In honour of Grandparents Day, Sunday the 25th of October, LEGO® Australia has teamed up with Australia’s favourite grandparents Bert and Patti Newton to celebrate the grandmas, grandpas, nans, pops, omas, opas, eldery friends and chosen grandparents across the country who play an incredible role in families lives.

Grandparents play an integral role in the lives of children and these family bonds that cannot be overlooked, with many taking on parenting and caretaking responsibilities, instilling important developmental and life skills and values, and forming integral, life-directing bonds.

One of Australia’s leading parenting experts, Dr Justin Coulson, said this year’s forced isolation of so many of our elderly friends and grandparents due to COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns meant that important multi-generational relationships between children and grandparents had been interrupted or put on pause.

“I like to think of grandparents with the image of an older gardener caring for a young tree. Research has shown that grandparents are a valuable resource for grandchildren, influencing their grandchildren in important ways including helping them form their identity, and conveying family values, ideals, and beliefs,” Dr Coulson said.

We spoke to Dr Justin Coulson about the importance of connecting with our grandparents and how we can continue doing so even with the present restrictions due to the pandemic.

  • Hi Dr Justin, tell us a bit about you, what is your background? How did you become one of the leading parenting experts in Australia?

I have a PhD in psychology – in fact I studied what makes families thrive and be happy. I’ve written six books about raising happy kids and having flourishing families, and I’ve got 6 daughters too!

  • Why is connecting with our grandparents more important than ever this year?

Connection is at the heart of wellbeing. And inter-generational connections (like those between children and their grandparents aren’t just important for connection. They’re important for transmitting values, developing identity, giving children roots and a foundation, providing them with a mentor, and helping them learn about who they are and whose they are. This is vital for resilience.

But the research shows it’s not just the kids who benefit. Grandparents get a resilience and wellbeing boost too. For them it’s about legacy and generativity. And connection lies at the heart of it all.

In a COVID-19 year like we’ve just had, this connection is more important than ever, because so many relationships have been ruptured due to regulations and lockdowns. Finding ways to connect kids with grandparents is just vital.

  • What relationship do you six daughters have with their grandparents?

We have a set of grandparents not far from us, and our kids LOVE spending time with them. The grandparent walking frame isn’t an impediment – it’s a toy! And the kids love to engage in any and all play. We have a LEGO table in the living room and our 6-year-old will sit with her grandpa and play for hours. They love it.

The other set of grandparents are interstate so Facetime is the main interaction they have. They love those calls! And when visits can be made, those grandparents get a LOT of love. Once again, playtime is a central part of their visit. Us grown-ups – the parents – don’t get a look in. It’s all about the grandparents playing with the grandkids!

  • A lot of grandchildren can’t physically see their grandparents at the moment due to COVID restrictions. What could they do instead to connect?

Creativity is the name of the game right now. It’s all about technology, and the old-school stuff like writing actual letters. The kids love it, and it makes the grandparent’s day too. Loads of parents are doing creative things to make sure that their children still experience a relationship with their grandparents, and I couldn’t agree more. So important, and so joyful.

  • Why is LEGO DUPLO a good developmental activity to connect Grandparents and their grandchildren?

Play is a space where grandparents and toddlers can truly bond and connect. Developmental toys like DUPLO can help bring grandparents and toddlers closer together, , they give grandparents/parents a glimpse into their beautiful little minds – allowing them to communicate and connect at a different level.

DUPLO has numerous developmental benefits for toddlers. Firstly, it’s ideal for social development. Kids share and work together and reciprocate in a back-and-forth when they play. It’s ideal for physical development. Motor skills can be extended as little hands play with big blocks, learning to manipulate and build. It’s ideal for creativity! Kids can build whatever they can imagine! It’s ideal for communication. Kids talk when they play – even if they may not be speaking fluently yet. And finally, it’s ideal for problem-solving and cognitive development!