Grandparent’s Day is on Sept. 12, and for many families it has been over a year since children last saw their grandparents. Grandparents play a very significant role in the development of young children that impacts them differently than a parent-child relationship, so it is important to foster this connection in ways that are accessible and safe for both.
While children do learn fundamental respect from parents, Grandparents have a particular impact on this lesson because they do not fulfill a traditional authoritative role. Instead, children learn to value their elders and navigate their capacity for holding significant relationships separately from parents. Not only are grandparents a source of wisdom for young children, they also tend to introduce long standing family traditions and help formulate perceptions of healthy family dynamics.
Between school or daycare, friendships, and other activities, it can be difficult to fit grandparents in. But it’s not the quantity of time that matters, it’s the quality. This quality time can give children a plethora of wisdom, learning and growth.
At Children’s Lighthouse, an early learning school in Riverside, California, Grandparent’s Day is celebrated with a special breakfast. Children can bring in their grandparents and are taught how to greet them respectfully and guide them to their seats before doing activities such as arts and crafts. Through these guided activities, students learn appropriate behavior around adults and how to treat special guests. If grandparents from both sides of the family attend, children also learn how to navigate multiple relationships at one time.
While celebrations like this one are a great way to build the relationship between children and their grandparents, they are not the only way to do so. Creating space for grandparents and grandchildren to connect can be as easy as a phone call once a week for a few minutes. No matter how much time you have, these simple activity ideas offer the flexibility to fit into any schedule, while still creating special memories.
Things to do in-person
If children are able to see their grandparents in person, there are many things they can do together. The most impactful activity remains simple: spend time together. There is a misconception that children will get bored if they aren’t constantly occupied, but children can actually learn how to slow down and relax with their grandparents. Here are some ideas:
- Go for a walk: Going for a walk is an activity that is fairly accessible to both children and grandparents. Many grandparents already have this in their daily routine, so bringing a grandchild along is an easy way to spend time together.
- Do a puzzle: A perfect activity for rainy days, puzzles are engaging and educational but still allow space for conversation between grandparents and grandchildren.
- Have a picnic in the park: Spending time outdoors is always a priority, and having a picnic in the park is an enjoyable and relaxing activity. Children can assist in preparing food for the picnic, which provides an opportunity to learn family recipes.
Things to do remotely
With COVID-19 still putting both children and elderly individuals at risk, keeping everyone safe is a top priority. However, there are still ways to spend time together with the help of technology and a bit of creativity. Here are some suggestions:
- Read a story: Having a grandparent read a story of their choosing to their grandchild or grandchildren is a simple yet impactful way to connect over phone or video call. This can also be done over a period of time, such as fifteen minutes once a week.
- Color a picture together: Parents can send a copy of a coloring sheet to grandparents and provide the same copy to their child. This way, grandparents and grandchildren can connect over video call and color the same picture together.
- Play a phone game: Many games can be adapted to be played over video or phone call, and several have their own versions designed for it. Bingo, for example, is an excellent option to play over the phone because it is easy to understand and does not require a special board.
While spending time with grandparents is important, it’s also beneficial to talk about and remember family members who are no longer with us. This can be a difficult conversation to navigate, but there are still valuable lessons children can gain from learning about their grandparents through sharing photographs and memories. Children are incredibly dynamic and very capable of understanding death and grief. They can still feel love from and towards their grandparents without their physical presence.
Spending time with grandchildren can be just as impactful to grandparents, bringing the fun of youth back into their lives, as it is to grandchildren. On Grandparent’s Day, it’s important to honor and celebrate these important figures in a child’s life.
Aubree Fuentes is owner of Children’s Lighthouse, an early learning school in Riverside.