There’s no substitute for the bond between a grandparent and grandchild. Many people spend their whole lives looking forward to spoiling grandchildren, so dementia in someone who has grandchildren can feel especially cruel.
Dementia doesn’t have to harm grandparents’ relationships with their grandkids. By finding kid and dementia-friendly activities, caregivers can ensure grandkids have great relationships with their grandparents. Activities for seniors with dementia also help seniors lead happier and more fulfilling lives.
Helping kids understand dementia can help them feel less intimidated by the changes in their loved one. It may also make them more willing to spend time with their grandparents. The Ally Bally Bee project helps parents make personalized books about dementia featuring their kids. These gentle, supportive books are appropriate for all ages and are fun to read together.
Once your child has a better understanding of dementia, here are some great activities to try:
1. Spend Time in Nature
Nature can ease anxiety in people with dementia. It also helps them feel more connected to others. Rambunctious kids love time outside, too, so help both seniors and kids enjoy time together with some quality outdoor time. Try some of the following activities:
- Plant seeds together and watch a garden grow.
- Chase butterflies.
- Go birdwatching and draw pictures or take photos of what you see.
- Spend a day picnicking or hiking in a national park.
2. Cook Something
With supervision, even people with advanced dementia can make simple foods such as cookies. If your loved one is in the early stages of dementia, ask them to teach a child to make a family recipe — with supervision and help, of course.
Memorialize the time spent together making the recipe with a photo. If your child loves cooking, consider helping them work with their grandparent to make a book of family recipes.
3. Build or Make Something
Young children love building block towers and delight in knocking them over. Take some blocks with you to visit your loved one, and watch them build endless towers with your child.
Older kids may relish the chance to do arts and crafts projects with a grandparent. You’ll have to adapt the project to both participants’ skill level, of course, but here are some ideas to get you started:
- Draw outside with sidewalk chalk.
- Paint self-portraits.
- Make a family scrapbook.
- String beads to make simple jewelry.
- Build a birdhouse.
- Make flower or succulent arrangements in pots; paint the pots for even more creative fun.
4. Enjoy a Movie
Meaningful time together doesn’t have to mean scheduled activities and endless projects. Grandkids love relaxing with their grandparents. Both people with dementia and children love the familiar, so pick a familiar movie and plan a movie night. You might choose one movie from the senior’s youth, and one new movie that the child can share with their grandparent. Have kids bundle up in sleeping bags on the floor while grandparents relax in easy chairs. Then enjoy relaxing together.
5. Play a Simple Game
Young children may struggle to follow the rules of complex games. But this tendency can actually work to the advantage of people with dementia. Pick a favorite game and let the two make up their own rules, or choose a simple, easy game from the senior’s youth. Some options include:
- Go fish
- Four square
6. Read Out Loud
Reading helps kids learn letters, words, and the value of learning through books. It can also improve quality of life for people with dementia. Try reading a favorite story out loud to both your senior loved one and your child, or if the senior in your life can still read, encourage them to read to their grandchild. For seniors who feel frustrated by the limitations of dementia, the simple pleasure of reading to a grandchild can help them feel like they’re contributing something valuable.
7. Play with Animals
Animals can help reduce the stress of dementia. Animals are also great for kids. They teach empathy, encourage gentleness, and can even help prevent allergies. There are lots of options for spending time together with animals. Those include:
- Visiting an animal shelter to pet the dogs and cats
- Going to a wildlife refuge to watch the animals play
- Spending time training or playing with a family pet
- Drawing pictures of birds or a family pet
8. Dance and Sing
Even very young babies love clapping their hands together, dancing, and singing. Encourage kids and seniors to get moving by turning on the radio and having a dance party. Older kids may relish the chance to teach their grandparents the latest dance. Seniors, too, may enjoy teaching their grandkids how to do the dances of their youth.
Dementia can be hard to manage, presenting caregivers and seniors with a wide variety of unique challenges. But it is not the end to a meaningful life.