20 Healthy Activities to Try with Your Grandchildren
This article was updated on: 09/15/2018
Some seniors find that caring for their grandchildren is both pleasant and rewarding. In fact, caring for your grandchildren may also be healthy. Research suggests that seniors who babysit grandchildren may lower their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or depression.
Caring for grandchildren makes some seniors feel healthy and lively, reports the National Institute on Aging. Social interaction in general has been shown to be healthy for seniors.
Can being with your grandchildren help you have a healthy lifestyle?
The Women’s Healthy Ageing Project (WHAP) is an ongoing study that has followed a group of Australian women from around middle age into old age. Researchers wanted to find out if babysitting for grandchildren could contribute to a healthy lifestyle.
As reported by the National Institutes of Health, the WHAP originally studied the cognitive (thinking and reasoning) function of more than 180 women, ages 57 to 68, who cared for their grandchildren regularly. The women took three different tests during the study to measure working memory and mental processing speed. The results showed that women who spend one day a week caring for their grandchildren scored higher on the cognitive tests than those who did not. The researchers concluded that babysitting grandchildren one day a week may reduce the chance of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Healthy lifestyles might include babysitting
Activities with grandkids might help keep seniors healthy – both mentally and physically, according to an article in USA Today. Dr. Diana Kerwin, chief of geriatrics at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas and founder of Texas Alzheimer’s and Memory Disorders, was quoted in the article. She observed that babysitting stimulates brain tissues, which is healthy for your memory. When you are taking care of children, Kerwin notes, you are actually a teacher. “You’re teaching them new experiences, maybe taking them to the zoo or working on vocabulary with them … it’s stimulating for the babysitter’s brain as well,” said Kerwin.
Other studies also found a healthy connection between babysitting little ones and overall mental health. Taking care of grandchildren regularly might also help prevent depression and other mood disorders. An Institute on Aging at Boston College study followed 376 grandparents and 340 grandchildren for 19 years. They concluded that the stronger the grandchild-grandparent relationship, the less likely the chances of developing depression.
Tips on healthy activities to share with your grandchildren
A moderate amount of time spent taking care of your grandchildren may be a great way to stay mentally sharp and healthy. Here are some activities to share that you might be able to enjoy with your grandchildren, including some from Alzheimers.net:
- Bring out the good china and have a tea party.
- Camp in your backyard.
- Make decorations together, such as paper snowflakes in wintertime.
- Go to a local farmer’s market and prepare a dish from the food you purchase.
- Go on a nature walk and identify flowers, trees, and plants along the way.
- Go birdwatching. This can be a way to get relaxing, slow-paced exercise while catching colorful glimpses of local birds.
- Play a card or board game.
- Start a book list to read together.
- Start a journal or a pen-pal writing project, recording special happenings or people in your life to share with one another.
- Take a trip to the local zoo or museum.
- Teach your grandchild one of your favorite hobbies (crocheting, stamp collecting, coin collecting, etc.)
- Start a garden together.
- Make a vinegar volcano.
- Read a book or newspaper together.
- Cook or bake simple recipes together.
- Work on puzzles together.
- Sing songs or play music together.
- Make a scrapbook of photos together.
- Make a time capsule together.
- Do arts and crafts (such as painting) together. Try making paper bag puppets.
By enjoying strategy games, moderate exercise, and new places and activities together, you can nurture your relationship with grandchildren and stimulate your mind and body in a healthy way.
How to stay healthy: avoid too much of a good thing?
One interesting result from the Women’s Healthy Ageing Project suggested that there may be such a thing as too much babysitting. Study participants who babysat five days a week scored lower on cognitive tests than those who babysat one day a week.
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