Grandparents, you have the ability to very directly help your grandchildren build stronger brains and a sense of being emotionally secure. Babies learn by interacting with trusted adults. You are one of the most trusted caregivers in their lives. You love your grandchildren and they know that you love them. That makes you a trusted adult in their lives. Children need trusted adults doing the right things in those key months and years for both brain growth and emotional anchors.
For that reason, your role can be very important to the learning development of your grandchild and your role with them can obviously be extremely pleasant for you as well.
There are many things you can do for your grandchild as a trusted adult.
- Learn about the importance of how direct positive interactions with both spoken and written words in those first months and years helps a baby’s brain to grow stronger. Read the Three Key Years book. Know how much value your grandchild will receive from the right interactions.
- Explore our Parent Toolkit for additional tips and resources for both you and your grandchild’s parents.
- Share what you learn about strengthening the baby’s brain with your son or son-in-law, and your daughter or daughter-in-law. Help them all to discover and know how talking, reading and singing with their baby is helping their baby’s brain to make millions of neuron connections that build a strong brain for life.
- When you’re with your grand babies, make your own opportunities to directly Talk. Read. Play. Count. or Sing. with them.
- Encourage parents and other family members to do the same. Every positive interaction with trusted adults in the days, weeks and months after a baby is born helps them to build a stronger brain and a sense of being emotionally safe and secure.
In the first months and years of life, every interaction between a baby and a trusted adult builds stronger connections in the baby’s brain. Simply talking has great power to build connections. Talking alone to a baby builds millions of neuron connections and most people do not know how effective direct and focused talking can be to strengthen the brain of a child.
Reading is also extremely effective as both a brain building tool and an emotional security experience. Reading can both build stronger brains and reading can create a sense of security in the child that is anchored in the actual reading process. Spend time doing both talking and reading to your grandchild when that is possible—and encourage your son or daughter to do the same things as often as they can do them to help your grandchild be healthier, happier, and a more effective and successful lifelong learner.
As your grandchildren get a little older, tell them stories. There are many kinds of stories you can tell to help your grandchild strengthen her brain and to give your grandchild a sense of family and belonging.
Here are a few suggestions about topics from a great resource we like, TalkingisTeaching.org. These are particularly fun and important.
- Celebrate your family history. Cuddle up at home and share a fun story about a cultural family tradition. Talk together about why what you do as a family is important to you.
- Share a memory. Tell your grandson about a favorite childhood memory. Ask your grandchild to share one of his favorite memories, too.
- Empower your grandchild. Explain a time when you were a child and it may have been difficult to learn how to do something new. What or who helped you learn to get better? You might ask, “What can grandma/grandpa do to help you learn something new?”
- Read a favorite book. Ask your grandchild to select a book that he loves and why it is special to him. Read it out loud together! There are very few things more magical for your grandchildren than their favorite books.
- Sing and dance together. Sing a favorite song and dance and teach the words and moves to your grandchild. Singing can introduce young children to new vocabulary words.
- Draw together. Draw a picture of a special day from your childhood. Describe why it was special and how it made you feel. Encourage your grandchild do the same.
- Learn new words together. Teach your grandchild a word or phrase in the language you speak at home. By helping your grandchild build her vocabulary, her young mind will be ready to learn even more!
Sharing these conversations and activities together helps support early brain and language development. Your special time together is helping to shape a strong brain and will support their emotional development that will benefit them for life.
Grandparents are among the most important and special people in a child’s life—so enjoy being special and do things to show your grandchild how much love and acceptance you have for them. If you are the primary caregiver for your grandchild, please read all of the advice to parents on this website. These tools can be of use to you.
In any case, you might want to share the book “Three Key Years” and this website with your children and with other family members and regular baby sitters to help them all understand why it is so important to provide that level of comfort, support and direct interaction to your grandchild in those first months and years.
And have huge fun. Many grandparents make the joke that if they had only known how much fun grandchildren were, they would have started there and skipped the hard parts in between. Some people are not joking when they say that. Being a grandparent can be a wonderful thing.
We actually can’t start with grandchildren, but we can enjoy our grandchildren hugely when we are blessed with having them and we can do things that make their lives better in important ways.
Enjoy and celebrate and know that you can make a difference for someone you love.