• Tanya Steers

Pre-K's trek across the park to experience inter-generational learning

Every few weeks our pre-kindy classes make their way across the park to meet and work with our elderly friends from Concorde Nursing home. It is a highlight of not only their day but ours too.

Over the past two years Miss Kate, has introduced her classes to the older generation within our community, which has so many benefits for both our children and the elderly residents of Concorde. The classes have enjoyed the interactions with the residents and have looked forward to going each time they visit.

It is well researched the benefits of play on children's development and is outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child which was adopted in initially in 1989 and signed by 194 countries. There has been plenty of research surrounding the benefits of play in children, and more recently researchers have started looking into the benefits of play for Adults. What has resulted, is that older adults and children involved in the same play are thriving from the interactions. In a society where many parents are working full time, the inter-generational interactions are providing benefits for both parties.

For children they are receiving attentive, flexible play partners and for the older adults they have an opportunity to play a nurturing role, it reinforces meaning in their lives helps them remember why they are still around. It has amazing positive mental health benefits for both children and older adults.

The increased benefits for both can be seen below in the table taken from Davis, Larkin and Graves publication of Intergenerational learning through play.


Table 1: Benefits of Play

Young Children

Cognitive

· Increase flexibility in thinking (imagination; symbolic representation)

· Make new connections of meaning

· Gain concrete experience with visual/spatial, & mathematical relationships

· Solve problems


Social

· Express ideas and negotiate with peers (language development)

· Learning what is acceptable language and behaviour in the culture

· Learn to share, compromise, respond to others

· Make friends


Physical

· Practice and consolidate small and gross motor skills

· Oxygenate & stimulate blood flow to the brain

· Gain concrete experience with relationships of weight, size distance etc

· Increase control over tools and materials


Emotional

· Interact with others and learn to express feelings appropriately

· Work through emotionally charged experiences

· Experiment with new roles for self

· Learn to show empathy

· Build self esteem

(Davis, Larkin, & Graves, 2002)


Older Adult

Cognitive

· Exercise flexibility in thinking (imagination, creativity)

· Make new connections of meaning (critical thinking)

· Recognise surprises; alter ideas & habits (expectations are challenged)

· Solve problems


Social

· Express ideas and articulate in convincing arguments

· Share perspectives based on life experiences

· Learn to adapt and change

· Make friends and keep the old


Physical

· Exercise large and small muscle groups

· Oxygenate & stimulate blood flow to the brain

· Maintain measure of control over the physical world


Emotional

· Interact with others and express feelings (combat depression)

· Review life (integrity vs. despair)

· Imagine new roles for self (growth)

· Express empathy (give love or perish)

· Build self esteem

(Davis, Larkin, & Graves, 2002)


The children of Hensman Street are having additional benefits added to their play experiences by being able to share them with the Concorde residents. For the moment is it just singing and dancing, but who knows how their relationships will bloom. Many of the children now create art pieces for their elderly friends and the exchange of the gift brightens both of their days.

For some of our children who have had limited experience with the elderly as they are away from their own grandparents, or they have passed on this has created a wonderful curiosity within the children's interests, and some it has created some questions of concern. Each of our children's agency and emotional resilience is always in the forefront of Miss Kates mind and this has been a very positive experience and program for all.

We thank Miss Kate for the introduction to this added benefit to our children's play.


References


Ballantyne, R., Connell, S., & Fien, J. (1998). Students as Catalysts of Environmental Change: a framework for researching intergenerational influence through environmental education. Journal of Environmental Education Research, pp. 285-2987,Volume 4, Issue 3.


Davis, L., Larkin, E., & Graves, S. (2002). Intergenerational learning through play. International Journal of Early Childhood, pp. Issue 2, Volume 34, pg 42-49 https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03176766.


Unicef. (2019, August 7). Child Rights Convention. Retrieved from Unicef for every child: https://www.unicef.org/child-rights-convention


Williams, S., Renehan, E., Cramer, E., Lin, X., & Haralambous, B. (2012). ‘All in a day's play’ – An intergenerational playgroup in a residential aged care facility. International Journal of Play, pp. 250-263, Volume 1 Issue 3.


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