By Jade Turnbull-Allen, Supervisor at Forest Row Community Pre-School.
After reading an article about a Swedish nursing home joining forces with a pre-school, we were really keen to see how we could extend this activity ourselves at Forest Row Community Pre-School. Our village has a ‘Thursday Club’ for older people in the village. We already visit to sing for them every Christmas, but were eager to extend on this a bit further. I spoke with the Thursday Club Co-ordinator at our Parish Council offices. It was decided we would share stories and some craft activities in our afternoon session.
Our first activity proved a few teething issues – seating! Luckily we could borrow several larger chairs from the adjacent community centre and had some helping hands bring them over.
We also discussed safety, the Thursday Club came over as a whole so we only needed to open the door once.
We also shared that all visitors must remain in the main hall at all times unless escorted by a staff member, and no mobile devices were to be used.
Myself and staff based ourselves throughout the room to support the children and visitors.
The first ten minutes was a little chaotic as everybody found a space, this will be easier next time as we are now more aware of numbers and capabilities.
The children had been told that some older people were coming to play and we needed to be kind and teach them. They were very keen to take up this task and helped decide what we would put out to play with.
We also explained that some people are unable to move very easily and we must be careful and remember our walking in the hall. The children rose admirably to the occasion.
"The children now ask when 'the ladies' are coming back to see them"
The afternoon was an excellent success and everyone left happy – it was such a feel good experience for all involved, even if we were all floury and paint splattered!
A valuable learning opportunity
We had seen so many learning opportunities, children stayed involved in activities for longer periods of time. It also provided different influences, some families may not have grandparents, or male/female role models.
The children showed fantastic listening and attention skills, despite the number of people the room stayed calm, all the children were engaged in meaningful play, they benefitted from uninterrupted adult attention.
We currently have plans for a second visit to the Community Café for a hot lunch and a Teddy Bear’s Picnic in our garden area. This will then be followed by a musical session.
Our first collaboration has also resulted in further visits, one lady shared her background as an artist, and she has since visited twice to carry out art activities with the children. The children now ask when 'the ladies' are coming back to see them and have expressed an interest to visit them too.
The Parish Council was also able to give us contact details for the two nearby nursing homes. It is our hope that in the near future we will be visiting for a music group and story sharing.
We really encourage other settings to try something similar, it is a low cost activity with so many rewards for all involved.
Tips for running an intergenerational project
- Speak to your local parish council, they may be willing to offer advice, support and equipment loans to help these activities happen. (We even get a discount to take the children to the café).
- Plan – think about the space you have for people with mobility issues and what extra equipment you may need to borrow. How can you ensure all children and visitors are in sight and hearing of practitioners at all times?
- Ensure you or the Parish organiser share the ‘rules’ before your visit. Safeguarding is key for this to be a success.
- Keep it simple and build up, if your building isn’t suitable can you visit instead? Keep visits short, no more than an hour for the first one, but guide it by your children, you will know when they’ve had enough.
- Include the children, let them know what is happening and allow them to make some choices. (We chose to make them ‘teachers’, we all know how little ones love a job).