own way and on their own time is also naturally inclusive for children with developmental differences.


We all see the babies in our classes rock, kick, and stare wide-eyed. We celebrate the moment when we hear a baby respond to the music by cooing on the resting tone of a song we are singing. While their parent or caregiver is their favorite model, they are also mesmerized by the toddlers moving around and making sounds, and showing them how to bop up and down and crawl. And watching the toddlers get their own egg shakers is very inspiring!


Toddlers discover, experiment, imitate, and explore the space. They just learned to climb and run, so sitting still is not for them, and they watch while they wander, and often that wandering becomes related to the beat of the tune, or they decide to tap it out on the wall. They proudly sing bits of pieces of songs, usually the ends of phrases, and fingerplays are fascinating to them. And the preschoolers in the room also capture their interest- they can do so many things- and they sure know a lot of words! When the preschoolers decide to show off their skills (whether it's a well-timed lip buzzing or leading a pack of (toddler) horses galloping around in a ring (typically during the lullaby), it is impressive and the toddlers are won over and want to try whatever the older children are doing. And the preschoolers love all that admiration!


Some of the things that our bigger kids like to do are rolling the drums up to the table after the drum song, turning out the lights, and helping the teacher with anything and everything. The preschoolers exercise their creativity by suggesting lyrics, sounds, and movements. (Lyric ideas from four-year-olds are endless- so try it on a long car ride!) As they take on leadership roles and sing full songs, dance for the babies, and share their ideas, their self-confidence blossoms.

By being in class with the babies and toddlers, preschoolers learn empathy and gain awareness and appreciation of others. They learn to touch the babies gently and tickle their feet, and learn to be patient and let the toddlers put their own instruments away. If a baby or toddler cries, they are concerned and want to know why. Sometimes being around babies gives the older child an opportunity to revisit what it is like to be a baby- and they may want extra cuddles or ask to be carried like a baby. And then they may have to accept that it is not happening, (shout out to mommies here) and think of an alternative. Reviewing and revisiting the feel of being younger is a healthy part of development and a mixed-age class is a perfect place for it.


A mixed-age classroom is a comfortable place for all participants. Children have different developmental timelines, and sometimes learning environments with same-age children can feel less inclusive or welcoming of differences, or lead to unhelpful comparisons. We like the mixed age, mixed stage orientation; it's like a multigenerational extended family, celebrating everyone for who they are and appreciating their contributions. I think it gives everyone a stronger sense of the freedom to be ourselves. Enjoy a few glimpses into our recent mixed-age classes.

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