Encore.org recently published an essay by Madeline Dangerfield-Cha and Joy Zhang titled, “Making the Case for Intergenerational Childcare: How Adults 50+ Can Support Home-Based and Family Childcare Centers.” To read the full essay, click here. For more on what you can do to support early childhood education, read on.

1. Volunteer in a preschool classroom.
Want to commit a few hours a week to supporting young minds? See if your local area supports a Jumpstart Community Corps program or Foster Grandparents program where you can be placed in a preschool classroom (try googling Foster Grandparents + your city). If one does not exist around you, reach out to a childcare resource and referral agency in your county or go to the Gen2Gen website to find volunteer opportunities.

2. Become a grandparent-on-the-go and provide care to families in your neighborhood or city.  
Many parents appreciate having a grandparent figure in their children’s lives but do not have relatives nearby. Consider offering your grandparenting skills to families in your neighborhood. Some entrepreneurial spirits, like Grandmas on the Go, have started their own websites to advertise grandparent babysitting services. And Grandmas2Go trains older adults as volunteers for families that need support. If you’re not sure where to start, test the waters by posting a caregiver profile on care.com or urbansitter.com.  

3. Start an intergenerational garden.  
Have a plot of land you’d like to cultivate? Follow the example of the Cuyamaca Intergenerational Garden and invite young children from your neighborhood or local preschool to get their hands dirty in planting fruit, vegetables or flowers.  You can even find ideas for garden curricula on the Farm to Preschool website.  

4. Use your business talents to advise and support home daycares.  
Are you a wizard when it comes to tax filing, accounting or marketing — and have patience to boot? You might be the business coach that home daycare centers need.  Organizations like All Our Kin are hiring business consultants to advise home daycare providers on the nuts and bolts of operating a small business. Or you could  strike out on your own and offer your consulting services to home daycare centers in your area.  

5. Become a playground coach.  
Play is children’s work. Help kids learn about the world around them by becoming a playground volunteer. You can find opportunities in your area through Playworks, which will train you to be a ‘play expert.’  If Playworks does not operate in your area, consider volunteering at your local school, afterschool program or Boys and Girls’ Club.  

6. Lend a hand to grandparents raising grandchildren.  
Grandparents helping to raise grandchildren is a tradition as old as time. Sadly, the incidence of grandfamilies has risen in recent years in large part because the opioid epidemic has pushed many children into foster care with relatives. Consider supporting Generations United, which regularly reports on and advocates for grandfamilies, and organizations like Treehouse or Bridge Meadows, which are reimagining foster care through intergenerational communities.  

7. Call your local representative to advocate for home daycare centers.
Get smart on the issues affecting childcare in the country and in your local county.  Advocate on behalf of children, parents and childcare providers to improve the quality, affordability and accessibility of childcare. Sites like Childcare Aware of America or the National Association for the Education of Young Children can help you get started.  

8. Become an Encore Fellow to work with children’s organizations.
Encore Fellowships match skilled, experienced professionals with social-purpose organizations to work on high-impact assignments for 6-12 months. Some Fellows might work on strategy to create intergenerational programming; others might create financial models that measure impact of an early learning program. Explore the options and apply at Encore.org.  

9. Start a home daycare center.
Ever dreamed about being a teacher? Do you have a home you’re willing to share?  While not for the faint of heart, opening a home daycare center can be a rewarding path to serving children and parents. You might even consider starting it with an adult child, just as this mother-daughter homecare duo did with the Sweetpea Home Daycare.

10. Join the movement and tell your friends.
Making a difference for future generations depends to a great degree on our ability to marshal all available resources, including ourselves, to support children, parents and the childcare system. Join the Gen2Gen campaign and pledge to create a better future for future generations. Share these ideas and more from our paper, “Making the Case for Intergenerational Childcare,” with your friends and family and come up with your own.  

Joy Zhang and Madeline Dangerfield-Cha are currently MBA students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Together, they spent the summer of 2017 as research fellows for Encore.org and the Packard Foundation, investigating the potential for intergenerational models of care for early childhood development.

Published: November 27, 2017