Sept. 12 is National Grandparents Day, a great time to celebrate the special bond between grandparents and grandchildren. And while a grandparent’s love never grows old, aging can make it harder for grandparents with limited mobility to enjoy all the activities they once did.
It may be harder to get up and down, lift a child, or engage in outdoor sports. But there’s no need to let mobility issues limit the fun. Here are some time-tested favorite activities.
Indoor activities for grandparents with limited mobility:
- Reading. Pre-schoolers enjoy being read to, while older children may prefer to be the reader, especially when there is an appreciative audience. Who else has the patience and time to delight in listening to “Where the Wild Thing Are” for the umpteenth time? One grandmother bought a duplicate book of bedtime stories. Then she called up her grandchildren at their bedtime and read them to sleep.
- Coloring. Coloring books are available for every age and variety of interests – even for adults. There are lots of variations for coloring, including a blank piece of paper that allows the grandparent and grandchild to take turns adding a random design and then telling a story about what it represents.
- Photo albums. Looking through a photo album together provides a magical opportunity when life seems to slow down for a few precious moments. Photos can provoke memories and anecdotes that often trigger intimate conversations. And no one else can share as much family history as grandparents. Grandchildren especially love to hear stories about when they were younger or their parents were children.
- Video games. Technology can be your best friend. An increasing number of grandparents have turned to gaming as a way to connect with their children and grandchildren. This summer, Growing Bolder sponsored BolderX, the first intergenerational gaming tournament. Some of the players and online viewers were grandparents.
- Board games. When our son was 14, he spent a week with his grandparents. They played Sorry, Clue and other board games. When he came home, he announced that he now knew what he wanted to do when he grew up. “I’m going to retire,” he said. Checkers, chess, Monopoly and other board games never grow old. And sometimes, grandparents are the ones who have the most time to play these activities.
- Surprise box. Children love surprises. All it takes is some imagination. My grandmother kept magazines with paper dolls for me to cut out. Your surprise box might include crafts; a special snack; a party supply magnifying glass; an inexpensive toy or puzzle; or photo props, such as fake mustaches or a feather boa.
Outdoor activities for grandparents with limited mobility:
Grandparents who are confined to a wheelchair, or using a cane or walker, may be reluctant to try outdoor activities, especially with toddlers. There are still ways you can enjoy the great outdoors. Here are a few suggestions.
- Treasure hunt. Hide some clues outside, or get someone to help you. Then invite your grandchildren to go on a backyard treasure hunt.
- Gardening. Grandchildren can be great helpers outdoors. They can water plants or help garden with a child-size rake or hoe.
- Nature art. Give your grandchildren a list of natural objects that can be found in your yard. When they bring them indoors, have some construction paper and paste so they can make natural art.
- Join in. Grandparents with limited mobility may not be able to take part in rowdy games. But there are some games that are perfect. Grandma or grandad can be “it” in a game of Red Light, Green Light.
Just because your mobility may become limited doesn’t mean your role is any less important. A University of Oxford study of 1,500 children found that those who had a strong relationship with their grandparents were happier.
So, fire up your creativity. No one can replace grandparents when it comes to unconditional love, patience, and snickerdoodles!