In some previous school years, I had some contact with grandparents and other seniors. We did some activities in my setting room with families, and other activities with the neighbor Day Center for elderly people. But that year in particular, there were several small children in the group (1 year old room – Nursery) who at the end of the day had their grandparents to take care of them.
More than challenging families to get involved in a participatory way in the children’s learning, it was the perfect opportunity to involve a different group, but no less important in this process: the grandparents.
Let me share with you the many reasons why I felt it was so important to have grandparents in the room:
Grandparents are a powerful force as a support network for families
They are the ones who carry, and pass on, the habits and customs of the family and culture
They’re not the parents. They have no pressure or obligation in the education of their grandchildren
Have lots of love and patience to share
But Most of all!…
THEY HAVE TIME!
Grandparents can serve as a constant and reliable presence for children who need adult role models present, when parents are unavailable. The connection between generations provides children and grandparents with the opportunity to teach/learn, share learning and knowledge and create bonds.
It can algo give us important values to be passed on, such as empathy, patience or respect for others, and helps us to be more open, caregiver and to listen to others, more than judge.
What does literature tell us about some of the benefits of intergenerational learning:
Benefits for children and young people:
The “school of life” (traditions, culture, knowledge and experiences) shared with the younger ones helps them to have a perception of greater appreciation of the role of the elderly and understanding of the aging process;
The transmission of practical knowledge in different areas (eg Agriculture), enhances the ability to relate concepts and adapt children and young people to different contexts of personal and professional life;
Benefits for seniors:
Seniors remember and experience a “new childhood” for the opportunity to enjoy more time and better quality in interaction with younger people, a situation, perhaps, not enjoyed in the same way in the past with their children;
By being active, the elderly avoid loneliness, improve health and satisfaction with life, evoking a sense of usefulness and personal fulfillment in their role of supporting the younger ones.
Benefits for the community:
Development of a sense of community, through a greater voluntary collaboration of people and involvement of organizations in solving community issues;
Building social networks and strengthening ties of solidarity;
Reduction of stereotypes and cleavages of knowledge, history and culture between generations.
These are some of the initiatives that were organized over two school years to build a close relationship with the grandparents and provide for their active participation in the experiences of that group of children:
After the adaptation period, grandparents arrived at the room, simply to get to know the context in which the child is inserted, to get to know the other children, the adults, the routines…
Grandparents meeting – It could have been similar to the parents meeting but I set a theme to challenge sharing and start building a sense of group and belonging among the grandparents – When I was a kid… (games, stories, toys and foods from my childhood )
Organize a new visit to the room so that the grandparents could share an experience from their childhood with the group of children. We defined together what each one would bring or do (games, stories, toys, recipes)
Register, document, return – I built a pedagogical documentation just for the grandparents. Shared on the hall wall so everyone could have access – parents, children, grandparents, other members of our school community.
We created a group of grandparents who, in the following year, together with the team of assistants, organized the Christmas, Father’s Day and Mother’s Day celebrations. Or they would have organized this last celebration, if it wasn’t for Covid arriving on our doorstep.
Oh! How many changes have I seen in children!! Your grandfather is my grandfather! The tenderness and availability that this group of people showed in the classroom only made the children’s sense of belonging to the classroom, to the group, to the school grow.
I realized, over time, that with the constant visits to the setting, the grandparents were increasingly comfortable in the space and in their relationships with the professionals.
Parents loved seeing the dynamics that were created with the participation of grandparents, and expressed their pleasure in realizing that their child was being accompanied by someone of reference, as parents were not always able to go to school.
For all these reasons and more, they’re people who often play an active role in children’s lives and deserve our consideration.
Ariana Oliveira | Early Years Education Specialist and customer support
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