Grandparents Day– September 13th– is a great reminder for us all to
show our grandparents how much we love and appreciate them (& their impressive ability to never run out of reasons to send a card). From their tremendous accomplishments and contributions to those warm and magical memories we have, finding a reason to #DoSomethingGrand in their honor is never that hard. Freshly baked cookies, anyone?
But these special bonds between the old and the young do not need to begin and end with the familiar faces that surround your dining room table. Intergenerational opportunities for younger and older generations to come together can be found through partnerships between families and community organizations, senior centers, nursing homes, church groups, and even schools, helping to bring the community together across generations. Best of all, creating these opportunities for younger and older generations to come together has shown to have a number of positive benefits and can really make a difference in each other’s lives:
- Social and emotional:
- Empathy and compassion
- Communication skills
- Physical activity:
- Fine/gross motor skills
- Shared learning:
- Mental stimulation
- Problem-solving skills
- Academic skills (literacy, STEM, history)
- Cultural diversity
- Life skills
But what kind of activities can the old and young do together? How do you help these types of relationships grow? According to the Penn State Intergenerational Program (PSIP), it’s important to think about activities that best match their developmental abilities, emphasize learning, promote discussion, and involve sharing skills and insights:
For example, Sunday Shopping, a book about a young girl and her grandmother who go on an imaginative shopping trip together every Sunday, could serve as a great jumping off point for many different activities:
- Literacy/Communication Skills: Read Sunday Shopping aloud together and then discuss what you each like to buy when you go shopping. First or second reading: Download and print the Sunday Shopping Activity Sheet and use the shopping bag cut-out and items from the story to follow along and add items to the bag as Evie and her grandmother shop in the story.
- Literacy/Communication/Fine Motor Skills: Use what you learned from your discussion and browse various catalogs, newspapers, and magazines and circle/cut-out your shopping choices with the listed prices. Cut-out items that you think the other person would be interested in and explain why you chose those items. Then, create a written or typed shopping list of the items you want to buy and go shopping for.
- Dramatic Play: With a little imagination and some creative props, such as a shopping bag or cut-out shopping bag from the Sunday Shopping Activity Sheet, pretend to go to all kinds of different stores, putting the cut-out items into your bags. When you’re finished shopping take turns being the cashier.
- Math: Choose a budget. Then, with your shopping list and pretend money help keep track of the total while you shop. After shopping, “check-out” and see if you have enough money to pay. If not, use problem-solving to take items off the list, or figure out how much more money he/she needs to pay for their items. Challenge: figure out the price of discounted items or incorporate sales tax; create coupons to use at the checkout.
- Art/Fine Motor Skills: Take the cut-out items from your shopping trip and create a collage together.
Intergenerational Program Ideas and Resources:
Grandparents Day Take Action Guide from Generations United: A call to action guide for grandparents/older adults, children/youth, grandfamilies, and intergenerational programs to #DoSomethingGrand not only on Grandparents Day but all year long.
Cool Intergenerational Program Ideas from Generations United: An extensive list of over 50 successful programs that differ in style and practice but share the same meaningful goals. From intergenerational pen-pal programs, schools, camps, pet therapy, community gardens, to foster grandparent opportunities, the ideas are seemingly endless.
Intergenerational Activities Sourcebook from Penn State: 53 detailed activities and learning experiences ranging from getting-to-know-you exercises (if you’ve ever been involved in first-day-icebreakers you’ll be familiar) to crafts, writing tasks, outdoor exploration, games, traditions, technology, and more. Each activity description comes with step-by-step instructions, materials/resources, objectives, and academic/life skill connections.
Across Generations Activities from The Legacy Project: A list of activities organized by category (literacy, art, science, games, food, etc.) to enjoy with grandparents, grandfriends, and beyond.
Youth-led Intergenerational Projects from Generations United: A step-by-step guide on how to create and develop an intergenerational project in the community.
Read & Make an I Love You Book and Book Basket from The Educators Spin on It: Create a DIY ‘I Love You Book’ and book basket for perfect for Grandparents Day (or any day).
Grandparents Day Books: A list of around 40 Lee & Low books to enjoy on Grandparents Day or any other day of the year!
And finally, for the selfie-inclined, don’t forget to #TakeAGrandie of you and your grandparent or grandfriend for Generation United’s “grandie” contest!
Veronica has a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking or hanging out with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.