To encourage meaningful play in a mixed-age classroom, it's best to provide open-ended materials that children of any age can use freely and creatively. Some suggested materials for the dramatic play area include pretend food, toy telephones, pots and pans, a cash register, child-sized furniture, dolls, a small pad of paper, and crayons. These materials can be used by younger children to act out simple themes, such as their own household, or by four-year-olds to pretend they are staff in a restaurant, as well as other elaborate themes.
Having children of different age groups play together in the same area promotes an important sense of leadership and positive feelings of self-worth in older children. It also enhances social and emotional skills, as well as skills in math, writing, and literacy. Younger children learn from older children, who in turn reinforce and deepen their own understanding of a topic or skill by teaching it. This builds the other child's confidence while also fostering interest in those learning domains for the younger children.