Who we are

Together Old and Young – TOY: young children and older adults learning together

The purpose of the TOY Programme is to promote intergenerational learning and create new possibilities for senior citizens and young children to learn together and benefit from each others’ company. We believe that this is more important than ever before across the world.

People are living longer but older adults and young children are having less and less contact with each other. Parents and grandchildren are migrating to cities and countries far away from grandparents.  For many grandparents it is also sometimes difficult to keep in touch with grandchildren. Other reasons for the lack of contact between old and young is that in many countries, senior citizens are living in old peoples’ homes where they rarely see children and many young children are spending their days with their own age group in day care centres, pre-schools and schools.

The TOY Programme originated in the EU funded TOY Project (2012-2014) which took place in seven countries: Ireland, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal. The TOY Project was unique amongst European intergenerational learning projects with its explicit focus on children in the early childhood years – 0 to 8 years. The Project brought together the worlds of older people, volunteers who are older people (senior volunteers), together with early childhood education and care, primary education and non-formal learning settings such as libraries, arts and cultural centres and community gardens. In collaboration with universities, NGOs and municipalities we researched, documented and supported learning initiatives involving young children and older adults in the seven participating countries.

Achievements of the TOY Project included:

  • a conceptual framework for the TOY approach including five goals of intergenerational learning;
  • identification of successful behaviours and strategies for intergenerational learning involving young children and older people;
  • 21 illustrated casestudies of intergenerational practice;
  • a TOY Toolkit and training workshops for practitioners and senior volunteers;
  • 13 TOY Pilot Actions in Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal.


From project to programme

The TOY Project demonstrated clear benefits of learning together for both young children and older adults and for communities at large. This included mutual understanding, improved feelings of wellbeing, decreased loneliness and satisfaction from sharing knowledge and experience with children and enhanced social cohesion. The TOY Programme aims to extend these benefits to more children and older adults in more communities and in more countries.

We will do this by:

  • advocating at national and international level about the need to enhance the interaction between young children and older adults when developing policies for lifelong learning;
  • developing accessible professional development tools and training with the intention that the TOY approach will be recognised and validated in adult education, and in pre-service and continuing professional development of practitioners;
  • providing information, resources and links to research about intergenerational learning worldwide involving young children and older adults (TOY Blog).

Together Old and Young will build age-friendly communities.


The TOY project was initiated and is promoted by International Child Development Initiatives - ICDI and currently funded by the Dutch foundation Dioraphte

TOY-PLUS is co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union. 

Contact: Margaret Kernan and Giulia Cortellesi, info@toyproject.net