Keeping the grandchildren engaged in fun activities, no matter how long or short the visit, can be a challenge. There are endless activities you can do together that will benefit both of you. Here are five activities that will keep the little ones from getting bored and reinforce essential school-readiness skills in the process.
Children love board games, and the list of learning opportunities provided by any board game is endless. From Bingo to Hungry, Hungry Hippo, board games help children learn mathematical concepts, alphabetic principles, emergent reading skills, shapes and colors. Regardless of the game you choose to play, children get good practice taking turns and sharing, and it provides an opportunity for kids to practice good sportsmanship–all crucial skills for children who will be entering kindergarten. For the older set, board games help exercise the brain to keep the memory sharp.
Games such as “I Spy” and “20 Questions” help children and grandparents alike hone their critical thinking skills. Guessing games in which clues are provided give children vital practice using context and questioning to solve a problem, which is directly related to reading comprehension. Furthermore, children are given the opportunity to provide clues, which allows them to practice observation skills and approaching a problem from another angle.
By the time children enter kindergarten, they should be able to use scissors and glue and exhibit fine motor abilities. Coloring and crafting provide children the opportunity to practice these crucial skills. From holding a crayon and coloring inside the lines to cutting shapes for a paper sack puppet, children are learning about spatial awareness and shapes, and practicing using tools that will be used daily in school. Older adults benefit from practicing these skills as well, helping to maintain healthy hand-eye coordination. More involved crafts such as quilting, knitting and woodworking will introduce children to traditional pastimes and allow them to create beautiful works of usable art that will last for years. What will last even longer will be the memory of quilting with Grandma or whittling with Grandpa.
Success in school depends heavily on literacy skills from the beginning. Children need a minimum of 3,000 words in their vocabulary upon entering kindergarten in order to begin and stay on grade level. The best way to ensure that children have an appropriate vocabulary is to read aloud to them and tell them stories. Since children love stories and grandparents have loads of them, this should be an enjoyable time for both child and adult. Read favorite picture books with the children and have them predict what will happen next. Have children “read” to you by telling you what’s happening in the pictures. Make up stories together using your imaginations: have the child start and take turns adding to the story, inventing new characters and scenarios. All of these activities will teach children valuable comprehension strategies, engage their imaginations and establish a great deal of prior knowledge, which will serve them well in school.
Many children’s books have been written about baking with Grandma. Truly a rite of passage, children will never forget licking the batter off the spoon; they will always remember the smell of cookies and brownies in the oven. Engaging children in the whole process, from shopping for ingredients to measuring, pouring and stirring, benefits the child enormously. The numerous skills practiced while baking include numerical concepts through measuring, following directions, reading labels, witnessing changes of state from liquid to solid and using a number of gross and fine motor skills.
Anything you do with your grandchildren can be educational as well as fun. Engage them with activities that you enjoy doing; you will be more likely to enjoy yourself, and you will find that you can have an enormous impact on their learning. Regardless of the activities you choose, the quality time you spend together will always be remembered by both of you.
Guest writer Olivia Stanford is a lifestyle consultant and writes for dogwoodforest.com, a beautiful assisted living environment for senior living atlanta ga.