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Featured GraphicGrand Activities for Grandparent Day

Grandparent Day is observed in September, and many schools also host a special day in October when students' grandparents visit the classroom. Try these creative activities for celebrating with your students and their families.

Did you know that 4 million children in 3 million households are being raised by their grandparents? Would you be surprised to learn that more than 5 million children live in a household with a grandparent present?

It seems that grandmas and grandpas, formerly in the business of "spoiling" grandchildren, are taking on additional responsibilities that involve raising their children's children.

For all that those grandparents do, we celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of our senior citizens on Grandparents Day. How will you mark the occasion? If you haven't made your plans yet, have no fear! The Web comes to your rescue with great activities for grateful kids!


Diana B. Wolan, a graduate student at Cornell University, organized a program that brought children together with seniors through unusual mediators. "The Pet Patrol project was a collaboration between Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, Trumansburg Ulysses Joint Youth Commission, and Trumansburg Central Schools," she explained. "This was an after-school program at Trumansburg Middle School. The students received training from an RSVP [Retired and Senior Volunteer Program] volunteer who helped prepare them for their visit to Lakeside Nursing Home."

Much preparation was required before the students made an "official" visit to the nursing home. "Through role-plays and activities, the students learned about the special needs of some of the people they would be visiting," said Wolan. "They toured the facility and became familiar with the routines and procedures of the building. They also received training from SPCA [Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] staff who bring animals weekly to the nursing home as part of a pet therapy project. The students learned about the kinds of animals that make good visitors, how to handle them, and how to approach the seniors with the pets. Some of the young people screened their own pets to see if they would be appropriate. Following training, the students, adult volunteers, and parents -- and quite a menagerie of pets -- visited the nursing home."

The visit was rewarding for all involved. The presence of the students brightened the day for the residents. "Because the SPCA already has a program at this particular nursing home, the seniors expected to see the pets," explained Wolan. "What they didn't expect was the visit from the children. That was a nice surprise for many of them, and the hospital staff carefully steered the children toward rooms where the children were able to talk to the seniors. The pets provided a nice icebreaker to start conversations."

"The children were really pleased at how interested some of the seniors were in talking to them about their animals and how comfortable the animals were -- especially the cat that fell asleep on people's laps!" Wolan reported. "One young man said, 'I think it's really sad that they [nursing home residents] have to leave their pets when they come live here.'"

Wolan recommends activities such as this to open the eyes of students to the contributions of senior citizens. "I think it's important for young people to see seniors in many different roles, not just as patients in a nursing home. In this program, youths were trained by senior volunteers who lead very active lives. There are many seniors who have unique skills and interests that can be brought into the classroom. Inviting seniors in to lead an activity, share a hobby, or volunteer are ways for students to interact with older people."


Grandparents Go Back to School. Many schools invite students to bring their grandparents with them to school at least one day during the year. The experience is enjoyable for students, grandparents, and teachers! What can you do once everyone is assembled? One teacher, Cheryl H., submitted an excellent idea for Grandparents Day to the Teachers.Net Lesson Bank. She suggests creating two quizzes -- one for the grandparents and one for your students. On the students' quiz, include questions about terminology from the past. Have your students help you make the grandparents' quiz about terminology from today. Pass out the quizzes on the day of the visit, and discuss the differences in language between the age groups. The answers will keep you in stitches!

If you have students who do not have a grandparent able to attend the activities, invite them to bring a special senior, a neighbor, a relative, a mom, or a dad.

Another suggestion is to hold a grandparents' tea. Combine the activity with a lesson on good manners for younger students, and your class will have a chance to show off its best behavior. Older students might enjoy planning a "senior" prom for elderly community members with old songs and memorabilia.

Grandparent Interview. Put your newshounds to work on a great story -- an interview with a senior citizen! Brainstorm a list of questions with the class, or use Education World's Interview with a Super Senior Teaching Master. More questions can be found at Sample Questions for "Interviewing" Your Grandparents on the official Grandparents Day site. If your students are too young to write the answers on paper, have them tape their interviews. Oral history can be even more effective than written! Incorporate math and science into the activity with Family Fuel Facts Reporter

Great Greeting Cards. Have your students send a personalized message to their grandparents or other seniors. You will find links to many types of cards that can be made in the classroom at Home-Made Greeting Cards. If a card is simply not enough, take the assignment a step farther and have your students write letters expressing their appreciation for the support of their grandparents or other people in their lives.

Mapping Nonna and Opa. Can you say grandma and grandpa in Italian? Use this list of words that kids use for grandparents in other countries as a mapping activity with your class. Print out the World Map, and have your students find the countries and label them on their sheets. Use the outline map with older students and a regular map with the countries labeled for younger students. These words refer to grandma and grandpa in the following countries:

  • Poland -- Babcia and Dziadek,
  • Germany -- Oma and Opa,
  • India -- Nana-ji and Nani-ji,
  • Korea -- Halmonee and Halabujee,
  • Greece -- Ya-ya and Pa-pu,
  • Japan -- Oba-chan and Oji-chan,
  • China -- Popo and Gong-gong,
  • Italy -- Nonna and Nonno,
  • Israel -- Savta and Saba,
  • Cuba -- Abuelita and Abuelito.

Visit a Nursing Home. Did you know that 60 percent of nursing home residents never have a visitor? Schedule a field trip to a local nursing home, and have your students adopt "grandparents" or "secret pals" to cheer. As a pick-me-up, they may bring handmade Placemats for the seniors. (See another placemat idea.) Students and residents may teach one another about hobbies they enjoy or read books and stories together. As a part of this activity, create a Forget-Me-Not bulletin board of photos and stories for your classroom or school. Be advised that visiting a nursing home may not be appropriate for all students. It is important to remind students that though some seniors require care, many do not, and they lead productive, independent lives.

Family Tree. Grandparents Day is the perfect time for students to study their family trees. The Family Tree Chart will help your students organize their relatives to illustrate their ancestral history. This is a great activity for students to complete with their grandparents. Older students can go further with their research and use sites such as to find their long-lost roots. Post a world map in your classroom, and have the students mark the countries in which their ancestors lived.

Graphing the Ages. Your students can illustrate the median ages of people in regions of the United States or by state with the data found at Estimates of the Median Age of the Population for the U.S. Where does your state stand in the larger national picture? Access more data from the U.S. Census Bureau, including statistics about American households and changes in population.

Bag of Fun. Gather a few materials and put them in bags for students to take with them and share with their grandparents or a senior friend. You might use paper lunch bags and have your students decorate them with crayons or markers. You might include the Hand in Hand Activity and some of the Grandmother or Grandfather coloring sheets. Other possible items for the bags might be student-made stories or books, cards, tea bags or hot chocolate mix, cookies you have made or decorated in class, a favorite classroom song, and any other items that encourage students to share. Mature students may create a portfolio of their class work and take a favorite book to a scheduled visit with their grandparents.

Vaudeville Performance. Read Song and Dance Man, by Karen Ackerman, to your class. This is the story of a grandpa who entertains his grandchildren with an impromptu Vaudeville show from props stored in an old trunk. Talk about the various types of performers -- dancers, comedians, magicians, and singers -- and have your students separate into groups and orchestrate their own short skits. You, or an especially outgoing student, may serve as the master of ceremonies. Hold a dress rehearsal after a few days of practice, and invite grandparents to attend a command performance in the classroom.

For more book resources for Grandparents Day, check out our list Best Books for Teaching About Grandparents. A popular story used by many classroom teachers is Just Grandma and Me by Mercer Mayer.


Read about the issues most important to the elderly in the United States today.

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2010 Education World


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