The Importance of Playing with Grandchildren

Research suggests that there are many benefits to grandparents playing with grandchildren. Of course, it’s great for the grandkids, because what kid doesn’t like to play? This research also suggests that regular physical play can help grandparents stay active, live healthier lives, and in addition, they may even live longer. Sounds like a win-win to me!

But. . .the honest truth is that playing with the grandchildren often wears me out! Let’s face it, none of us are getting any younger. When we get older, the body seldom is ready to just jump up and run across the room or be on the go for hours. But. . .maybe we need some of that to keep us going.

Unfortunately, too many older people decide that they are tired and have earned their rest. If you are reading this, I suspect that’s not you. . .well, at least most days, right? I’m of the opinion that once you stop, you’re done for. I’ve watched that happen to my mom since my father died. She gave up. Now, she just sits in her apartment and watches TV, day in and day out. She has given up any and all social connections with family and friends. She complains that she is lonely and physically unwell every day.

In today’s society, the role of grandparents in the lives of their grandchildren holds significant importance. However, families are often spread across different cities or even countries. Luckily, modern technology has closed the gap on those miles to help us stay in touch with each other. Whether near or far, I’m a huge advocate for grandparents to be involved in their grandchildren’s lives. (Of course, this comes with a few boundaries – read about that here if you’re unsure of what those boundaries are.)

Beyond being a source of love and wisdom, grandparents play a vital role in the development and well-being of their grandchildren through active involvement and play. While the act of playing may seem trivial or just for fun, its impact on both grandchildren and grandparents reaps benefits across physical, emotional, mental, cognitive, and relationship realms, shaping the individuals involved in profound ways.

So, let’s explore the benefits of playing with those grandchildren. . .

Physical Benefits of Playing with Grandchildren

Playtime with grandchildren often involves physical activities that benefit both parties. Activities such as running around in the backyard, going for walks together, playing sports, or even dancing to music, not only promote physical fitness but also enhance coordination and balance in grandchildren.

For grandparents, staying physically active through play is equally beneficial. It helps maintain mobility, flexibility, and overall fitness, which are crucial for healthy aging. Grandparents who participate in physical activities with their grandchildren often find it easier to stay active and motivated, contributing to their own well-being. And who doesn’t want that??

Emotional and Psychological Benefits

The emotional bond formed during playtime between grandparents and grandchildren is perhaps one of the most significant aspects of their relationship. Spending quality time together creates a sense of security, love, and attachment for grandchildren. It offers them a safe environment to express their feelings, thoughts, and dreams without judgment. This emotional connection is essential for their social and emotional development, providing a stable foundation as they navigate the world.

For grandparents, engaging in play with grandchildren fosters feelings of joy, fulfillment, and purpose. It strengthens the emotional connection within the family and helps grandparents feel valued and appreciated. In some cases, playing with grandchildren can alleviate feelings of loneliness or isolation that older adults may experience, providing a sense of companionship and happiness.

Cognitive and Intellectual Development

Play is a natural and effective way to stimulate cognitive development in children. Whether it’s solving puzzles, playing board games, engaging in imaginative play, or simply having conversations, these activities promote critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and creativity. Grandparents often play a crucial role in stimulating intellectual curiosity by sharing stories, teaching games, or passing on cultural and historical knowledge.

For grandchildren, these interactions enhance their learning experience outside of formal education settings. They gain insights into different perspectives, learn about family traditions, and develop a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Grandparents, on the other hand, benefit from the mental stimulation that comes with engaging in play and conversation with younger generations. It helps keep their minds active and agile, contributing to cognitive vitality as they age.

Social and Relationship Benefits of Playing with Grandchildren

Playtime with grandchildren strengthens the bond between generations and fosters positive relationships within the family. The shared experiences and memories created during playtime become cherished moments that grandchildren carry into adulthood. These experiences contribute to a sense of identity and belonging within the family unit, reinforcing family values and traditions. These are the main reasons that I do a Grandma Camp with my grandkids every year. My hubby and I recognized the need to help our grandchildren develop those family relationships.

Moreover, playing together encourages social skills and cooperative behavior in grandchildren. They learn to take turns, share, communicate effectively, and resolve conflicts—all essential skills for building relationships throughout their lives. Grandparents serve as role models and mentors, imparting wisdom and guidance that shape the character and values of their grandchildren.

Long-lasting Benefits for Grandchildren

Let’s talk about those long-term benefits for the grandkids. The benefits of grandparents playing with their grandchildren extend far beyond the immediate joy of play. Research indicates that grandchildren who have strong relationships with their grandparents tend to have better emotional well-being, higher self-esteem, and greater resilience in the face of challenges. They often exhibit positive social behaviors and demonstrate empathy and respect for others, qualities that are nurtured through the loving interactions with their grandparents. I’ve always been comfortable around older people, and I contribute this to my grandmother living with us most of my childhood. It’s something that not everyone can say.

I spent quite a bit of time with that grandmother. However, she was elderly and frail and couldn’t play much with me. However, that same research showed that grandchildren who even just spend quality time with their grandparents are more likely to develop a sense of cultural identity and appreciation for their family heritage.  Grandparents often share stories from their own lives, recount family history, and pass on cultural traditions that enrich the grandchildren’s understanding of their roots. My grandma did do quite a bit of that.

Long-term Benefits for Grandparents

For grandparents, the benefits of playing with their grandchildren are equally profound. Beyond the joy and happiness gained from spending time with loved ones, engaging in play supports their mental and emotional well-being. It provides a sense of purpose and fulfillment, particularly in retirement years when routines may change and social networks may diminish. After all, many of us have worked in an office or been involved in community work for many years. It’s rough to go from being deeply involved in an organization on a daily basis to just being at home with. . .well, maybe no one.

I said it before, but it bears repeating. Playing with grandchildren can also be physically beneficial for grandparents, encouraging them to stay active and fit. It’s just so important as we get older. Whether it’s playing outdoors, joining in on games, or simply keeping up with the energy of younger children, these activities contribute to maintaining mobility and overall health.

Overcoming Challenges and Making the Most of Playtime

While the benefits of grandparents playing with their grandchildren are clear, it’s essential to acknowledge and address potential challenges that may arise. Physical limitations, health concerns, or geographical distance can sometimes pose obstacles to regular playtime. However, with creativity and flexibility, grandparents can find alternative ways to engage with their grandchildren, such as through video calls, sending letters or recordings, or planning visits that maximize quality time together.

Let’s not forget the parents – your adult children. Communication between grandparents and parents is crucial in ensuring that playtime is enjoyable and beneficial for everyone involved. Understanding each other’s expectations, preferences, and boundaries helps create a supportive environment where grandchildren can thrive emotionally, intellectually, and socially.

So, What’s the Verdict on Playing with Grandchildren?

For sure, the importance of grandparents playing with their grandchildren cannot be overstated. From physical health and emotional well-being to cognitive development and nurturing relationships, the benefits of play are vast and enduring. By actively participating in playtime activities, grandparents not only enrich the lives of their grandchildren but also find fulfillment and joy in the meaningful connections they create.

As a grandparent, embrace the opportunity to share laughter, stories, and adventures with your grandchildren. . .whatever that looks like considering health or logistical challenges. These moments will leave a lasting impression, shaping their development and strengthening the bonds that bind your family together across generations. Cherish the memories and relationships that playtime fosters, knowing that you are making a positive impact that transcends time and leave a lasting legacy for your family.

*The research mentioned in the first paragraph of this article is a study that encourages grandparents and grandchildren to play together. The GRANDPACT Project, an intergenerational initiative developed by Ghent University in Belgium, aims to promote physical activity between grandparents and grandchildren.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.