Eureka! column: Role of grandparents in raising their children’s offspring ever more important

Grandparents are fulfilling child care needs more and more in the UK
Grandparents are fulfilling child care needs more and more in the UK

We celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day here in the UK and right across the globe, but it’s only in the USA that there is a special day set aside just for grandparents. This year it fell on Sunday, September 8 and, for the cynics out there, it isn’t just another excuse for greetings card companies to boost their profits, but an important day to recognise the increasing contribution that grandparents make to raising children.

Here at Eureka! Nursery we provide cost-effective, Ofsted outstanding childcare for Calderdale families. With childcare costs rising at more than twice the rate of inflation and pay levels lagging behind, many parents are increasingly looking to grandparents to help look after their children when they return to work. Grandparents Plus, a national charity that champions the role of grandparents, found that more than 60 per cent of grandparents in the UK provide essential childcare, and the website recently found that more than 60 per cent of those don’t receive a penny for their services. Recent recommendations by the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank go as far as suggesting a move to allow parents to transfer statutory maternity pay to grandparents who step in to fulfil childcare duties.

Sandra Thompson, head of Eureka! nursery

Sandra Thompson, head of Eureka! nursery

Of course it isn’t about money for most grandparents - 72 per cent said that they looked forward to time with their grandchildren, and regular contact with grandparents and other adults boosts development, particularly socialisation and self-confidence. As all childcare professionals will tell you, children need a secure, reliable base from which to develop and explore the world, and grandparents offer vital foundations for that base. With levels of lone-parenting also on the rise, grandparents can also provide essential gender role models.

Grandparenting can even boost the mental health of both generations. A twenty-year-long study recently found that both grandparents and adult grandchildren who felt emotionally close to the other generation had fewer symptoms of depression.

At Eureka! Nursery we fully support children to explore, develop, grow and have FUN. We are passionate about providing an enabling environment in which our children can play, learn and develop. So what kind of play ideas and activities would we recommend for grandparents to boost learning whilst having a great time? A must have in the nursery is a Treasure Basket.

Child psychologist Elinor Goldschmeid introduced the concept of heuristic play – where babies and toddlers explore the properties of different objects. She developed treasure baskets as a way to encourage this type of play. Preparing your basket can be a fun activity in itself; investigating the contents using all five senses provides children with an opportunity to learn through exploration and, importantly, doesn’t have to cost a small fortune…

How to create your own treasure basket ...

Find a large wicker basket
You’ll need one sturdy enough for the baby/toddler to lean on or pull at. If you don’t have a spare one at home many shops such as Dunelm, Wilkinson’s or large supermarkets sell them.

Gather your treasuresFind objects made from different materials, in a variety of sizes and colours. Wooden/metal spoons, bunches of keys and fruits are all ideal and most of these things can be found in your home. Gather natural objects like pine cones, feathers, seashells and large pebbles. Even different pieces of material are great, and you can use spare wool to make pom-poms. NO PLASTIC!

Play and exploreYour grandchild will be fascinated with the different objects – let them explore around in the basket and investigate the objects to discover their differences. Does it have a smell? Wave it, does it make a noise? What happens when you drop it? What happens when I bang one item against another?

As the role of grandparents becomes ever more vital, let’s have fun and hear it for Grandma and Grandad. Maybe we’ll even start our very own Grandparent’s Day here in the UK – and if we do, why not bring all three generations of your family down to Eureka! to celebrate. We take our play very seriously!