Parents of gifted children and youth have resources available to them both in school and in the community. However, there is an often overlooked resource in the family itself—grandparents. Parents can encourage interaction between grandchildren and grandparents by sharing information related to the grandchildren’s giftedness, their special interests, and their school’s educational programs with grandparents. The more information grandparents have about their grandchildren, the better they can plan rewarding and enjoyable experiences with them.
The most precious gifts grandparents can give to their grandchildren are time and attention. Despite physical and generational distances, communication can take place through activities using computers, cell phones, video and digital cameras, audiotapes, and CDs, as well as through methods that have stood the test of time—letters, postcards, and cards for special occasions. The following are suggested activities for grandparents and grandchildren, depending on age and interest levels.
Develop a time line of family events by interviewing relatives on audio- or videotape, arranging photographs in albums, or organizing news clips in scrapbooks. Grandchildren can compose a list of questions to ask their grandparents about their lives. These activities will give gifted youth an understanding of their family history.
Cooking with a grandchild can help him or her develop creativity (how many ways to fix chicken) and healthy eating. At an early age, children can prepare and enjoy basic dishes. Over time, they can plan more elaborate meals and make them for the entire family. Grandparents can incorporate school subjects and study skills into the activity, by teaching measurement, cost-effective shopping, and time management.
Cultural events provide valuable opportunities for grandparents to introduce their grandchildren to, or encourage their interest in, a variety of subjects, including science, geography, mathematics, and the arts. Whether you live in a small town or a city, many cultural venues can be found: art galleries, museums, theaters, libraries, and concert halls, to name a few. Before taking a grandchild on an adventure, have him or her help plan it by finding out when and where to go, how long to stay, and the expected cost. The child can find information through the newspaper, a local college or university, the office of the mayor, an arts council, and other agencies. The grandparent can provide a calendar on which to record events. Grandparents can also have their grandchildren evaluate the experience by discussing what they most enjoyed about it or what they would change about it.
Traveling with grandchildren can be educational, fun, and exciting. Children can join in the planning as their ages permit. They can also improve their academic skills by calculating mileages and gasoline costs, comparing airfares, determining travel times and speeds, taking time zone changes into account, and evaluating geographic differences.
Gifted children enjoy participating in and developing projects with their grandparents, such as building bookshelves, bird feeders, or tree houses; designing gardens or playgrounds; collecting stamps, baseball cards, or other memorabilia; or organizing charitable events such as food, clothing, or toy drives. Planning projects can enhance problem-solving skills, math skills, and leadership abilities.
Grandparents have a wealth of knowledge and talents that should be shared and enjoyed with their grandchildren. In addition, they can serve as valuable sources of support for parents. For instance, they can help identify early signs of giftedness in their grandchild, nurture the child’s special needs and interests, address areas of academic and social-emotional concern, and develop an educational plan for the child.
Grandparents are a precious resource. The personal legacy they have to share will captivate and inspire future generations. For more suggestions on how grandparents can serve as a resource for your gifted child, see the Grandparents Guide to Gifted Children.
This post has been adapted from an article by Frances A. Karnes and Kevin Besnoy published in TIP’s Digest of Gifted Research.