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Play at Any Age: 5 Tips for Grandkids & Grandparents to Find the Fun

Grandmother with grandchildren in the garden
Play is not just for kids but has an important role for adults and seniors too.  It’s been well-documented that play leads to healthier brain development in children, and it continues to provide benefits through adulthood.  Play is the act of doing something for its own sake, for pleasure and enjoyment and not for an outcome.  Can you think of the last time you played?

Here at Mon Ami, we love activities that are intergenerational where younger and older people can connect through play.   For many of our families with dementia, play can tap into a shared sense of the present moment, laughing and bonding over what’s experienced together.  But sometimes it’s tough to imagine what might be fun and appropriate for people generations apart.  If you’ve got a grandparent, parent, older friend or relative, think about the ways you can introduce a playful element to your interactions.  Draw on on past experiences, hobbies, or interests to come up with ideas.   Here are some of ours to get you started.

  1. Word games: Scrabble is a classic, but you could also try Bananagrams, which is more free form and portable (and even comes in a large print version!). If rules are cumbersome, you can just spell words as you lay the tiles out and see what stories arise from word association. Scrambling the tiles and placing them into words has a tactile component that’s also soothing on its own.
  2. Jigsaw puzzles: Go for a 1,000 piece puzzle if you’re feeling up for the challenge, or find a box with larger pieces in an image that your loved one might like. Some brands like Springbok even make puzzles specifically for Alzheimer’s.
  3. Paper airplanes: For the mechanically minded, making paper airplanes is a great way to exercise that part of the brain. Make your own with pieces of paper, or find a paper airplane book like this one with templates for different models. Then the best part, flying them down the hall!
  4. Model cars: Whether Matchbox cars or other collectibles, see if toy versions can spark the playful spirit in your car enthusiast. Race them down a track or get a kit to build a car piece by piece.
  5. Coloring books: Adult coloring books have become a major trend, and it’s easy to see why. With beautiful patterns and the right set of colored pencils or markers, you could lose an entire afternoon coloring inside -or outside- the lines. Grab separate kids’ coloring books and adult coloring books for different ages, or share one together. Either way, get lost in the color!