Not every family has the luxury of having grandparents in close proximity. But for those of you that do, and for those that are lucky enough to have connected with a non-related grandparent figure, this article is for you. What is important about the grandparent/grandchild relationship? What can grandparents do to foster these relationships? These questions will be explored, and some practical suggestions offered.

Grandparents have experience and wisdom to draw on, and while they may view things differently to the parents of the child there are many things that will be common ground. As parents, the grandparents wanted the best for their children, and they achieved what they thought was right based on their beliefs and the current thinking at the time. It is important for parents to remember that. However, it is also important that the next generation responds to the current climate for raising children. Getting this message across gently can be a challenge. However, there are ways to do this and attending a class where the grandparent watches how a specialist teacher works with a group of children may be helpful. One parent offered GymbaROO to a grandparent and her insights show that it was much more than just a class for the grandchild.

At the Manly/Seaforth GymbaROO they had the pleasure of the company of Grandma Yvonne and her six grandchildren over twelve years. On celebrating her 80th birthday, Yvonne – GymbaROO grandma spectacular, shared some of her GymbaROO experience.

Thirteen years ago, when my first grandchild was six months old, my daughter asked me if I would like to take my grandson to an activity program called GymbaROO. Not knowing what to expect, I arrived for my first session at Manly/Seaforth GymbaROO and met the owner, Carolyn. She struck me as someone who knew her stuff and had obviously put a lot of work into preparing the session. I was amazed at the GymbaROO setup, which looked like it would all be much too hard for him to play with. I was surprised by how we could use the equipment in so many different ways to provide my grandson with movement experiences. He loved it! And I loved it too!

As he grew, so too did the challenges and it wasn’t long before he was starting to independently interact in the sessions.  Balls, beanbags, balloons, tambourines, maracas…every week a new sensation, a new word, a new movement.  Each week we learned ways to play so that his vestibular system was stimulated, his muscles strengthened and his coordination challenged.

Thanks to my daughters, I was presented with five more beautiful grandchildren. As each one reached the age of three months, I signed them up and organised my schedule so they could all have the wonderful, learning experience of GymbaROO. As my first grandchild reached the age where he became too old for GymbaROO, he would beg to come and help hand out and collect the equipment the babies were using.  Although he was excited to go to kindergarten, he was most upset that he would no longer be able to attend anymore GymbaROO sessions.

All six grandchildren have gained so much from their time at GymbaROO – learning to move, to solve problems, to sing, to recognise words and objects, learning to share, to mix with other children and solve problems. Transition to kindergarten was a piece of cake for them all.  They were ready.

This is an example of a grandparent being offered an opportunity to build a special relationship with her grandchildren, watching their development and learning about the current thinking about a wide variety of topics. With parent education being central to all that is done at GymbaROO it was a learning environment for all concerned.

So other than asking a grandparent if they would like to attend GymbaROO, what else can they do. Many grandparents have worked out that quality time, rather than quantity is important and they are often better at blocking out all the trivial clutter that may fill the life of a young mother. They know the housework will wait, and that the child will not remember if the house was perfectly dusted when they grow up. But that the child will remember the fun times they had with Grandma. Here are some suggestions for Grandparents of inexpensive things they may like to have available for grandchildren.

  • Save all the interesting rubbish and put it in a box, chest or other vessel that is easily accessible for the child. This can form the basis of much play and creativity, and the interest in this place/activity will remain for many years. It is exciting to see what has been added each visit. Little boxes, small containers, used wrapping paper and ribbons, small pieces of fabric.
  • Then you will need some good glue, sticky tape, scissors etc.
  • If you have some books that you read to your own children, take them out of storage and have them available. The same goes for some toys. Children love old toys. I remember my own Grandmother’s cupboard of toys my Dad played with. We always loved getting the old trucks and bricks out and would play with them for hours.
  • Enable your grandchildren to participate in something you like to do. It may be gardening, tapestry, knitting or similar. There are often adaptations that suit young children and you will have the skills and will make the time to teach them how to develop the skill. I remember gardening with my Granny, potting plants in just the right way and planting seeds carefully. She was very patient with us.

The greatest gift grandparents can give their grandchildren is time and time engaged with other people helps to create connections in the brain. Time doing and activity like GymbaROO or time doing sometime simple at home. These moments grow brains and build memories that will last a lifetime.


You may also like to read:

Ways to Help out the Grandparents who Help with Regular Childcare

A Grandparent’s role in Stepfamilies