Pre-schoolers and pensioners in Sunderland who became firm friends thanks to a scheme linking nurseries with old peoples’ homes have had to get creative to stay in touch during lockdown.

Children at Little Pioneers Nursery & Pre-school at Tavistock House on Borough Road had been visiting residents at Keelboat Lodge in Sunderland to play, sing, cook, get artistic and share stories.

But lockdown meant they were no longer able to see each other in person, so instead the youngsters have been getting creative writing letters and making gifts for their elderly friends, as well as residents at Grangewood Care Home in Houghton Le Spring, including rainbow drawings and hearts made from salt dough.

And the delighted residents have been sending their own photos and drawings in return.

The nursery and care homes came together as part of the Generation Play care home visit programme run by all of Co-op Childcare nurseries.

It helps build the children’s confidence and social skills, while older people experience better physical and mental health.

Nursery manager Lisa Robertson, said: “The children’s weekly visits were the highlight of the week for many care home residents, some of whom don’t get a lot of visitors.

“They had built up some really close relationships, so when lockdown happened we wanted to make sure we could stay in touch and spread a little happiness.

“The coronavirus pandemic has really shown us how much both the children and care home residents get out of the Generation Play programme and how much they value each other. It really supports their physical and mental wellbeing.”

The nursery has also created a time capsule filled with items from lockdown, including poems, photos of VE Day celebrations and a tribute to fundraising hero Captain Sir Thomas Moore.

The time capsule has been buried in the nursery grounds, with a plan to dig it up in the future to help the next generation learn about what happened during the coronavirus outbreak.

Little Pioneers Nursery & Pre-school welcomes up to 136 children aged from three months to five-years-old every weekday.

To find out more call 0800 954 0669.