Calling All Grandparents!


August is definitely time for parent relief! It is the perfect moment for grandparents to come to the fore as parents start gearing up for school, and kids need a change of scene. Good kinds of play can build creative thinking skills! As an “elder” of your “tribe,” you have the wisdom that comes from the long view, and know just how far creative thinking can take you in the “real world.

And the best news is that neuroscience now shows that many things we know from experience are indeed really important to growing young minds. Use these knowings to create meaningful, valuable and fun-filled activities. Here are a few essentials:


The Missing Alphabet has more than 65 pages of activities matched to the Sensory Alphabet. Consider making one of the nine elements the topic of playtime during the last weeks of summer. Here’s a sample of a few ideas from the book with summertime written all over them:

  • Explore MOVEMENT at the zoo. Collect the individual movements of animals, reptiles and birds with line drawings or with a digital camera. Copy animal movements with your own body—big cats, flying birds, excited monkeys, huge elephants and so on. Back at home, invent an animal movement game (like Charades), using as many ways of moving as you can remember.
  • Explore SHAPE at the museum. Make sculpture the focus of your museum visit. Count how many different ways artists make human body shapes in their sculpture. Make a collection of photos or sketches as you look for shapes. Back at home, make sculpture inspired by your museum visit with different shape-making materials like boxes, clay, wood scraps, stuffed fabric shapes or cookie dough.
  • Explore SPACE around the neighborhood. Take a walk around the block and find all the interesting hiding spaces you can spot along your route. At home find your best hiding place, your favorite size of space, your pet’s favorites too. Make a collection of empty boxes for building, stacking, sorting. Design a playhouse from a refrigerator box or two.


While each person — no matter his or her age — has a constellation of Sensory Alphabet strengths, your grandchild probably has one or two that really stand out. These are the things that you notice in his or her artwork, in what your grandchild pays attention to, likes to play around with, and in the particulars of his or her collections and activities.  When you use these proclivities to help you plan summer fun, you’re more likely to find that your grandchild feels successful, retains more from the experiences, and has more fun.


The field called Creative Learning is developing too slowly in the educational world for every child to benefit now. While this can be a frustrating fact of life, you’ll know that the summertime adventures you invent along these lines are giving your grandchild a headstart on the kinds of innovative thinking skills the future will require.

(These ideas are excerpted from our article in the current issue of NFamily/San Antonio magazine.)


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