Old is Gold: Why Grandparents Make Better Teachers-Through-Play Than Parents
When you think about it, grandparents are literally golden. They have the most incredible array of life skills & a vast knowledge all gained in the university of life. They’ve seen it, done it & invented it, from music to space travel. Our grandparents laid the foundation stones of our families that we now build upon. And in our view that makes them quite literally invaluable as teachers & role models for their grandchildren & the younger generation in their communities.
As experts in learning through play, we have watched with fascination, the differences between grandparent–grandchild visits to our toy shop, versus parent-child visits and whilst both are joyous events, we have observed some differences in the approach of grandparents compared with parents, which lead us to the view that grandparents can make better teachers-through-play than parents. So much so, that we think grandparents should be actively encouraged to step into the role of teacher & experimenter with their grandchildren.
Grandparents Have Patience
When grandparents come into our shop with their grandchildren to buy treats, there is no doubt the toy gifts are exciting and coveted, but the beautiful reality is that the experience of buying a new toy is as much of a treat as the toy itself, for both the children and the grandparents. Because the grandparent has set aside the time for the trip to our toy shop, possibly it’s even been planned and excitedly discussed with their grandchildren for days, the anticipation is as much about the time spent together as it is about what the children will eventually choose as their gift from Gran or Grandad. The grandparents are patient, animated and engaged in discussions with their grandchildren and of course the children simply love it when an adult will listen to them!
Grandparents Have More Free Time
Plenty of free time means a young at heart grandparent can readily get their sleeves rolled up and get stuck-in to helping their grandchildren learn through play, with ample time available to dedicate to possibly long projects, which require patience and dedication. Compared to parents, grandparents are usually either retired or at least partially retired, meaning the demands upon their time are much less than those of a parent who is likely to be working long hours five days a week. Add in overnight stays for conferences, travelling to-and-from meetings, client site visits etc., and suddenly family time outside of the basics of feeding, bathing and clothing their children becomes a luxury.
Sitting down to crack-open a science kit and work through the various exciting experiments or setting out a sequin kit to create some beautiful, but possibly messy, art with you child will be a distant desire filed under the category of ‘wish list’ family activities. This is immensely frustrating for a parent, but it doesn’t mean the child needs to lose out; with a bit of luck and some encouragement, up step the grandparents, and children’s home-led education is now in safe and experienced hands.
A Grandparent Isn’t Consumed by Worry
As a parent, I can identify with Mark Twain’s famous statement:
“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened”.
I have worried my way through life, I have worried so hard and for so long, that on the rare moments when I realised I wasn’t worrying about something, I began to…worry. I’m certain I’m not the only parent who has wasted much of their time & energy in the hot pursuit of disasters that never happened to themselves or their children.
Grandparents in contrast to us frazzled, exhausted parents, have largely left those stresses and strains behind. They’ve already earned their stripes as providers and successful nurturers for their own kids and can therefore devote all that invaluable mental energy we waste on worry, to listening to and interacting with, their precious grandchildren.
This peace and calm is evident when grandparents bring their grand kids to visit our shop; somehow the peaceful patience of grandparents seems to fill the place with magic in the form of a joyous energy that leaves us feeling reassured all is well with the world. It’s a rather wonderful & accidental therapy for the CuriousMinds team.
Grandparents Invented Life as We Know It
Grandparents are older & wiser. They’ve seen it and done it, they have lived a much longer and probably all too colourful life, which is to the benefit of a grandchild. Keep in mind how much society has changed over the years; remember how they have absorbed that change and adapted to it. They know what they’re doing, and they’ve learned from the vagaries of the world meaning they can bring a different, calmer, perspective on life and one that can make the dullest of tasks in life a truly, enriching opportunity for learning through play for children. I remember my own grandmother, cannily playing shops with me while we tidied out the kitchen cupboards, I didn’t see the chore in the play, but decades later, long after she passed away, I still fondly remember my gran calmly playing with me.
A Grandchild Is A Chance to Get It Right Second Time Round
Let’s face it, as a parent you’re always winging it; always one step behind your child, when they bring home their first reading book, or ask for help with writing their first lab report, it’s probably the first time as a parent we have tried to guide a child through the learning experience, but grandparents have done it all before, with you. They’ve already been through all the potty training, the learning to read, the discussions of Einstein’s theory of relativity, the arguments, and decisions. They may not have always gotten it right with you, but all the more reason to believe they’ll get it right second time around; after all, a grandchild is your parents’ chance to get it right second time round, you were their guinea pig after all.
Grandparents Are No Longer Old
I was talking to one of our valued customers recently, he is a grandparent, and I made the comment that his grandsons were lucky to have such a hands-on grandfather, all I remembered my grandfather doing was sitting in the corner smoking his pipe and acting like a very old man. He replied saying his grandfather had been the same, but that had been a valuable lesson as he’d learned how not to be a grandfather to his own grandsons. I thought that was a rather brilliant lesson to have learned!
Times have changed since my grandparents were alive, today 80 is the new 60 and today’s retirees are physically & mentally fitter and more active than even the forty year olds of decades gone by, that means our senior family members are likely to have spare time & energy on their hands.
On a daily basis we see examples of incredibly positive grandparenting in our toy shop & we hear from incredible grandparents who call or email us whilst researching kits & toys for their grand kids. Our observation is always the same; they care, they’re wise & they want to be hands on with their involvement. What a gift to the next generation. Surely families are missing a trick if they don’t do everything they can to charm grandparents into developing the kind of close learning relationship with their grandchildren that will give their kids such a flying start in life.
If you are a hands on grandparent who is actively involved in your grandchild’s learning through play adventures, we’d love to hear your story & the recommendations you would give to new grandparents. Pop a comment below or email us.