Intergenerational Learning ‘Our Friend’s Next Door’.  

Project author:

Project summary:

Action research and reflection on leadership from a Froebelian perspective in an early earning and childcare community



Our improvement plan is to incorporate a Froebelian approach, which aims to provide our children with opportunities to explore and become a part of our community through building relationships. We discovered that there was a senior citizens club. After discussions with the children, the lunch club members and practitioners we decided we would visit weekly to create intergenerational links. Some practitioners showed enthusiasm to develop these links, other practitioners were nervous and required more guidance and encouragement. They felt uncomfortable working with a group of society that they had little experience working with. My role has been to lead the process and to support staff.  


Before undertaking this course and starting this project I did not see myself as a leader, I felt I needed to get approval from the senior team before taking the lead and coaching other practitioners. Before undertaking this leadership role I was quite apprehensive with taking the lead for both sectors; the nursery and the senior citizens club. 

During the Froebelian Futures Leadership course, I was more aware of leadership at all levels. I learned about distributed leadership and I wondered how much children could be involved in leading and planning their own project. I discovered that leading children in this project led to deeper learning and understanding. I wanted to empower them to take the lead.  

I provided support to the club carers while the practitioner and our children came up with a program with minimal input from me.  

Our children were thrilled to be able to choose what we could do with our new friends.  Froebel ‘believed children thrive when they are emotionally secure, joyful and in close relationships with others’. (Froebel, in Lilley 1967:148)  


Initially I wanted to develop a shared understanding between our practitioners and the lunch club carers so I met with them to discuss and share thoughts on developing a programme to create links for both generations. 

We came together as a staff team to get a shared understanding and vision for our project. Some practitioners were understandably anxious about working with adults with dementia, hearing, sight loss and learning difficulties. I remained positive and shared my experiences whilst I role modelled.   

Our shared vision for this project was to build relationships between the old and the young and for both generations to learn from each other. I wanted to ensure I captured the voices of both the young and old about experiences they both wanted to do together. As a team we decided that the same group of children would go for a block of experiences to build and deepen relationships. Straight away some practitioners showed enthusiasm and started to share ideas and were thinking about what we could call our new group. They came up with ‘Our Friends Next Door’. As a leader I listened to their ideas and provided support when required. 

My main leadership was to provide opportunities for the whole team to build relationships between the children and with ‘Our friends next door’ and to purposefully bring together different generations in ongoing and mutual activities that both generations would benefit from. I was hoping to lead our children and practitioners to develop empathy and resilience whilst developing relationships and learning about different disabilities. During the experiences, I asked thought provoking questions to extend practitioners thinking and I supported practitioners by initially modelling for less confident practitioners who were anxious about working across the two sectors. I provided time and support for them to use their own ideas and build on their strengths.   

Eight children began their block by singing with props, which both generations really enjoyed. The young and old both learnt from each other whilst teaching each other some new songs. A practitioner suggested that we try to do experiences with the young and older generations partnered together and alongside the children the practitioner mutually came up with experiences like threading, jigsaws, drawing and icing biscuits. It has been wonderful to see our children develop empathy and understanding whilst the older generation have developed some skills which had been lost. Other practitioners were reluctant to join in with the sessions. I spent more sessions with them together where I continued to model until they gained confidence. I built on the strengths that these particular practitioners had which made them feel valued and confident which in turn led to them along to a session. 

 Our findings showed that both generations enjoyed their weekly time together and had formed relationships. One of the elder gentlemen said ‘the children make him feel young again’ and one child said they ‘like to go because they can help someone who can’t see’. A carer said how much ‘the activities have helped because it has given him back skills that he had lost’. Our children had begun to develop more understanding of their new friends and some of their differences.   

After sessions we would reflect with children and the senior club, giving ownership. Children’s parents commented on the enriching experience we were providing, sharing “that these visits lead to the development of empathy and compassion, things that can only be harnessed through lived experiences”.  

 Project outcomes (non-leadership) 

I have created a sustainable project that my team and ‘Our friends next door’ plan to continue and extend. We plan to invite the seniors club into our setting and to continue to develop these relationships both indoors and outdoors. It was lovely to see our children taking a leadership role when working with the seniors. Children showed their partner what to do with activities and made sure they had resources they needed. One child provided support to someone who was blind by putting a spoon in their hand and guiding them.  The children were invited to ‘our friends next door’ Christmas party and they immediately voiced that they wanted to make Christmas cards. The children gifted their friends cards and a poster which they helped to design. 

We have created a positive opportunity for young and old to learn from one another, which has built a strong sense of community. I encouraged the practitioners to reflect on the children, their families and the elder generations feedback and this showed what an enriching learning experience this was for everyone.  

Practitioners learnt having the child and elder generation working together creates an equal relationship with them learning skills together and supporting each other. After a term of weekly visits it was evident that both the younger and older people’s confidence had improved and the younger generation had developed listening and leadership skills generating understanding and respect between both generations whilst reducing feelings of isolation and disconnection for the older generation. This in turn has created a stronger community connection.  

My role was role modelling and guiding both children, our practitioners and the lunch club carers to make more plans for future experiences and research for further learning experiences. I was also asking coaching questions and supporting the practitioners to up skill their professional development.  Moving forward we want to continue to develop these interactions to create meaningful and lasting relationships between the generations. I will continue to build on the practitioners strengths and give them and the children more autonomy around the sessions.    

 Final reflections

On reflection I have recognised that my leadership style is very much participatory. I learned that by working alongside practitioners, children, the carers and the elderly allows for connections to be made and for the children to create and bonds and learn with other generations through first hand experiences. Helen Tovey states “nurseries and schools should be democratic, respectful communities of learners, where adults and children can learn from each other. They should be closely connected to the wider community of people and places”. (Bringing the Froebelian approach to your early years practice. 2017) 

Using the Froebelian approach to consider the principles and practice to plan a shared vision of being out in the community more and connecting to the people in it, first hand.  By giving the children and other practitioners the opportunity to take the lead showed that each could further develop their skills and confidence.  

This project has highlighted to me the benefits of giving young children the opportunity to lead. Our children have shown great confidence and responsibility.  Froebelian Futures has provided me with the support and inspired me to deepen my knowledge and learning to become a better leader. The leadership course provided a platform for critical thinking and reflection.  I now consider myself to be a leader.  













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