Advice Assisted Living

I’m Looking for Activities Ideas to Help My Parents and My Children Build Closer Bonds

Grandfather and grandson

Dear Benchmark,

My parents are getting ready to retire and move nearer to my family and me. Because we’ve been separated by many miles since before the kids were born, they’ve never had an opportunity to spend more than a few days here and there with their grandparents.

Now that my parents will be living close to us, I’d like for my children to build the kind of close relationship with them that I had with my grandparents.

I was thinking it might be good to create a list of activities that bridge the generational gap. Activities both groups would enjoy. It would give them all a chance to learn more about each other.

Do you have any suggestions for inter-generational activities that might help us get started?

Best Regards,

Inter-generational Activities to Help Seniors and Children Bond

Dear Diana:

It sounds like you are on the right track! I know from firsthand experience working in senior living that engaging in activities together is a great way to unite generations and build strong bonds.

What you might also be interested in learning is just how important it is for children to build positive relationships with seniors.

Research from Southern Oregon University shows children who don’t have enough opportunities to interact with older adults are more likely to have negative feelings about aging. They buy in to the stereotypes about old age and are more likely to be fearful of growing older. By helping kids connect with seniors, we make it easier for them to have a healthy attitude about aging.

So how do you go about creating inter-generational activities?

A project at the University of Missouri identified three factors that help build successful inter-generational relationships:

Education: Focus on helping your kids learn from and develop a positive attitude about seniors from their grandparents. Activities that allow your parents to act as quiet educators for their grandkids is rewarding for both of them. It might be by assisting them with a school project or helping them prepare for a spelling test.
Friendships: This factor is important because it helps increase understanding and respect between children and older adults. Grandchildren will often talk about their troubles with a grandparent even when the topic is one they are hesitant to discuss with a parent.
Caring: Another goal in bridging the gap between the two generations is to help children develop genuinely caring relationships with their grandparents. Spending time together can promote this closeness.

Here are a few activities that both generations of your family might enjoy doing together:

Arts and crafts: These make great intergenerational activities because they can be as simple or as complex as your family chooses. If you aren’t particularly creative, you can visit the local craft store for an all-in-one kit, such as one for making a mosaic stone or building a bird feeder.
Start a book club: Unlike other book clubs, however, membership in this one will be limited to just your parents and your children. Grandparents can read with kids while they are together and then agree on a few books they will read on their own. At the next book club “meeting,” they can discuss what they read. It might make it even more fun if the book club meetings were held at a local coffee house!
Create a garden: Another fun intergenerational activity is to plant a garden together. A themed garden, such as a fairy garden or an herb garden, might be especially fun! If your parents have a little difficulty with mobility, raised beds offer a safer solution. Gardening will give the two generations an activity they can enjoy for many months.
Intergenerational cooking classes: Baking treats and preparing simple meals are other activities your loved ones can engage in. The kids might enjoy mastering a few traditional family recipes. A plus for the grandchildren is if their grandparent writes a few favorite recipes out by hand, the grandchild will have those keepsakes to cherish forever.
Wii competitions: Most young children quickly master electronics. Wii is a game shown to be senior-friendly. Have the grandkids teach their senior loved ones how to play a few of their favorite games. They can even set up a golf challenge or a bowling competition!
Old fashioned board games: Never underestimate the popularity of old-fashioned board and card games like Clue, Old Maid, Monopoly, Charades, and Candyland. They can entertain both generations for hours giving them an opportunity to bond and build caring relationships.
Family scavenger hunt: Pick a day and host a scavenger hunt for your kids and your parents. You can do it inside or out. Start by creating a list of things each team must find. It can be simple items easily found around the house or yard, like a garden trowel or a cotton ball. Separate the group in to intergenerational teams and let them head off to find as many items on their list as they can. It might a good idea to set a time limit on the search.

Finally, there are a few websites you might find helpful. has a wide variety of projects for grandparents to do with their grandchildren. Daily Parent and Random House Kids also have fun ideas.

Once your parents and your children have developed a closer relationship, they’ll probably come up with activities to enjoy together all on their own!

Assisted Living, Independent Living, Mind & Memory Care
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