All-ages activities can reduce summer stress
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By Julie Ann Anderson  June 20, 2014 12:00 am

Is there such a thing as a stress-free summer? If you are a family caregiver who is also a parent of school-age children, you probably answered that question with a definitive “no.” You know better than anyone that the summer school break can feel less like a vacation and more like a matter of survival.

What if combining your roles as caregiver and parent actually helped reduce your summer stress? Planning activities your aging parents and your children can do together will provide an enriching experience for everyone – educationally, emotionally, physically and mentally. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Women’s Healthy Aging Project in Australia indicates that time spent with grandkids is not just enjoyable to grandparents, but also may benefit them mentally as well, and, in some cases, may even lower their risk of developing Alzheimer’s. To help reduce your summer stress as a caregiver and parent, consult the following Summer List of Intergenerational Fun, adapted from  


• Fun Idea No. 1: Set up a lemonade stand. Nothing says summer like fresh lemonade. A lemonade stand requires just a little bit of prep for a whole lot of payoff, including fun in the kitchen, fun in the sun and the chance to say “hi” to the neighbors. 


• Fun Idea  No. 2: Do watercolor paintings. For rainy days, watercolor painting is a great way for grandkids and grandparents to enjoy time together and witness each other’s creative juices in action. Have them paint portraits of one another for some added silliness.


• Fun Idea No. 3: Hobby school is in session. Ask Grandpa or Grandma to teach your kids his or her favorite hobby. Whether it’s knitting, woodworking, playing guitar or working crossword puzzles, children will enjoy learning a new skill while learning something new about their loved one too.

 • Fun Idea No. 4: Play a board game. Time to break out Monopoly, Candy Land, Yahtzee, or Chutes & Ladders! Playing board games is a lost art in this digital age of video games and on-demand movies. 

Take entertainment old school with some classic, unplugged fun. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, make up a new game together. This is my family’s favorite! My kids have always enjoyed board games family night with their grandparents. Game time creates such wonderful, fun, fond memories for the kids with their grandparents. 

When my father passed almost two years  this August,  my daughter Kerry said to me at the funeral in tears “who’s going to make gingerbread houses with me now at Christmas?” That was her “thing” she and my dad did together at the holidays. It was more special to her than any one of us realized at the time. 


• Fun Idea No. 5: Tell stories by flashlight. Get those imaginations flowing with a nighttime storytelling session for the whole family. Take it up a notch by grabbing an armful of blankets and enlisting some helpers to build a storytelling fort. If you can get outdoors in a backyard, sit around a fire pit or BBQ and make smores at the same time. My oldest  had his  Great Grandpa Jack come over at least four nights a week to our home  and we would all have ice-cream time. David, my son, holds great memories of sitting on Great Grandpa Jack’s knee while  giggling with him over a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream playing tic-tac-toe, checkers, hangman  or chess.


• Fun Idea No. 6: Have a family yard sale. Schedule a yard sale and encourage the whole family to participate. From putting out signs to pricing the goods, make sure everyone has a job to do. 

• Fun Idea No. 7: Take a field trip. Need a change of scenery? Load the family up for a trip to the zoo or the neighborhood fire station (be sure to call ahead). Getting out of the house is a tried and true antidote for summer boredom.


• Fun Idea No. 8: Make believe. It’s raining outside, all the craft supplies are gone, and every favorite movie has been watched. Now what? Take the vacation of a lifetime…in your imagination. Imaginative play is an excellent way to entertain younger children, and it can also provide a low-pressure backdrop for some meaningful interactions between generations. 

Try it and see.


• Fun Idea No. 9 Relive the past. Have your parents take out an  old photo album from their youth, that’s in black  and white. Kids today can’t imagine photos were really in black and white and to see Grandpa as a young man or a child is crazy funny to them. 

Then your parents can share some of their life story with the grandchildren – an oral family history. It’s their personal family history they may never hear otherwise right from the lips of those who lived it. Even better yet, do you have any of those  old 9 mm films? Yeah, you know you still have that one from 1972 when the family went to the Grand Canyon or 1984 when their favorite Aunt Suzie got married.  Come fall, when the kids head back to school, consider hiring a helping hand to assist your aging parents and continue facilitating meaningful activities that promote social interaction and mental stimulation. 

Companionship home care services for just a few hours a week could make a world of difference for your loved ones.


Julie Ann Anderson is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park; mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, to educate and encourage seniors and caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.

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