Summer is the magical season for catching up with your grandchildren and planning special activities with them. Despite COVID-19, it still can be. Don’t let social distancing requirements shortchange your bonding time or the emotional enrichment of an experience. Being more intentional, creative, and “present” in the moment can result in more rewarding experiences, even if the time spent is briefer or at a distance. Here are some suggestions to try out.
Have a sing-a-long or read a book to your young grandchildren.
Whether it’s via a Zoom video or outside at a 6’ distance, songs and books are bonding experiences, as well as mood enhancers. Research shows that pleasurable music helps to release feel-good brain chemicals like dopamine. A study published in Frontiers in Psychology also found that reading and discussing children’s books with emotional content significantly increases a child’s emotional competence. So, you’ll be doing your grandchildren a wonderful favor by cultivating their understanding of their own emotions, ability to articulate them, and ability to identify more hidden emotions. Discussing the emotional content in a children’s book is especially effective for kids ages 6 to 12, say the researchers who conducted the study.
Play Words with Friends or do a puzzle together.
The hugely popular word game known as “Words with Friends” is ideally suited to older and younger generations playing together and loving the friendly competition. The smartphone app is reminiscent of Scrabble—two or more players take turns building words in a crossword-puzzle approach. Besides being a bonding activity, you and your grandchild will gain cognitive benefits from this game. A Canadian study found that games like Scrabble exercise three areas of the brain simultaneously: language-processing, visual processing, and working memory.
If you and your grandchild are fans of 1,000 piece puzzles, you can also buy the same puzzle and challenge each other to see who can finish it first. You can check in with each other every few days through Facetime to praise progress and discuss strategy. A particularly fun type of puzzle includes a mystery, too. The BePuzzled company offers such puzzles, which include an accompanying short mystery to read in advance. Then, you and your grandchild can assemble the puzzle to find a clue that will help you solve the mystery together.
Do a craft together, like make a homemade bird feeder.
This classic DIY activity is fun, and bird watching improves well-being. Researchers at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital found that time spent quietly in nature increases a child’s resilience and reduces stress in older people. Plus, it’s nice that your natural inclination for “slow time” watching birds can be shared with your grandchild as an antidote to a hectic life.
You can try one of these simple designs offered by House Beautiful magazine; such designs include the iconic milk carton or a more ambitious Lego design for the Lego-loving grandkids. You can also spread peanut butter on a stale bagel or on a pine cone, sprinkle it with birdseed, and then hang this creation on the tree.
Make your own ice cream, or make ice cream sundae “towers” together.
Through Facetime, you can share with your grandchild the art of making ice cream—with a modern update. Yummy, super-simple vanilla ice cream is possible with two Ziploc bags and a few ingredients; try this recipe that takes 5 minutes prep time followed by some shaking. Or, you can each build a banana split or another decadent sundae to be enjoyed while Facetiming each other.
Watch a sunset together.
With Facetime, you can share your different perspectives on the sunset. Or, if you live near each other, you can meet in a quiet place where you can watch it six feet apart and still enjoy its magic. If you’re able to meet up in a beach community, for instance, you can even watch the sunrise together and collect shells at a safe distance from each other.
Go for a picnic.
This activity lends itself to a wonderful social distancing experience. Picnic blankets, even when placed six feet apart, create delightful spaces that spark long, exploratory conversations. Go big with picnic food and bring fried chicken, cucumber salad, and fancy sandwiches.
Play horseshoes together.
You can play this old-fashioned lawn game in your backyard. Place the stakes at least feet apart, and you’re all set for a friendly competition with your loved ones.