Children in the group
Comparing children of the same age often shows similarities in behavior. As a rule, children of the same age close together. This can already be observed in mixed groups in kindergarten. This trend continues into puberty.
But also age-mixed groups of children show behavioral patterns. In the first years of life appearances hardly play a role, play groups emerge from opportunities and out of sympathy. As the children get older and have already formed initial values, the appearance becomes more important and within the group, exclusion and meanness can occur.
Babies and toddlers
In the first year of life, babies mainly make contact with other adults and older children. They do not distinguish by age or gender. Babies of the same age are treated the same way as all the others, but often ignored. Group formation does not exist at this age.
At the age of two, children recognize their peers and make targeted contact with them. At first, the so-called parallel play often prevails, that is, the children play with the same toy, but without interacting with each other. Gender does not matter yet, the older the children become, the more the small difference comes to the fore.
Groups in kindergarten
Kindergarten children start playing a lot more together than alone. From about three years on, real interactions begin and the children learn to cope: they make compromises, disassociate themselves, and begin to tolerate the idiosyncrasies and desires of the playmates. In the early kindergarten age, the children still prefer to play with only one partner. With age, group games increase more and more.
To participate in a new group, children often choose the following strategy: they watch for a while and when they understand the game, they begin to imitate the other children. The inclusion in the group is done when an idea of the newcomer is taken up or when a member of the group involves the new child in the game.
In the groups themselves there are clear hierarchies, but also power struggles. Most of the higher-ranking children determine which games are played and also distribute the roles in the game. The shots are made by the children who excel the most: they are either the strongest, the loudest, and sometimes the brightest kids who can guide the others. Most groups have one or more outsiders. These are children who are not so fast or skilled or carry a physical handicap with them. Often "victim types", ie the weak and shy children become outsiders and also scapegoats, some of whom are tolerated in the group, but have no right of participation like the other children. The first approaches of Gruppenenzwang occur: "You can only play if you also bring a Matchbox car."
Groups among schoolchildren
With the beginning of school the separation of the sexes intensifies. The reason for this is that the interests of boys and girls become more and more different as they get older, and in addition the children become aware of the gender segregation in society. Friendships among the sexes become rare. Boys think girls are bitchy and uncool, girls find boys rude and stupid. Peer pressure increases, exclusion is commonplace when teachers and educators do not regulate.
When puberty starts, the groups separate even more, but first touch and first love. The boys are now getting more and more cocky and try to raise their status through auditions and macho posturing. The girls are slowly turning into women and they are trying to figure out how to please the boy. If the kids become teenagers, then groups with mixed sexes will be up-to-date again, now there is a strong peer pressure: This often only includes who smokes, drinks alcohol or carries cool brand-name clothes.
Mixed age groups
In mixed-age groups, children usually develop more social skills. By nature, children are caring and attentive to the weaker, as are younger children within the group. These in turn show a greater interest in the older children than in their peers. In mixed-age groups, each child assumes different roles depending on his or her age, and increasingly develops social skills. It gradually grows out of the toddler role and gradually takes on more responsibility. It can empathize with younger children and better understand their behavior. Observations have shown that exclusion and strict hierarchy are far less common in these groups than in groups of children of the same age.
Children in the group behave according to the situation. Interaction with others greatly helps them to develop social skills such as tolerance, willingness to compromise, caring and a sense of responsibility. Undisturbed play is important, however, adults should intervene when it becomes clear that it comes to exclusionary behavior and violent quarrels. But then it is important not to interrupt the process through prohibitions and penalties. Rather, adults should point out ways to solve problems and conflict.
Follow VimmTV (@vimm) for frequent updates, contests and giveaways for our early adopters!