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Let’s Be Friends-Young, Old, and In Between

grandpa teaching toddler grandson to fish

Intergenerational Relationships Rock

Seniors are important in the lives of children. Research confirms the value of intergenerational connections. Although we think first of grandparents, elders need not be biological relatives to forge deep and lasting relationships. Unrelated adults and children easily form strong attachments. Ones built on mutual acceptance and constancy. Children thrive with such unconditional love. Even the most devoted parents cannot provide what elders do.

As a child I was blessed by the presence of elders in my life, some relatives, others not. All happily gave me the gift of their time and undivided attention. Time had a different quality then. We were unhurried, at ease, comfortable. As we spent time together, we talked. Sometimes they shared stories of their childhoods. Other times I asked questions or sought their advice. Always I felt safe and loved.

Pots of Gold, Spring Water, and Blackberry Brambles

I learned about leprechauns and shamrocks from Mrs. Higgins. She shared stories of her native Ireland. Cousin Mary not only  took me for rides in her Model A Ford but also invited me to sleepover in her cabin in the woods. Where water came from a natural spring. And we carried what we needed in buckets.

When my maternal grandmother and I went berry picking, she cautioned me to pay attention to the  brambles. And as we crossed the cow pasture, to keep a sharp eye out for cow patties. Later I made a blackberry roll under her gentle guidance. That’s when I learned that some people know how to cook without recipes. On wood burning stoves.

Mutual Admiration Societies

All strong and nurturing, these women made a positive impression on me. They were accepting and encouraging, generous of spirit. They enjoyed our time together as much as I did. Clearly forged  our own mutual admiration societies.

Everyone benefits from positive relationships across generations. Younger ones learn when and how to lend a hand. While elders, accustomed to their independence, learn to appreciate and accept thoughtful gestures of assistance.

Becoming An Elder

Now I am the elder and recognize, in a way I did not as a parent, that children are drawn to adults who slow their pace and savor the present. Parents have many more responsibilities. Calming their minds and being in the moment often eludes them. Having “been there and done that,” we know the feeling. Current parents benefit from non-judgmental relationships with veteran parents. Hearing messages of encouragement and appreciation make a positive difference. We strengthen bonds all around when we give harried parents a couple of hours of respite. That’s a triple hitter.

We must pay attention if we want to create mutually respectful intergenerational bonds. Listen attentively. Show compassion. Respond gently. If we want those we cherish to be open and honest, we must be willing to acknowledge what we’re being told without judging. Being critical is the least effective way of communicating. We can be honest and compassionate. We have feelings and need to respect ourselves as well as those around us. Honesty and kindness strengthen our connections.

Being Our Best Selves

We need to share our stories. Our lives may seem ordinary to us but to the child who adores us, we are absolutely fascinating. People who have lead extraordinary lives. Moreover we are not only fun but downright funny as well.

Change occurs so quickly now. Even we are in disbelief about all we’ve experienced. We grew up in different times. What once was the norm, now often seems like ancient history. Yet our stories have the power to impress.

Steam trains are relics of the past, yet every week-end, weather permitting, enthusiastic families show up at Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum to ride the 1/8th scale model trains and learn railroad history and lore.

To our adult children (or others of their age), we bring experience. If we’re willing to listen without telling them what they should do, we can offer encouragement as well as  learn something along the way. To quote the Beatles, we all “get by with a little help from…friends.” We live longer, healthier, and happier lives when we’re well connected with people both older and younger than we.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Intergenerational Play Rocks

quote about what makes a family

Thanksgiving Gatherings

Everyone benefits from purposeful intergenerational relationships. The gathering of family and friends to share a meal at Thanksgiving traditionally involves multiple generations. What better time to share activities that nurture connections among different age groups?

 PlayopolisToys serves the citizens of play. Those children and adults who delight in entertaining themselves with engaging activities. That’s what play is. Younger and older citizens having fun together forms bonds that enrich everyone involved. Opportunities abound. Take a walk. Share stories, Read a favorite book aloud. Create something. Play a board game, preferably a non-competitive one. Or go on a treasure hunt while sitting together on the sofa.

Cooperative Games Foster Teamwork

Cooperative games require players to work together toward a common goal. By putting aside competition and working cooperatively,   everyone comes away with positive feelings. Non-readers and readers. Preschoolers and high schoolers. Parents and grandparents can enjoy playing a game together. Team work leads everyone to success. Moreover no one leaves the game gloating or feeling like a loser. 

Megana Hosein, a mother of four, is enthusiastic about the value of cooperative board games. She “loves how board games encourage interacting and thinking with children in a way that is rarely explored in our busy lives. I am always amazed to hear what they have to say about solving dilemmas within the game. This taps into greater topics of conversation that might otherwise have gone unrealized. Furthermore my children can easily make new friends over the commonality and cooperation in a board game, both with peers and adults. Truly a gentle way to introduce social rules. And simultaneously focus the active child while drawing out the shy one.” Consider cooperative games for those times when kids of different ages and  abilities as well as kids and adults want to play together.

Thwart Stink Bugs

Ever thought about hiding bugs under a rug before stink bugs show up and stink up the place? That’s the  challenges players face with Snug As A Bug in A Rug. One of more than two dozen fun-for-all-to-play cooperative games by Peaceable Kingdom.

With three levels of play, these skills-building games grow as players become more proficient. Create a team to solve these problems. Two players will do, but there’s room for more. Designed to be played in 15 minutes, these games offer a quick solution to the challenge of keeping the peace before and after Thanksgiving dinner.

Search for Treasure

Find It games, theme-based treasure hunts in a cylinder, invite intergenerational searches.  Both offer cooperative and competitive ways to play. Think of  Wildlife, Dinosaurs, Mythical Creatures, or anything that elicits the comment Eww Gross.

For those who thrive on challenges,  Mythical Creatures is the ultimate Find It for intergenerational play. After all, two heads are better than one, and the more heads, the merrier the conversation, especially in intergenerational play.

Mythical Creatures requires knowledge of folk tales and supernatural beings from around the world. Keep a dictionary or Wikipedia handy while going down the list. Otherwise, when you see the word hippocampus, you might think of the region of our brain thought responsible for emotions and memory. Although that’s true, you’d be missing a chance to identify one of the fish-tailed horses of Greek Mythology. The beauty of Mythical Creatures is the chance to find out who’s who and what’s what, then check each off the list. While concentrating on finding out about the Jersey Devil, a kraken, or a troll or taking note of the similarities and differences between a hippocampus and a manticore, you’re happily learning, making memories and nurturing relationships.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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July – National Make A Difference to Children Month

Can you believe we’ve arrived at the midpoint of another year already? Every time I blink, I find myself turning the page on another week. Four blinks and another month is history. Now we’re gearing up to follow the advice of Nat King Cole and “roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.” While we’re doing that, let’s also take time to make a difference to children.

Kim Ratz, speaker, trainer, singer, songwriter, and advocate for children, sponsors July as National Make A Difference to Children Month as a way of encouraging everyone to find ways to make a positive difference in the lives of children. He calls his endeavor “a grass roots call to action to all adults who care about children.” He challenges us to choose an event or activity to do with a child, support an organization serving children, get involved with policy makers to win support for child-friendly initiatives, and finally to encourage others to get involved and “make a difference.”

Our most relaxed season, summer provides opportunities aplenty for quality time with a child. Whatever activity we choose, we need to relax and “go with the flow.” By being present and aware, the experiences – and the memories – will be priceless for everyone involved.

By recalling the adults who made a difference in our lives, we appreciate anew the importance of these intergenerational relationships. What relatives, neighbors, or teachers stand out in our memories? We’re likely to remember the worst as well as the best. From the worst, we learned how not to treat a child. From the best, we experienced the joy of having someone take time to be with us, to value us enough to share themselves. That’s a gift worth giving.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play