A child’s grandparents are often the first “older people” they’ll be familiar with - and the first people many parents expect to empathise with them. From childcare help, to hobby-building, to pretending to be Santa/the police (delete as appropriate!) on the phone, grandparents are an important influence on children as they grow up.
In fact, the special bond a child forms with an older person is known to have a lot of cognitive and social benefits for both of them. Nikki is grandma (or Nani) to three little grandkids, and with a whole host of childcare experience behind her - both in an out of classrooms - she’s an expert at getting down to a child’s level in order to raise them up.
What’s your favourite thing about spending time with your grandkids?
Oh I love it. We have conversations, crack jokes, laugh, play, read stories together, go for walks, have meals, and cook, amongst many other things we do. It's the bond - the chemistry and interaction we share. Looking them in the eye when interacting and having their attention just melts my heart!
What are some good ways for grown ups to share their culture with kids?
There are several, really. Using special occasions and celebrations is a good way to start. For example, we had Diwali just a couple of months ago. It was an opportunity to read stories about how Diwali came to be celebrated and how it is significant in our times. In the past when looking after children, I’ve tied that to further activities, like using the stories as inspiration for making Diwali cards or clay 'diyas' or lamps to take home, and enjoying songs and dancing tied to the festival. And of course, everyone loves an occasion to dress up in Indian attire and have delicious food for celebration!
Now, I’m looking forward to Holi, better known as the “festival of colours” here in the UK, which is just round the corner. It'll again be lots of fun with stories, songs and dance, crafts, special food and beautiful cultural clothing - and spend time together as a big extended family.
What do grandparents and older grown ups offer children that is different to the parents?
We have seen and done it all - so we now know there's no need for the perfection we tried to achieve with our own children. As their Nani, I tend to be more relaxed around my grandkids, still taking care of the boundaries set by their parents. It doesn't take the kids long to sense this and they respond beautifully!
In the past you looked after children in a professional capacity in schools and at home. What is your best advice about making kids feel comfortable in new environments?
Treating children as unique individuals from the very start would be great. Support them in feeling safe and comfortable, smile, make eye contact and talk gently, sit down at their level so you don't tower above them when talking.
However, also keep boundaries in place so that the kids feel safe and looked after.
You are very good at sharing your love of gardening with kids - why is that?
What's not there to love about gardening!
It teaches so many life lessons at the same time - it's about new beginnings, the cycle of life, growth, regrowth, care, nutrition, health, diversity… and it doesn’t take long before working with plants for it to have a meditative, therapeutic effect. In life, we have our share of stresses and anxieties. Gardening is calming, letting us work through our doubts, fears and confusions, and it helps us gain clarity in our minds. This is what I love to share with my grandkids.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. All the big and small inputs different grown ups have in a child’s life - from grandparents to playgroup leaders to the lady at the checkout - shape how kids grow up to see the world. Who makes up this village is different from family to family, and even child to child. What the people in this ‘village’ offer and model to the kids in their lives is more diverse still. This series shines a light on the different kinds of people that make up the villages around us!