Brain-Boosting Activities for Grandchildren

Many Fun Activities Also Help Kids Learn

We hear a lot about brain fitness for grandparents, and that's well and good. But while we're taking care of our own brains, why not do some brain-boosting with the grandchildren, too? Teaching is one of the four vital things that grandparents can do for grandchildren. And although we want grandchildren to do well in school, even more we want them to be happy, healthy and well-rounded. Isn't it wonderful that grandparents can help them use their brains to get there!

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Talk to the Grandchildren

Grandfather talking with Baby Grandson
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One of the best brain boosters is also the easiest: talking. Talking directly to children, beginning at birth, is strongly associated with superior learning skills. Children don't reap the same benefits from overhearing others talking or from listening to TV, movies or radio. Researchers conclude that interaction during speech is crucial. If you ever feel foolish just talking to a baby, try peek-a-boo, singing, reading and finger play. It's important to use a lot of different words, even those that a child won't understand, and to vary sentence structure. 

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Many card games boost math skills, but they tap into memory and logic as well. All you need is a standard deck of cards to play many different games. Board games and specialized card games do the same thing while appealing to the grandkids' interests and building other skills. (Bananagrams, anyone?) Besides figuring out games, children also learn to analyze their competitors and how to apply the rules. Don't forget outdoor games. Kids can learn while moving, a strategy that's great for grandparents, too. More »

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Go on Outings

zoo outings are a great way to celebrate Grandparents Day
Courtesy of Dickerson Park Zoo

Want to kick the grandkids' learning up a notch? Take them to a zoo or museum. The youngest grandchildren can learn new words such as animal names, whereas there are almost no limits on what older grandchildren can learn. Don't think that you are limited to the mega institutions. Small, specialized museums can be great fun and don't require a large investment of time or money. Children can also expand their knowledge at offbeat destinations such as fish hatcheries and factory tours. Often city and state parks have interesting exhibits, too.

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Do Real-World Math

Grandmother and grandchildren making pizza
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Starting with simple shape recognition, grandparents can boost their grandkids' understanding of math concepts. Almost all the places you go with grandchildren — think restaurants, grocery stores, ball parks and bowling alleys — present opportunities for working with numbers and math concepts. And don't forget cooking! Making a double recipe or half recipe is a great way to get a math workout. There's no better way to get a working understanding of fractions than by measuring ingredients.

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Learn by Doing

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Blake Little | Getty Images

Using the hands is a great way to boost the brain, and the skills that grandparents can teach to grandchildren are endless. Lots of children have never turned a screw, folded a towel or hammered a nail. Grandparents can teach simple housekeeping and home repair skills, and parents will be forever grateful. Other hands-on activities include gardening, lawn maintenance, cooking and sewing. Many grandparents also enjoy craft activities with their grandchildren. 

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Feed the Creativity

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Alix Minde / PhotoAlto Premium

Creativity is a vital but often overlooked attribute of the best brains. We often think of activities like drawing, painting and music as the keys to creativity, and they are great brain-boosters. You can also foster creative problem solving with brain teasers and mind games, or try these codes and ciphers. Try creative building products like Bendastix, too. And never overlook the importance of free play. In unstructured play, children decide what interests them, develop their own activities and modify those activities as they play. Children indulging in free play are using their creativity, as well as drawing upon entirely different skill sets from those required by structured activities such as conventional games and sports. 

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Take a Trip

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Image Bank / Getty

Children benefit from having experiences that are outside their ordinary sphere. There's no better way to introduce them to the diversity of their world than travel. People sometimes mistakenly believe that travel doesn't benefit very young children because they can't remember the specifics of the places they visited. Regardless, they do retain impressions of the different sights, sounds, tastes and smells they experienced, and this variety is good for their developing brains. And when children are older, there is no doubt that they will have a richer understanding of their world if they travel. It doesn't matter whether you favor multi-generational travel with both grandchildren and their parents, or whether you are bold enough to go it solo with the grandchildren, you'll be doing a great service for your grandchildren if you travel with them. If you're nervous about doing the planning, consider working with a company that specializes in multi-generational tours