“What? Who would send you guys a letter?” asked my son-in-law who enjoys teasing his boys. “Grandma would! She always sends us stuff!” the youngest responded. It is true that I often mail letters, stickers, or pictures to my grandchildren who look forward to receiving these items addressed specifically to them.
During these crazy days it has been frustrating for me to hear about my children’s struggles with balancing homeschooling, working from home, and keeping their children occupied. Even more frustrating is the knowledge that I cannot be there to help them in person.
Putting on my strategic grandparent thinking cap, I came up with a game to help the children pass some of their time in a positive way. My aim was twofold: to get them moving physically to use up some of their boundless energy and to encourage them to think of others rather than being focused only on themselves. Additionally, the game I created needed to be made of paper and able to be enclosed in an envelope.
I came up with the idea of modifying a game from my childhood – the “cootie catcher” – a children’s form of origami (paper folding) which contains eight hidden messages written on the inside flaps of the “catcher.” The messages are revealed based on numbers or colors selected by the child. Each grandchild received his or her own letter with a “cootie catcher” enclosed. I replaced the eight messages with eight tasks for the child to complete. There were two of each type of activity: exercise, serving others, encouraging others, and physical affection. I gave them tasks such as “run around the backyard ten times”, “do one of your sibling’s chores”, “help Mom prepare dinner”, “give everyone in your house a hug”, “say something nice to your sibling”, and “ask Dad how you can help him.”
The report from my daughter was very positive! She shared how the game engaged the whole family in fun. The boys were excited to have Mom and Dad demonstrate the game and were eager to complete each task once it was revealed. During these times, I can’t be with my family as much as I would like. However, I can support my children and show my grandchildren the joy of serving and encouraging others, of healthy exercising, and of showering those we love with affection – all through a simple game!
Rene Shireman is the grandmother of four and lives in Lansing, Michigan.
Copyright © 2021 Grandly: The Strategic Grandparents Club.