How the TOY online course transformed our practice

February 25, 2019 |  Sharon Malcolm

The opportunity to participate in the TOY Online Course inspired Belfast Nursery Manager, Sharon Malcolm to transform the Nursery’s intergenerational experience from being a one-off visit for young children to a Care Home for older adults to being an integral part of the Nursery’s practice.  Read her blog post below.

Puddleducks Day Nursery and Kirk House Care Home in Northern Ireland are both part of the Belfast Central Mission, one of Northern Ireland’s oldest charities. In the Day Nursery we had been aware that Kirk House had been doing some intergenerational work with school-aged children and were inspired by them.  Wanting our ‘little ducks’, who are aged between 3 and 5 years old, to engage with the residents from Kirk House and enjoy some time together, we arranged a bus to take us on the 7 mile journey across the city.  The initial plan was a one-off visit. The ease in which the children and older people related to each other was quite magical. It appeared effortless and genuine – no way was this going to be just a one-off visit.

In Puddleducks we are always striving to improve in everything we do. So when I received an email from Linking Generations Northern Ireland about the TOY Online Course shortly after this visit I was eager to participate. The training provided me with a strong foundation and knowledge about intergenerational learning involving young children and older adults. It also made me even more enthusiasm to make intergenerational work part and parcel of what we do in Puddleducks.

The training concluded with an inspiring TOY International exchange week in Dublin. Listening to the experiences and ideas from other participants coming from right across Europe, I began to understand how we could extend our intergenerational work in Puddleducks, improve our practice and overcome any barriers we may face.

With the TOY Course under my belt I made links with the ‘Wednesday Lunch Club’, a group of older people who live in the Belfast area and come together each Wednesday to enjoy some activities, entertainment and a nutritious lunch.  For many, this is one of the few occasions in the week they get to leave their home. Linking Generations Northern Ireland kindly provided a grant through their ‘All Ages April’ small grants programme. We used this for a gardening project for our children’s 1st ‘get together’ with the Lunch Club members. The benefits for the lunch members was clear from their reactions, “It does your heart good to spend time with the wee’uns”; “They have so much energy, it rubs off on you”.  Meanwhile the children asked: “Why do you have to go, can you not just stay and play?”.

Still inspired by the TOY programme and wanting to continue to develop our intergenerational work, we invited a representative from the Alzheimer’s Society in Belfast to the Nursery. Natasha the story of ‘Lenny the lion and his forgetful grandfather’ to our pre-schoolers, who are now becoming more Dementia friendly.

During the TOY training, I was also encouraged by some of the activities that the other learners had been involved in, one of which was bringing the residents of a care home to the nursery. So we thought…WHY NOT!  In August 2018, nearly a year after we first visited Kirk House, Kirk House came to Puddleducks!

I feel privileged to have been part of the piloting of the TOY Course. This training has given me an insight into how we can use intergenerational work to not only enhance play and learning opportunities for our children but more so to strengthen and support their emotional wellbeing. In Puddleducks we pride ourselves in “Caring for the heart while we care for the mind”…intergenerational work makes that easy!

If you could like more information about the intergenerational work being done at Puddleworks, please contact the author of this blogpost, Sharon Malcolm: 

The second edition of the TOY Online Course is starting on 4 March 2019. Don’t miss this opportunity and register now.