“Grandparents” in the Community
As a link to the cultural heritage and traditions of families, grandparents are important caregivers for children. Those children who are fortunate enough to interact regularly with their grandparents can reap the benefits of multigenerational bonding. Those children without regular access to grandparents in their lives can still benefit, as every community has senior citizens who may be missing their family and would love to reach out to others. This special type of bonding benefits both the children and the surrogate grandparent.
Purpose: To reach out to senior citizens in the community and bring together children, families, and traditions through grandparents and surrogate grandparents.
- Chart paper and a marker
- Building Blocks for a Healthy Future: Sing-Along Songs:“Smile at Your Neighbor”
- Building Blocks for a Healthy Future: Sing-Along Songs: “Moving in a Circle”
- Contact a nearby senior citizen residential center to find ways that your students can interact with the residents. If possible, plan a time your class can visit the center. Some centers might also select specific residents who would like to act as surrogate grandparents for young children.
- Download the music onto a CD and print out the lyrics for Building Blocks for a Healthy Future: Sing-Along Songs: “Smile at Your Neighbor” and “Moving in a Circle” on large chart paper, or use a computer and projector to play the songs and display the lyrics.
Note: If a visit is not possible, set up a different way to communicate with residents—pictures and letters are always welcomed.
- Gather students in a circle. Ask: What do you call your grandfather or grandmother? (Answers will vary according to family and cultural traditions.) Write all responses on the chart paper to display in class.
Note: If students say they don’t have grandparents or don’t know their grandparents, ask them what other older people are in their lives and what do they call them.
- Invite students to talk about the favorite things they do with their grandparents, older relatives, or their parents’ older friends.
Note: If students say their grandparents live far away, talk about ways they communicate: via phone, email, cards and letters, Skype, etc.
- If you can visit a nearby senior citizen center:
- Tell the students that they’re going to go to meet and entertain “grandparents” who live close by. Use Building Blocks for a Healthy Future: Sing-Along Songs: “Smile at Your Neighbor” and “Moving in a Circle” to have the students prepare a way to introduce themselves and entertain the residents. The songs include jumping down, spinning down, twisting ‘round, walking, hopping, and turning in a circle. Have the students decide on other ways they might move and add these to their performance.
- Have the students draw pictures of themselves and their families, and let them dictate brief captions to introduce themselves to the residents.
- Once at the center, have the students perform and invite those residents who are able, to participate as well. Singing and dancing are a great way to break the ice.
- If the center specified residents who would like to act as surrogate grandparents, individual students might be introduced to them and share with them their family “portraits” as a way of getting to know each other. If the center did not specify residents, students could talk about their drawings with several residents and leave the drawings at the center for all to share.
If you are unable to visit a center with the class, videotape the students doing their dances and take the DVD and the students’ portraits to the center. Ask if any residents there would like to become pen pals with your students to share family stories and traditions.
- Throughout the year, have your students either visit or share pictures and stories with the residents they’ve met. If residents send letters or stories, share these with students, as well. Set up other visits, including some around the holidays where students might make small gifts for their surrogate grandparents.
- It’s interesting to learn words in other languages, and your students might be curious to know what children around the world call their grandparents. Use the International Grandmother Names and International Grandfather Names Web sites to share some of the possibilities, especially those names from countries represented in your classroom. Use a map to point out the countries of origin.
From the U.S. Government:
“The Essential Grandparent: A Guide to Making a Difference”, from eNotAlone, is a personal article about grandparenting from the grandparent’s perspective.
“Grandparenting in the Digital Age,” from Education.com, gives quick tips for parents and grandparents on staying connected over distance.
Grandparenting: The Joys and Challenges (PDF 762 KB), a detailed AARP brochure, describes the “changing image” of grandparents, the ups and downs of grandparenting, and the value grandparents bring to the relationship.
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