Play is important for everyone, no matter their age — and when grandparents, parents and children play together, that’s where the real benefits of unstructured fun are discovered.
“Play time with adults of different ages is not just a chance for families to bond; these interactions with positive role models can help children develop a range of important social, language and problem-solving skills,” says Dr. Amanda Gummer, child psychologist and an expert contributor to TheGeniusofPlay.org.
Adults benefit from play time, too. As one grows older, the free unstructured fun enjoyed in childhood is often replaced with structured activities like sports, card games and solving crosswords. Time spent with youngsters can keep adults young and give them a chance to relive more carefree days.
According to The Genius of Play, a national initiative whose mission is to raise awareness about the importance of play and help parents make play a critical part of raising their kids, here are three reasons why intergenerational play is good for young children:
- Unstructured play tends to be collaborative, encouraging cooperation and honesty.
- Spending time with older adults helps children understand how aging works, and later accept their own aging.
- Grandparents are storytellers and their wisdom and experience can open children’s horizons further, as well as ignite imagination and creativity.
When it comes to adults, intergenerational play is beneficial in the following ways:
- Children bring innocence, joy and laughter to any situation, helping adults reduce stress.
- Active, busy play time can keep an older adult vital and healthy. Indeed, those who play with children burn more calories, experience fewer falls and become less reliant on walking aids, according to studies.
- Play time is good for an aging adult’s mental and emotional health. Games can help seniors maintain cognitive skills and retain memory, and the quality time with children can prevent feelings of loneliness and boost positivity.
Whether you’re young, old or somewhere in between, these three tips from The Genius of Play can help you make the most of the time together:
- Share your favorite games with your grandchildren. From hide-and-seek to hula-hoops, introducing them to the games you played years ago is a great way to connect and make new memories.
- Give children an opportunity to express themselves by letting them share their ideas for what they want to play with you. They’ll be more enthusiastic about participating if they get to call the shots sometimes. In today’s tech-savvy world, grandchildren might want to play with a toy that uses augmented reality or teaches coding skills. This can be a great way to engage with them on their level and learn more about their favorite activities. Plus, you’ll be learning something new.
- Let your grandchildren win and lose the game sometimes. This is a great chance to boost self-esteem while learning about good sportsmanship.
There’s no doubt about it, intergenerational play is beneficial to everyone along for the fun. Be sure to carve out play time for your family, particularly when visiting with older relatives.
For more play ideas, expert advice and resources for families, visit TheGeniusofPlay.org.