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Grandparents as Teachers

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Dear Debi,
Iím a "new" grandmother with a 25-year gap since raising my children. I know there must be some wonderful, new things to learn about early childhood development. How can I be a creative, knowledgeable teacher to my granddaughters?
Virginia Mendoza O'Neil
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
Host
  • Talk with & listen to your grandchildren
  • Play with your grandchildren
  • Provide stimulating experiences & play materials
  • Read & tell stories every day
Expert Advice
Susan Baxter
Susan Baxter
Early Childhood Education Instructor
Grandparents have an emotional investment in the child that an outside care provider may not have. Grandparents also already know of the routines, rhythm and ways to comfort a child. They already have an understanding of the family dynamics, cultural values of the family and theyíre generally more flexible in terms of schedules. Plus, the child has a relationship with the grandparents outside of the child care providing time, so there is a full emotional investment between the child and the grandparent.

Grandparents can teach a child social, emotional and language development by incorporating them into their everyday activities at home, like cooking and baking with them, doing the dishes, sorting the laundry, etc. They can also play with simple materials at home like cornmeal and water, or water play. They can bring simple activities like these into the childís life to help them develop different skills.

Play between grandparents and grandchildren is important because play is where the relationship is built Ė where the child is able to work and explore the grandparentís world, and where the grandparents can explore the childís world. Whether itís an art activity and the grandparent is watching and affirming what theyíre doing, or whether the child is helping prepare lunch, itís important because it develops social relationships and experiences that build on the relationship.

A good tip is to observe your grandchildren to see what their likes and dislikes are, and incorporate that into a stimulating environment that enhances their play. I think another wonderful thing grandparents add to help a child learn is the story telling aspect, the sharing of family stories, family experiences, sharing the childís parents stories. This teaches a child their connection to family history and develops a childís sense of culture, belonging, and heritage.

There are so many great resources in the home that grandparents donít need to spend a lot of money on materials. Things like water play, playing with pots and pans, cushions and blankets, are good activities for infants and toddlers. They can also play with cornmeal on a tray with cars and trucks, spoons and dishes, you can make a little obstacle course and build areas in the backyard for kids to run and climb, or provide them with an opportunity for outdoor play. Other ways to incorporate them into your daily home life is by having them help you work in the garden, walking in the neighborhood, collecting leaves and observing the change in seasons. The benefit in many situations like these is that the home life environment is already made to use and grandparents donít need to build that. Children learn best in that state by being involved in the everyday practices in our house. Most childcare providers now strive to achieve that home-like environment and grandparents donít need to recreate that. Grandparents should remember they have a lot of experience; theyíre already done this once and thatís really important.
Child Care Provider Comments
Clarissa August
Clarissa August
Family child care provider for 21 years
Make your home user friendly for the kids. You can teach them what they can or canít do, but children learn by handling things. Once you start engaging with your new grandchildren, there are so many things thatíll come back to your memory about what you did with your own children. You'll also start to see that there are things around the house you can use for fun learning activities, like making music with pots and pans.
Rosa Rios
Rosa Rios
Grandmother of three
As a grandma, the love you have for that child helps you to be a good, creative, knowledgeable person because youíre coming from love. Even though itís been many years since a grandparent has cared for a child, parental instincts are still there and you'll do fine.
Cathy Agnew
Cathy Agnew
Cares for her grandchildren, mother of two
I have a sign in my kitchen since my oldest granddaughter was born and it says: ďGrandmaís my name, spoilinís my game.Ē Spoiling to me is doing the special things that make them happy, like making them a special dinner or going to a special place like the park. That creates a special bond with your grandchildren. My advice would be to remember that the basics a grandparent taught her kids are still valid today.

Generational Handprints Featured Activity:
Generational Handprints
Grandparents as Teachers Featured Video:
Grandparents as Teachers
Topic: Child Care Management
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