New Connections To The Olden Days

When I was a kid, all we had to do was walk across the street to go visit grandma and grandpa. In fact, grandpa had a barber shop on our street, Loveland Avenue, where I got my haircut. Grandma enjoyed gardening and cooking, so I could usually find her in the backyard weeding the flower beds or in the kitchen baking a cake. Today, things aren't always so simple.
Girl with her grandparents


We live in a very mobile society, so it's not uncommon for grandparents to be states or countries away from their grandchildren. They may have retired in a distant place, or, perhaps, college or work caused your family to move away from your hometown. But even if we aren't right around the corner from each other, there are still many ways that our children can connect -- at any age -- with their grandparents.Here are three tips for building a strong bond between children/teens and grandparents:

1. Encourage letter writing.

Letters may have been replaced by email most of the time, but there is still nothing like getting mail in the mailbox for kids or grandparents! Encourage the grandparents to regularly send mail addressed to each child -- once a month would be great.Ask them to tell a story about themselves when they were little in each letter-- they can even start with something like, "Once upon a time, when he was a little boy, grandpa had a bicycle…" This could make for a great bedtime story -- and be sure to save the series of handwritten letters which will become a precious keepsake.Grandparents who live far away will also appreciate a letter containing their grandchild's school artwork, that first A of the school year, or a letter in the child's own handwriting.

2. Take phone conversations to a new level.

Instead of the normal everyday small talk (school, weather, sports, etc.), equip your kids with a special question to ask their grandparents and a piece of paper or notebook to write down their answers -- or conference call/webcam technology could help you record the phone call.Here are a few topic ideas to get them started:

  1. What was your neighborhood like when you were a kid?
  2. What games did you like to play when you were my age?
  3. Did you play any sports in school?
  4. What was a day like for you at school?
  5. What did it look like from the outside and inside?
  6. How did you get to school? What was your favorite subject?
  7. Did you ever get in trouble with your mom and dad? What happened?
  8. Do you have a motto that you live by? Maybe it is something that you think about that helps you get through good times and bad times.
  9. Tell me about your grandparents. (This question actually helps the grandchild learn something about their great-great grandparents!)

The point of asking the questions is that pretty soon the grandchildren can actually see grandma or grandpa in a new way-- they once were children too! This can deepen their relationship because grandchildren will then be able to relate better. Also, grandparents love to share their stories if they know that the grandchild would actually like to listen.

3. Plan vacations or long weekends together.

This summer, my husband and I included my parents -- who, because we live four hours apart, only get to see my two kids every couple of months -- in a week-long vacation to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. The trip involved over 2,000 miles of driving.My son and grandpa actually figured out a way to play baseball in the car! Mom enjoyed license plate Bingo and the wax museum as much as the kids did. We had plenty of time for storytelling and questions about outhouses, farming, and life before TV. We even learned, for the first time, about a relative named Waldo who had disappeared years ago (now "Where's Waldo?" has new meaning for my kids). The trip was unforgettable for all of us -- there's nothing like a crowded minivan and hours of driving to bring a family together!As you consider how your family can connect over long distances, keep in mind that YOU, as the parent, are a vital link between your parents and your children -- so of course, all of these ideas will involve you. It's important to be intentional about making this connection, or they may never know each other in a deep or lasting way. It's critical to build relationships to last for generations -- and that involves new conversations, telling stories, and sharing more than just photo albums.

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Comments on "How to help kids really know their grandparents -- regardless of where they live"

Jennifer Forbes July 09, 2008 | 3:42 AM

The ideas above are excellent, however there is a brand new resource for grandparents who wish to be a part and not apart from their grandchildren's lives. I have included information below and the website address is www.grandparentgames. If you are interested in an article by Dr. Schank that further explores the role of grandparents in today's society please let me know. Jennifer Forbes 330-842-0551 jeforbescom@gmail Media Contacts: Jennifer Forbes 330-842-0551 jeforbescom@gmail Megan Webb 716.573.9556 meganwebb8@gmail Distinguished Educator Launches Interactive Web site for Grandparents to Interact with their Grandchildren Grandparent Games offers families a new learning resource to connect online. Stuart, Fla., July 1, 2008â€"Dr. Roger Schank, respected educator and most importantly, a grandparent, announces the launch of Grandparent Games. Grandparent Games is the only interactive resource offering grandparents with grandchildren under the age of three a place to communicate and interact together online. Easy set up and navigation makes Grandparent Games accessible to even those with limited computer skills. Via a secure Web site and easy-to-use web-based video and voice connection, Grandparent Games enables grandparents and grandchildren to be a part, not apart from one another’s lives. Providing one-on-one time to "play" together regardless of distance, the interactive site offers grandparents of babies/infants a way to interact through pictures and sounds. Then over time affords a learning source for young children as the grandparent direct the experience and become the teacher of vital information including math, reading, and geography. "In our increasingly mobile and far-flung society, grandparents and grandchildren frequently live miles, states, and even countries apart," said Schank. "That’s where the internet comes into play. Grandparent Games gives grandparents the ability to be an intricate part of their grandchildren’s lives, almost as if they were together." -more- GG page 2/2 Grandparent Games is a safe, protected site. All user-provided information is sent over an https connection, ensuring the data is secure. The site is structured for children to interact their grandparents by supplying only two pieces of informationâ€"the grandparent’s e-mail address and a display name that will be shown only to the grandparent during the meeting. The educational site uses exciting animations, pictures and videos to engage children from infancy through early grade school. Grandparent Games offers a variety of fun, interactive, and instructive activities including: . o Pictures for Little Onesâ€"Moving objects that capture babies’ attention and make them laugh o Alphabet Funâ€"Children learn letters as they watch alphabet animations. o Reading Gamesâ€"Animations and games expose children to fundamental reading activities like consonant-vowel-consonant combinations and beginning and ending letter sounds. o Math Gamesâ€"Animations help children learn numbers, counting, addition, subtraction and simple multiplication. o Explore the Worldâ€"Adults and children can explore the U.S. together with an interactive map, or visit Kidtown where grandparents can take their grandchildren to a virtual aquarium, zoo, concert hall, park, port, among other places. o Interactive Gamesâ€"Children and adults can draw, type and challenge each other to a game of checkers. Grandparents and parents of young children can sign-up today for Grandparent Games and receive a free 30 day trial. Grandparents can stay connected for $9.95 per month or $75.00 a year. For more information visit http://www.grandparentgames. ### About Dr. Roger Schank Dr. Roger Schank is a grandparent, well-respected educator, and creator of Grandparent Games. Utilizing his extensive experience in learning sciences, he founded the renowned Institute for the Learning Sciences at Northwestern University, where he is currently the John P. Evans Professor Emeritus in Computer Science, Education and Psychology. In 1994, he founded Cognitive Arts Corporation, a company that designs and builds superior multimedia simulations for use in corporate training and for online university-level courses. In 2002, he founded Socratic Arts, a company devoted to making high quality e-learning affordable for both businesses and schools. Dr. Schank has taught at numerous illustrious universities throughout his career including Yale, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Paris VII. He was also a research fellow at the Institute for Semantics and Cognition in Switzerland. Dr. Schank holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from University of Texas and is the author of more than 20 books on learning, language, artificial intelligence, education, memory, reading, e-learning, and story telling. He is also a fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) and is founder of the Cognitive Science Society and co-founder of the Journal of Cognitive Science. ###

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