Kids say and do the darndest things -- especially in the eyes of their grandparents. But seniors can learn a lot from today's children. Whether your grandkids are 2 or 22, here are some suggestions for things you can talk about and bond over.
You can also check out our story on 10 Things Grandchildren Can Learn from Their Grandparents »
Sometimes, seniors don't get out into the world as much as they used to and time passes by. Keep yourself in the know by asking your grandchildren what's happening in their lives, what music they're listening to, what the last movie they saw was. Being informed is always a positive thing, and learning from your grandchildren is even better, because it means learning from those you love.
Twenty-six-year-old Laura ten Bloemendal of Houston, Texas, travels internationally, and always makes sure to tell her grandparents what she did for fun and what was happening in the places she traveled. "Everyone has a great post-vacation catch-up session," she says.
Young kids always want to do everything themselves because they believe they can. Use this dedication and determination as an example. You might be surprised what you're able to do when you put your mind to it -- whether it's picking up a new hobby, learning a new language or listening to new types of music.
Often children will embarrass adult family members by saying the first thing that pops into their heads. Kids may notice things others may not, simply because their world is new and different each day.
"I took my granddaughter to church, and she took one look at the pastor, got very wide-eyed and asked him why he'd swallowed a basketball," says Naoma Simmons of Harrisburg, Illinois. "The pastor had a great laugh trying to explain his round belly was more due to the fact that he'd been eating too many cookies and not from swallowing a basketball."
Try to look at the world through the eyes of your grandchild and you'll be surprised at how wondrous (and humorous!) it can be.
Current Family Stories
As a grandparent, you may know everything that went on in the family 40 years ago, but you may not know the hilarious thing your grandson did last week while he was playing outside. Encouraging kids to tell you little family tales keeps them happy and brings everyone closer. Sometimes little memories are the ones you cherish most.
Grandchildren are always on the move and always looking for entertainment. Don't let retirement turn into the golden years of worrying. Take a page from your grandchild's book and learn to let loose and do something silly. You'll feel years younger as you're playing and being carefree with your grandchildren, and they'll enjoy it just as much as you will.
Lisa Guedry of Washington, D.C. rides her bike with her grandson whenever they get a chance -- and she has noticed she has more energy throughout the day when they do so. "He's keeping me young," she says.
Veronica Lewis, a grandma from Houston, Texas, loves letting her imagination run away with her when she spends time with her grandkids. "They love coming over and constructing forts and castles," Lewis says. "Most people see piles of old boxes, but my grandchildren see a castle with secret passageways!"
When you're used to being asked for advice all the time, it's hard to switch over to listening to your grandchild talk a mile a minute. Parents always seem to be learning patience, but by the time you've become a grandparent, the toddler and school-age years are long gone. A grandchild brings grandparents back with jarring reality. Letting a child babble on is great fun and will give you the chance to become a patient listener -- a great skill to have at any age.
"Listening to the young ones talk makes me feel like I could be young again right alongside them -- but with a healthy dose of patience added in -- a great combination," says Nancy Bradley of Thorn Hill, Tennessee.
Young children are full of unconditional love. Even when you might feel like you don't deserve it or don't need it, let them in and give them the chance to say "I love you!" Who couldn't use a little more of that?
Life is Short
Having only a few years of life experience under their belts, children don't always realize that "later" is an option. Many grandparents, who have decades worth of memories, forget that life isn't infinite because they "have seen their share of both sadness and joy," says Laura Markham of Brooklyn, New York. Take advantage of the youthful excitement of your grandchildren.
Communication and Technology
Grandchildren are growing up in the digital age. They probably played with an iPhone in one hand and a sippy cup in another. And they can be a valuable resource for learning the ins and outs of email, Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and other popular innovations of the past 10 years. If you don't understand the latest gadgets, who better way to learn from than your grandkids who use these things every day?
And you can then take advantage of these technologies and use them to communicate with your loved ones. Alayne Potter of Washington, D.C., taught her grandmother how to send emails, and now that is how they keep in touch.
Because card games were the norm when you were growing up doesn't mean it's too late to learn how to play new games. Touchscreens and motion-sensing technology have created a new genre of games that are easy to learn and fun.
"My grandma loves playing Scrabble, but it's hard to find people with a lot of time to sit down and play a game with her," says Caitlin Miller from Houston, Texas. "I taught her to play Words with Friends on her smartphone; now we can play even when we're in different states -- and there are no letter tiles to have to pick up!"
Gillian Kruse is a freelance writer living in Houston, Texas. Her work can be found at here.