Older adults have fulfilled many roles in life. Among the most cherished is that of grandparent. Grandparents are important members of our families and communities. They provide extended family support and encouragement and a link to family history, culture, and traditions. The bond between grandparent/grandchild creates a lifetime of memories. Many senior adults are now becoming great- grandparents, so their circle of influence is widening. Great-grandparents can share a wealth of wisdom and experiences about growing up in the 20th century.
National Grandparents’ Day is the second Sunday in September. It’s time to start planning some intergenerational activities with children, teens, and young adults in honor of their grandparents/great-grandparents.
Here are some activities that can be adapted to an intergenerational audience. They are intended to elicit stories of grandparents’ own childhood and youth – and highlight the valuable things we can learn from a person born in another generation. You can modify them for use with foster or adopted grandparents as well.
- Host a Grandparents Tea Party, with sunflowers as a theme. Serve decorated cookies and a special tea punch that was popular in the 1930s and 40s. Present sunflower bouquets to grandparents who are present.
- Pass around family snapshot albums. Display a vintage Kodak “Brownie” camera and ask grandparents to talk about their first camera. Ask what kind of pictures they enjoyed taking. Provide disposable cameras for youngsters and let them take snapshots for a family photo placemat. Talk about today’s digital cameras.
- Teach the concept of “generation” to young children. Display multi-generation family portraits or photographs. Try to include four or (rare) five-generation family photographs, if available. Make a simple family tree, showing at least four generations of ancestors.
- Reminisce about Grandma’s kitchen. Bake a batch of cookies from a recipe that your grandmother used when she was a child. Old-fashioned sugar cookies are always a favorite. Pass around some old cookie cutters and one of Grandma’s favorite cookie jars.
- Help children make gift sachet packets using some of Grandmother’s favorite scents, such as lavender and gardenia. Reminisce about Grandma’s lilac bush and other garden favorites.
- Fill a piñata with penny candy from grandparents’ childhood. Nostalgic candies: Mary Janes, BB Bats, Kits, Root Beer Barrels, Beemans chewing gum.
- Simulate an outdoor adventure – a family camping trip. Make s’mores, sing campfire songs, and tell tall tales.
- Encourage grandparents to share some childhood humor. A favorite from the 1930s: knock-knock jokes. Add more giggles with a bubble-blowing contest.
- Teach a lesson on good manners. Grandparents can share tips on table manners, for example. Demonstrate how to eat spaghetti properly or how to set the table for a four-course meal.
- Watch the beloved classic 1939 musical film version of The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland and Ray Bolger. Sing Garland’s signature song, “Over the Rainbow” and chat about dreams, adventures, and home. Pass around Oz memorabilia.
- Play games from grandparents’ childhood, such as jacks, marbles, Rook (card game), Go Fish, and Simon Says. Ring bells for the Good Humor Ice Cream Truck and sample some treats.
- Pass around props from grandparents’ school days, e.g., McGuffey’s Readers or the Dick and Jane readers from the 1950s, jump rope, slate board, chalk, old report card, flag, and pictures of one-room schools. For some friendly competition, hold an old-fashioned spelling bee and a ciphering contest.
- Discuss the importance of family values. Ask grandparents: What were the most important values you were taught growing up? What values/virtues did you strive to teach your children when they were growing up? Highlight one virtue–e.g., resourcefulness–and explain how your parents taught you to deal resourcefully with problems This conversation would be a good opportunity to explain the impact of some historical events (e.g., Great Depression and World War II) on family life. For youngsters: Read stories from The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories, edited by William J. Bennett.
- Talk about family legacies, such as a love of reading or music. Share books from grandparents’ childhood, e.g., Alice in Wonderland, Peter Rabbit, Winnie- the- Pooh. Hold a book exchange with young children. Make a bookmark for family reading.
- Have some fashion fun. Ladies, young and old, can dress in hats and purses from the 1940s. Dig into Grandma’s old jewelry box for some costume jewelry. Examine the charms on Grandma’s favorite charm bracelet, and you’ll hear stories of her loves and special interests. For the men, Grandpa can share some of his colorful ties and tie tacs and then offer a fun lesson on how to knot a tie.
- Bring in an old record player and favorite pop singer albums from the 1950s, e.g., Connie Francis, Frankie Avalon, Paul Anka, Ricky Nelson. Hold a lip-sync contest for teens. Older adults can serve as judges. Award prizes.
GRANDPARENT NICKNAME SCRAMBLE
Gather vintage family photographs of your group members posing with their parents and grandparents. Have participants guess who’s who. The one with the most correct guesses wins a prize. Ask if anybody grew up in a multigenerational household. Encourage group members to share memories of visits to Grandma’s house. Ask: What special activities did you enjoy with your grandparents? Has the role of grandparent changed over the years? Chat about special names for grandparents. Have fun unscrambling the anagrams below.
- Gammy – mmagy
- Gamps – psmag
- Gram – ramg
- Gammy – mmagy
- Gammy – mmagy
- GiGi – ggii
- Pappy – yappp
- Pop – opp
- Granddad – nargddda
- Paw Paw – wap awp
- Gramps – smarpg
- MeMaw – mwaem
- Nana – aann
- Granny – narngy
- Maw Maw – wam wam
- Grandpa – pagdnar
QUOTE FOR THE MONTH
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” ~ Mother Teresa
“GRANDPARENTS” written by Sue Hansen. © 2006 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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