When it comes to pleasing older folks, kids have it made–all they have to do is show up. They can fidget, sing off key, look bored, hide behind a parent’s leg…it’s all good. The question is, how can you help the kids and the elderly have fun together at your next family get-together? And what if Grandma or Grandpa aren’t able to participate? Here are some tried and true ideas.

Fun for Kids and the Elderly

Kids and the elderly making memories together.Create Something. Plan a few easy projects and fun activities for the kids to do with Grandma or Grandpa. Some favorite childhood memories my daughter has of her grandma include cutting snowflakes and strings of paper dolls together, painting with watercolors, and braiding garlands for the Christmas tree from odds and ends of yarn. Even if grandparents aren’t able to join in the activity they can have fun watching the kids be creative.

Reading Time. Do you have a new reader who needs some reading practice? Grandma or Grandpa would be the perfect audience. And the magic trick you’ve seen 300 times–Grandpa will be SO SURPRISED! Or that book your younger child just can’t get enough of? Bring it along and let them enjoy it with Grandma and Grandpa. These activities can all be adapted for elderly loved ones who are in bed or unable to talk but whose eyesight and hearing are still sharp–help your kids imagine what pleasure it will bring to see them and hear their voices.

Buddy System. Have kids team up and give them a game to play that Grandma or Grandpa will recognize, like a matching game, or Old Maid, or Chinese Checkers, or charades. Even if the grandparents aren’t able to play, they can enjoy watching the kids have fun together.

Making memories with kids and the elderly.Babies! If your family is lucky enough to have a baby, find a way to put the little one where Grandma or Grandpa can easily see him or her. If Grandma or Grandpa are able to hold the baby while sitting in a recliner, take advantage of the opportunity. Bonus points if the baby passes gas or fills a diaper!

Recital! If it’s hard for Grandma or Grandpa to get to the piano recital or school concert, bring the music to them. Follow it up with a few old fashioned Christmas carols.

Break Time. Sooner or later you’ll want to send the kids outside to go sledding, build a fort, or follow some rabbit tracks. And if there’s no place to play outside, at least take them on an adventure down the hall–they will benefit from a change of scenery while the older folks enjoy a little quiet time. When the kids come back, have a fun read-aloud together of a favorite Christmas story or other traditional story.

Make the Most of Your Next Gathering

Sociologists and psychologists note that there are many positives for both the young and the old in loving, encouraging, and learning from each other. Stephanie Mihalas, a psychologist at UCLA, commented that the benefit for children who spend time with elderly family members “includes a sense of belonging, hope, feelings of security, something to look forward to and a feeling of being part of the ‘pack.’”

Help your kids and the elderly make the most of your next family gathering. And be sure to get photos!