Introducing Acorns & Oaks: Pop-up Playgroups in Care Homes

When the oldest members of the community spend time with the youngest members of the community, it’s a truly great thing for both.

Now, regular meetings of both the very young and the very old are happily becoming a reality in Bristol thanks to Acorns & Oaks, pop-up playgroups in settings for the elderly.

Acorns & Oaks was created by Bristol mum, Gilly Wilson, who became aware of the benefits of the very old spending time with the very young after regularly visiting her neighbour, Margaret, who had moved into a care home for the elderly.

Gilly explains:

“I’d initially been nervous about bringing children into that setting, but it became clear that not only Margaret loved seeing them, but the other residents.  My children would bring them toys and many of them would like a chat.  I invited some friends to join us on a couple of visits, and having more children playing together, as well as a few more adults to chat to, brought more enjoyment for everyone. “

Gilly went on to set up Acorns & Oaks, giving other older people across Bristol the chance to spend time with little ones in residential and care homes and supported living settings.

There are currently five established Acorns & Oaks groups in Bristol: two in Westbury-on-Trym, Stoke Bishop, Kingswood and Frenchay.

What’s more, Gilly and her team plan to set up many more groups across Bristol and beyond!

The pop-up playgroups have been a hit with both old and young as Gilly explains:

“Without fail, one of the residents will say “They bring joy” or “It makes me feel alive” or something heartwarming.  Equally, the fact the children look forward to their “Acorns & Oaks” morning and love it – it’s wonderful.”

Last week I went along to an Acorns & Oaks session at The Westbury Care Home in Westbury-on-Trym to watch an Acorns & Oaks session in progress.

The session included half an hour of the babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers playing freely amongst the residents of The Westbury. It was clear that the old people present loved watching and talking to the children and they also liked chatting to the parents who were there.

Later on in the session all tidied away the toys and books and there were drinks and snacks for all present, including a fruit plate and home-made cakes. Then there was some singing of nursery rhymes which all enjoyed, plus all played with a giant balloon, gently hitting it around the room to each person.

The atmosphere was a happy one and it was a delight to see the old people, parents and the young children playing and interacting with one another.

One of the parents who was visiting with her little boy told me what she thought of Acorns & Oaks:

“It’s a win-win because my son is happy and he brings happiness to the people here; then you also feel good about it as well! You go away with a really nice feeling and it’s nice to do something nice for your local community.”

If you would like to come along to an Acorns & Oaks group, you can contact Gilly and Mel via the Acorns & Oaks Facebook page and then register – there is no cost to do so.

And when you come along to a group, all you need to bring is a toy or two to share with the residents or other children each time.

Gilly is hoping to start more groups in Bristol in January 2018 and there are many residential, nursing homes and supported accommodation already willing to host Acorns & Oaks.

However, new Group Leaders are needed to host the groups. Gilly explains what this role involves:

“The Group Leader’s role is not hard, but is essential: Remind the group on Facebook that it is on each week, and let us know if and when you need more attendees.  If you would like to be a group leader please do email us or contact us through facebook.”

There is an Information Session for New Group Leaders at 3 – 4pm on Sunday 19th November at Cairns Road Baptist Church, Westbury Park, where you can find out more about what the role involves. Space will be tight so please register if you would like to attend.

Acorns & Oaks is a truly great thing for both young and old with benefits for both generations.