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Pacing Activities Helps Grandparents Enjoy Time with Youngsters

Elderly woman cooking with her granddaughter.
Schedule several activities each day, but don’t provide so much structure that neither you nor the children can relax

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September 23, 2011

Visiting grandchildren can bring much joy to the lives of older adults. But some seniors may struggle with ways to keep kids busy. Check out the following activities and suggestions to help you get ready for the grandkids.

Q. I'm a 72-year-old grandmother whose grandchildren, ages 5 and 8, will be visiting for two weeks. I’m afraid that keeping them occupied the entire time will wear me out, but I don’t want to give up the chance to spend this time with them. Do you have any suggestions?

You’ll not only enjoy the time with your young grandchildren, but make life-long memories for them as well. But you’re smart to think ahead when it comes to planning activities with these youngsters.

We suggest that you schedule several activities each day, but don’t provide so much structure that neither you nor the children can relax. Pace yourself by planning projects and outings, which integrate variety and interest, to keep things moving. For instance, plan one or two craft projects one day and head for the zoo or favorite park the next. For down times or afternoons when you and your grandchildren want to rest, have plenty of age-appropriate videos, books and toys on hand for them to enjoy.

If you’re looking for projects your kids might like, consider the following from Dr. Sam Quick, Human Development and Family Relations Specialist, Kentucky Cooperative Extension. They are appropriate for children from kindergarten through the third grade:

Let ’em eat shapes. Cut bread into different shapes—rectangles, triangles, squares, and circles. Make at least two of each shape. Ask your grandchildren to choose a pair of shapes that are alike. Help the child put jelly and peanut butter on the pieces, and make a sandwich.

Hidden letters. Ask your grandchildren to look for letters of the alphabet on boxes and cans of food and household supplies. For example, find five A’s or three C’s on cereal boxes, soup cans, etc. Start with easy-to-find letters, and build up to harder ones. Then have your grandchildren write the letters on paper.

Comic strip writing. Cut apart the segments of a comic strip, and ask your grandchildren to arrange them in order. Then ask your grandchildren to fill in the words of the characters (verbally or in writing).

Disappearing pictures. On a warm day, take your grandchildren outside to the driveway or sidewalk, and give them a pail of water and a brush. Encourage their creativity in drawing or writing with the water, and let them tell you about their artwork.

Here’s another idea: Why not hire extra help to handle meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands and shopping while your grandchildren are in town? Home Instead CAREGiversSM, for instance, are screened, trained, bonded and insured, and available from as few as three hours and up to 24 hours a day. An extra pair of hands could help you spend more time enjoying your grandchildren.

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