Children generally like to feel included. But they may not know how to relate to an ill family member with limited abilities. Here are some ideas for home-based activities with elementary-age children.
Finger foods are fun to prepare and eat together.
- Keep it simple: Chunks of cheese with crackers, peanut butter in celery, wash-and-eat fruits such as grapes and berries.
- Set the table with fancy china or make it a “picnic” with paper plates and cups.
Side-by-side reading nurtures a relationship.
- Both can collect and share favorite comic strips or children’s books.
- If your loved one has dementia, reading from picture books can help stimulate conversation.
Photographs spark memories.
- Looking at old photo albums together can bring family history alive. Better yet, have the child write “captions” for the album.
- If your elder family member wasn’t along on vacation, let the young one do show-and-tell with photographs.
Everybody needs an exercise buddy.
- Play “catch” with a soft beach ball, nerf ball, or big rubber ball either overhead or by bouncing between two players.
- Watch gentle exercise shows together such as PBS’ “Sit and Be Fit.” Or purchase a DVD or video for exercises that are geared to the elder but are healthy and safe for both.
Children are observant and curious. Their noses are sensitive to smells. If odors tend to be present, make sure there’s plenty of fresh air circulating and consider having a bouquet of flowers in the room. Talk with children ahead of time about your loved one’s situation. They will be less likely to blurt out awkward questions or to worry that your loved one’s condition is contagious.