One of my earliest memories is of being in the kitchen with my grandmother.  Even today, whenever I am whisking eggs or folding dry ingredients, I can almost hear her humming tunelessly, just the way she did when she was happy and in the moment.  In my family, baking was an intergenerational activity that brought in age ranges from 4 to 84.  Even as a toddler whose complete lack of coordination prohibited her from handling anything more dangerous than a blunt spoon, I knew that I was always welcome in my grandma’s kitchen.

As my family continues to age and the newest generation of drooling babies and mischievous toddlers is crawling and multiplying around us, I keep an eye out for these intergenerational bonding moments.  The chance for aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, grandparents and children under the age of four to all get together in the same place is rare enough; to get all those individuals participating in and enjoying an activity together seems to be asking a lot.  With a crowd this large, cooking isn’t really a good option.  Games are difficult when the grandparents veto all calls for contact sports and the young’uns are totally oblivious to the point of Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit.  So how can we as a multi-generational unit bond together?  Well, we’ve found two big rallying points: music and water.

Music has no age gaps.  While there may be a significant difference between the Elvis oldies Grandpa plays in his car, the weird garage band music emanating from the youngest uncle’s ipod and the Veggie Tales theme song my niece has memorized, this is one activity that all of us can participate in and appreciate.  Music gets everyone laughing and moving together, whether or not the correct words (much less the correct notes!) are being sung.  Choruses of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “There’s a hole in the bottom of the sea!” and “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree” can be heard at random times of the day and night.  JoAnn has seen the way music can act as a binding agent during music therapy sessions, helping to smooth over uncertainties and lending words to people who otherwise find themselves with little to say to each other.

Water has also proved to be a nice convergence point.  Maybe it’s because there is an infinite number of games that can be played or that everyone can have the experience that he or she wants.  While the kiddies are splashing around in swim floaties, the older kids can be playing Marco Polo and the Vitamin-D craving adults can simply sunbathe.

While some of my earliest intergenerational moments happened in the kitchen, the ones I’m making now are happening around the pool or are set to music.  What do you think is the key to creating an environment that is good for all ages?  Are there any activities or games that you’ve found really successful for a wide age range of participants?

~Laura, Guest Blogger

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