Name in the Hat project

An intergenerational initiative connecting young and old

How can I get involved?

If you are a school or a care home that would like to be involved in this project or would like to fund a round of Name in the Hat, or make a donation towards it click here.

Why is the name important?

The idea of using names for this project stemmed from looking at ways to support clients remotely, and in a conversation with a member of staff at a care home, we were told about a resident with dementia responding positively to seeing their name on a plaque. We thought this might be of benefit more generally to people, and this was confirmed by the findings of the pilot project.

Using a first name is of benefit on many levels. Many of the children appreciate being able to personalise the card with someone’s name, as it makes it easier to engage, and more meaningful than writing to someone they don’t know. For many, it gives them a sense of knowing, and caring for, the older adult.

I was really blessed to receive your card. It’s absolutely lovely. The poem is splendid. I’m so happy to receive this from you. I love the card so much, I can’t stop looking at it, beautiful! It will be passed around to all my family to look at. It’s now safely in my handbag!

For the older adult receiving the card with their name on, it brings a sense of being known and valued, thus generating feelings of self-worth. It could help to ground and centre a person who might have been feeling out of kilter, as well as bringing comfort and enjoyment.

As well as the therapeutic benefits of receiving a personalised card at the time, many of the cards have been treasured and subsequently referred to and discussed within dramatherapy sessions, thus forming an important contribution to the therapeutic relationship and the work.

The use of the first name (and not last name) is sufficient to enable these benefits, without breaking confidentiality and GDPR regulations.

How does it work?

Roundabout acts as liaison between the care home and the school, arranging to find out the first names of all residents in the home.

We liaise with a school and decide which class or year group will participate and when it could take place.

We provide the school with a supply of blank cards, craft materials, a list of first names, a hat and an instruction sheet. Depending on numbers, children can work on their own or in pairs.

Each child draws a slip of paper out of a hat which gives them a name of a resident.

They are then invited to take a card and decorate it inside and out.

What goes in the card?

The front of the card is decorated, with the name of the person picked out of the hat featured prominently. The personalisation of the card with their name etc

Inside the card a short poem or very short story is written along with a short message.

The story/poem can be free choice, or linked to a theme or event (e.g., friendship, colours, a time of year/season etc.) Roundabout can suggest a theme or teachers are free to make suggestions to fit in with current curriculum work.

The card is signed using the child’s first name only.

What happens next?

Teachers are invited to take a few photos of hands making the cards (no faces).

Roundabout collect the completed cards and deliver to the care home.

Care home staff are invited to take photos of a few cards being opened by residents (hands only).

Roundabout send a card back to the school to thank the children, including any feedback from the residents and staff at the care home that they were happy to share in response.

The children are invited to complete a brief evaluation form, to assess their involvement and engagement in the project.

The project can be repeated with different classes/homes as required, throughout the school year.

It made me feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing I would make someone happy

Background to Name in the Hat?

The idea for the ‘Name in the Hat’ project came from a desire to bring in more of the creativity that would typically be used in sessions as well as finding ways to connect the age groups we work with most frequently.

Roundabout works with clients of all ages, offering dramatherapy sessions in small groups and one to one in a variety of settings, including schools and care homes. During the Covid 19 pandemic, Roundabout worked to find ways to keep in touch with our older clients isolated in care homes. We used video links to meet with clients, and therapists sent cards and provided care packages for residents.

Benefits of connecting young and old are well documented. Many schools have existing connections with care homes and day centres, visiting on a regular basis to read, or perform music.

At a time where visits were not possible, this project aimed to fill the gap, created by the pandemic, offering children the chance to connect and engage with older people who were isolated in their homes through sharing creative writing and artwork.

In turn the project aimed to provide enjoyment for older people receiving personalised artwork, which we hoped would brighten their room, and their day!

The project ran a number of times during the pandemic lockdowns and proved very popular with the children, teachers, care home staff and particularly the older adults involved. We have decided to continue offering these when we can.

Pilot project – November/December 2020

48 Year 6 primary school children sent cards to older adults in two care homes in South East London.

What was the feedback from the residents?

The feedback from the homes was positive – here is a selection of the comments from residents.

· This is special. I am very touched.

· The card has very pretty colours and is a beautiful card. The poem is very clever and a good idea to brighten up my day. Thank you very much.

· Your card is very nice because it’s home-made. I love the poem, it rhymes so nicely.

· Aww, look at all the kisses, so nice! They have put their hearts and soul into making the cards. I hope it has given you the joy making it as I have reading it.

· Thank you very much, it made me cry but happy tears.

· I loved the card, it’s very kind of you to make such a precious gift for me.

· I really appreciated your card. It’s so sweet of you to write such a meaningful poem in this hard time. You have made me feel happy and less lonely, thank you.

Word cloud with all feedback from residents

What was the feedback from the staff at the homes?

· Thank you for taking the time to do this for our residents, they were delighted. All so lovely – it was so kind, thoughtful and sweet.

· What beautiful cards. Thank you so much to you and all the children! They were beautifully written. They really touched our residents and made them smile.

What was the feedback from the children?

The evaluation from the children was also overwhelmingly positive – here is a selection of their comments.

What was it like to make the card and take part in this project?

  • Making this card was lovely to do and an activity of thought. Taking part in this was so fun and I think a very sweet idea.
  • It was very enjoyable, as I felt like it would make someone happy and that really cheered me up.
  • It was really nice to know you were making a difference to somebody else’s day.
  • It was fun and relaxing and special. It made me feel good lifting someone’s spirits.
  • It made you think more about older residents.

What difference, if any, did it make having a named person to write to?

  • It was nice having a named person because it felt like I had my own person to care about.
  • It made it actually better as it is quite hard to write to somebody you don’t know. Knowing their name made us sort of feel like we knew them.

Would you like to do this again in the future? 100% said they would like to do it again

  • Yes, I think if more people did things like this, it would make people smile more and make people feel less lonely.

Any other comments or suggestions?

  • I hope that my letter was appreciated and I would love to do this again!

What was the feedback from the teachers?

  • We were were delighted to be able to take part in Roundabout Dramatherapy’s ‘Name in the Hat’ project. It was a wonderful way to connect our students with elderly people in our local community. Students were excited to illustrate their cards and took great care in writing poems and little stories for the residents. Roundabout supplied all of the materials and undertook the exchange of cards. It could not have been easier! We are keen to take part in the project again in the future.

How is this related to dramatherapy?

Whilst not being our core work as dramatherapists, this project is a valuable addition to our current outreach, in keeping people connected. This was particularly vital when care home visits were so limited, for the older adults to have that contact, and to support the children in their development of empathy. It continues to be a valuable support and learning opportunity for all involved.