COVID-19 Blog Series: 5 Ideas for Virtual Intergenerational Play
- Written by Samira Ali
Intergenerational activities increase interactions and communication between different ages through shared experiences. Research demonstrates that healthy grandparent-grandchild or older adult-preschooler interactions improve the wellbeing of both parties.1-3 However, distance can make creating and maintaining this intergenerational bond tricky; maybe everyone lives in different cities, or COVID-19 restrictions preventing gathering, or maybe life is just too busy. Grandparents want to spend time with their grandkids and vice-versa, so, how can we get the younger and older generations playing together?
Technology is becoming a mainstream way to keep in touch these days – if spending time together is not practical, technology can offer an option for intergenerational bonding. Considering the average attention span of a preschooler, the virtual time spent together might be quick but valuable.
5 Ideas for Virtual Play
One intergenerational play option is storytime. Using a phone, tablet, or computer, the older adult can read stories to their preschooler. Allow the child to see what story options are available so they may choose the book. While reading, use character voices, puppets, or stuffed animals as props, and ask the child questions to keep them engaged. Alternatively, the adult could tell stories about the family or past adventures. Make sure to switch it up and get the preschooler to be a storyteller. Learning to be the storyteller can help the preschooler develop creative thinking skills.
2. Child-led Exploration
Using video on a cell phone or tablet, have the preschooler show their older adult or grandparent around the home. The child will likely find objects or toys of interest to show off. Take this opportunity to ask questions.
- Can you show me your favourite toy?
- What was your favourite part of today?
- What is something you learned today?
3. Dance Party
This one is simple and fun! Play music so both parties can hear it and dance it out! In situations of limited physical mobility, dance while sitting or lying down - choose any dance moves that are comfortable!
4. Whiteboard Games
In this game, describe an object to the preschooler and have them draw it on a whiteboard. The game is fun because the child’s drawing might start out as an abstract set of scribbles but as they get older their drawings will develop. An added bonus, the child will love showing off their drawings!
5. Guessing Game
Take turns showing part of an item (e.g., stuffed animal, button, hairbrush) over the camera and have the other player try to guess the item. As they continue to guess what it is, slowly reveal more of the object on-screen. This game is particularly great because it can go for as long as both individuals stay engaged and help to develop critical thinking skills.
Visit https://cheerskids.info/BeFitForLife-IntergenerationalPlay for more virtual and in-person intergenerational activity ideas!
- Gualano, M. R., Voglino, G., Bert, F., Thomas, R., Camussi, E., & Siliquini, R. (2018). The impact of intergenerational programs on children and older adults: A review. International psychogeriatrics, 30(4), 451. https://doi.org/10.1017/s104161021700182x
- Zhang, F. (2018). Intergenerational play between young people and old family members: patterns, benefits, and challenges. In International Conference on Human Aspects of IT for the Aged Population (pp. 581-593). Springer, Cham.
- Vetere, F., Davis, H., Gibbs, M., & Howard, S. (2008). The magic box and collage: Responding to the challenge of distributed intergenerational play. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 67, 165-178. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhcs.2008.09.004