Interactive stories to make even virtual storytime a hit
Reading with small children helps them learn the building blocks of language. It also introduces them to stories, which are a rich, vital part of human life. Books can ignite their imagination and curiosity, and the right books can entertain them for long stretches. And for grandparents, it’s a lovely way to share time together, even if it’s only over video chat.
But how do you keep the attention of a squirrely two-year-old, or a three-year-old with better things to do? The secret to picking books for your grandchildren is finding ones that demand their attention: books that ask them questions, encourage them to jump around, or are filled with silliness. These interactive stories will keep toddlers and preschoolers tuned in.
The following books all have a collaborative element that goes beyond lifting the flap, and are fun for the reader as well as the child. Click on any book cover to learn more about it and order it from Amazon!
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What book does your toddler grandchild love best? Please share in the comments!
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It’s time for a virtual field trip!
Have you ever taken your grandchildren to an art museum? Even babies respond to being in a place with new things to look at, and exposing young children to a wide variety of great art introduces them to the idea of diversity in our world. Plus, between the ages of 2 and 5, creativity explodes. If we nurture it, it is likely to become a life-long characteristic.
Of course, many of us aren’t able to take our grandchildren anywhere right now. So why not send the art museum to them? That’s what I just did, and it was a big hit. What did it include?
You’ll want to include a book about making art. Art Making with MoMA: 20 Activities for Kids Inspired by Artists at The Museum of Modern Art is a great one. Although some of the activities are more advanced, most of them can be adapted based on children’s ages.
This Faber-Castell watercolor set has everything needed for beginning artists.
And since gluing things together is a thrill when you are a small child (and helps with crucial small motor development), look for something with lots of pieces. The ALEX Toys Little Hands My Collage Farm is perfect.
And to keep them from ruining their clothes, you’ll want to throw in an art smock for each child. I ordered this two pack.
Go put together a virtual field trip to the art museum for your grandkids, then tag me on Instagram or Facebook with a photo of their masterpieces!
Anyone else feeling sad that the trip to or from the grandkids just isn’t going to happen this summer? How about creating a virtual vacation?
Last year, we had an idyllic week by the lake with all of our kids and grandkids. We watched the 14-month-old learn to walk, pushing a milk crate around the deck. Pops had a ready helper for every chore and a willing companion for errands. We had long dinners outside, early morning kayak rides, and endless bowls of cherries. One evening a raccoon even came by and washed his hands in the stream on the property right in front of us, like the universe had gifted us a special memory.
I spent every afternoon luxuriating in having my family all in one place. I knew then that we were lucky to be able to gather everyone, and that I shouldn’t expect it to happen every year. It’s hard to get everyone’s schedule to align, and with their third baby in four years, my son’s family warned us that they won’t be traveling for a couple of years.
Still, I didn’t expect a pandemic to make it even harder to be together.
What if you don’t have a backyard?
Nature buffers the impact of life’s stresses on children and helps them deal with adversity. The greater the amount of nature exposure, the greater the benefits.” *
Our last post gave you some ideas for creating a nature rich experience for your grandchildren in your backyard. But not everyone has a backyard! Don’t let that stop you from sharing the wonders and benefits of the natural world with your grandchildren.
With a little effort, you can take them regularly to wild places. What counts as wild? Anywhere that lets them explore and experience nature. Let them climb boulders and balance on logs, let them try to dam up a stream, let them feel the power of a wave. Need help finding somewhere near you? Here are some places to look:
Botanic gardens and arboretums often have spaces designed for children to play and explore. Even those that don’t have plenty of places to roam and engage with nature. Click here to find one near you.
Nature preserves and wildlife refuges are wonderful places to search for lizards or wander through trees and over bridges. They range from redwood forests to coastal wetlands, and can be located here.
National Parks are home to over 17,000 miles of trails and habitat protection for endangered species, and provide bountiful opportunities to explore nature. Find a park here.
The shores of lakes, rivers and oceans are varied and fascinating to children. Sandy beaches provide the chance to dig, sift, and search for different kinds of shells and sea life. Rocky shorelines provide boulders to climb and tidepools inhabited by sea stars and crabs. The Travel Channel has a great guide to beaches.
Aquariums allow kids to see what’s under the sea, and most have touch tanks that let kids see and feel sea life up close. To find an aquarium near you, search here.
What’s your favorite place to take kids to interact with nature?
*Wells & Evans 2003
Do you remember playing outside as a child? I spent hours upon hours playing in the woods: making elaborate houses with fallen branches, shaping dishes out of the clay we found in the soil, decorating with flowers and leaves. I remember climbing trees so high I got dizzy and had to be coached back down. There were games of hide and seek in the tall grass of an empty lot across the street, and in the winter, elaborate snow forts and all-neighborhood snowball fights.
Children need nature. And not just seeing it, but experiencing it: the feel of grass under their feet, the sound of the birds in the woods, the smell of wet dirt. Studies have shown that children who play regularly in natural environments exhibit more advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility, and they are sick less often*. But for too many children, time playing in nature is a rare treat.
So how can we, as grandparents, help?
Make your yard a place for exploration.
Provide them with natural elements for creative play: sticks and stones and leaves and dirt and water. Keep a place for them to dig for worms. Let them make forts in your bushes and move the rocks in your border. Let them climb your trees and hang from the branches. Let them lie on the grass and watch the bugs. Let them go barefoot and let them get dirty.
It can be that easy. But if you want more ideas for making your backyard into a child-friendly play space, I highly recommend Molly Dannenmaier’s book, A Child’s Garden. She provides dozens of ideas and inspiration for creating natural play areas that fit into adult gardens.
For more about the crucial role nature plays for all of us, read The Nature Fix by Florence Williams.
No backyard? No problem. I’ll share ideas for connecting children to nature in my next post.
*Grahn, et al. 1997, Fjortoft & Sageie 2001
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Going anywhere with young children requires patience and, in the words of Mad Eye Moody, constant vigilance. It also helps to have a few tricks in your bag. Though my grandchildren live in another state, if they are visiting me or I am visiting them, I make sure to add a few things to my purse:
What do you keep in your bag for your grandchildren?
Do you want to be the grandfather wrestling with your grandkids, or the one who can’t lift them because of a bad back? Do you want to watch them play superheroes, or help them vanquish the bad guys? How many years of your grandchild’s life do you hope to be around for? If you haven’t been motivated to take good care of yourself, perhaps being a grandparent is the inspiration you need. Would you take up exercise to squeeze out a few extra years?
I’ve always hated exercise. That endorphin rush that you read about has never happened for me, and the only physical exertion I’ve ever actually enjoyed is kayaking in still waters. Which, since I don’t live near still waters, is not something I can pursue as a regular workout. I was lucky: my genetics meant that even without a vigorous exercise program, I stayed healthy and strong for the first fifty years of my life.
Eventually, however, my excellent genes began to age. I found myself having trouble lifting my suitcase into the overhead bin. I got stiff if I sat on the floor too long. And then my grandson arrived. I realized that to be part of his world I would need to be able to carry 30 pounds and spend long stretches sitting on the concrete with a fat piece of chalk in my hand. And I joined a gym for the first time in my life.
Pilates, yoga, weight training: these are all excellent ways for older adults to keep fit enough to play like a toddler. The average age that someone becomes a grandparent today is 50, hardly a senior citizen. No matter what your age, though, staying in shape is a powerful gift to your grandchildren. Getting down on the floor allows you to see the world from their vantage point and be a part of their world. Being able to get up again without difficulty is a bonus!