Supporting grandparents and grandchildren
These unique sessions are devised specifically for grandparents who care for under-fives, supporting them by providing early years learning opportunities using nature and outdoor play and giving them a chance meet other grandparents caring for their grandchildren.
Grandparents play an increasingly important role in supporting their extended and working families, with 63% of grandparents who have grandchildren (that are aged under 16) now providing regular childcare.
Grandparents are highly motivated to create experiences for their grandchildren, but many are still working themselves. They may lack confidence, as significant time may have passed since they took responsibility for a small child, they are often isolated from their peers by childcare responsibilities and might feel uncomfortable attending standard childcare groups. Some may also struggle with the physicality of looking after a toddler.
Why early years?
The first years of a child’s life have extraordinary importance on their future development. During this period, children’s brains evolve rapidly and are changed by every experience, shaping them, growing them and influencing who they will be in later life.
Nature-based activity has great benefits on their upbringing as it helps under-fives stay active both mentally and physically.
We have a limited window to recruit them to our cause: building a strong relationship with nature, caring about the future of our environment and valuing its ability to support our physical and mental health.
What impact are we making?
Grandparents learn to provide good developmental activities for their grandchildren in a natural environment; increase their physical and mental ability to care for young children in the outdoors; while grandchildren benefit from good quality interaction with other children.
The sessions provide a safe and inspiring space where grandparents and grandchildren can come, feel welcome, play, engage, and meet others through activities such as storytelling, outdoor play, craft activities, and exploring Eden’s wonderful gardens.
The programme is also giving volunteers the opportunity to bring their skills into play on a truly heart-warming project.
‘Ourselves and our grandchildren have made wonderful memories!’
‘I have loved every minute, met some very lovely people and look forward to being here each time I come.’
‘I would definitely encourage anyone who has been thinking of volunteering. It keeps you active and you get to enjoy the benefits of being in this beautiful place.’
Our ambition is to roll the project out across Cornwall in partnership with other Cornish organisations, increasing support and making the most of grandparents in a caring role, with a view to sharing this approach with other suitable organisations and visitor attractions across the UK.
How can you do this in your organisation?
At a time when children no longer have the outdoor play opportunities of previous generations, there are nevertheless so many possibilities for organisations such as botanical gardens and museums – with their accessible, usable, safe spaces – to creating magical learning experiences for, and with, their young visitors.
That’s why we’ve put together this publication ‘Wondering allowed’, so that we can share our experience of pioneering this work with grandparent carers. Many of the insights we gained are equally relevant to working with pre-school children and other family adults.
We hope you find this publication useful in your own organisation and that it encourages you to create opportunities for wonder-filled visits with young children, no matter who they visit with.
A report from our funders Nesta
You may also be interested in a special report Parents Helping Parents, put together by our funders, Nesta, about how the power of parents and their communities can be harnessed to better support families with young children. Using examples such as our programme it outlines how parent power can enhance family support, and suggests how we can embed parent power in and alongside great public services.