Grandchildren and Meaningful Play: Making Predictions
BY JANELL CLELAND AND ANN RIEBOCK
The first in a series of articles from two retired educators and involved grandparents who wondered how to translate their career experiences into practical activities with their grandchildren.
Thinking takes time! And in our fast-paced, media-driven society, we seem to have lost an appreciation for the value of thinking before speaking, for waiting before reacting. Although our own lives seem hectic and our calendars filled, are we missing the opportunity to be the ones in our grandchildren’s lives who can provide the time and the safe space to think?
“Sometimes our predictions make us laugh, and sometimes we have to search for answers when we return home, but always, we experience the joy of wondering, of thinking together.”
To this day, I feel the influence of my grandmother in the way I live my life. Seated by her on her front porch swing, she provided the time for me to explore my world. Through the years, we predicted the color of the next car to pass, wondered why girls are so mean, and strategized about how to tell my mom that I was changing my major.
Walking and talking have become my substitute front porch swing in my relationship with my granddaughter. It has become such a routine that my now 4-year-old will suggest “Let’s walk and talk!” Whether at her rural home or my city dwelling, we walk, stop, listen, and then talk about what we heard: birds, planes, cars, sirens, wind (last week she heard a cloud?). Our listening prompts predictions: Who’s in the plane? Why is the dog barking? What kind of bird? Sometimes our predictions make us laugh, and sometimes we have to search for answers when we return home, but always, we experience the joy of wondering, of thinking together.
“This tradition isn’t just about the fun we have together but the opportunity for me to encourage them to predict how this tradition might occur in the future.”
Following a sleepover, waffles must be prepared. It’s a practice dating back to my mother and one I continue with my grandchildren because it has meaning for me and helps my grandchildren make connections with family traditions. Waffles accompanied by bacon and sausage, fruit, whip cream and an occasional chocolate morsel comprise the menu and everyone participates. Our oldest granddaughter runs herd over the batter making, including beating the egg whites and the youngest serve as her assistant. The middle two prepare the sausage and bacon. Those in charge of the table setting choose the linens, the juice cups and the serving bowls.
This tradition isn’t just about the fun we have together but the opportunity for me to encourage them to predict how this tradition might occur in the future. Do you think we will still be making waffles together in five years? Do you think you will still be asking for sleepovers in five years? What might be different in our sleepovers in five years? “What if we get tired of waffles?”, one granddaughter asks. “ What will we make then?”
Sometimes we struggle to make the time for walk and talk or for our ritual breakfast. The challenge to be mindful in the opportunities we have is real. When we are conscious of how we want to spend time with our grandchildren, we realize small adjustments to how we approach our conversations and experiences enrich our time together and deepen our conversations.
Feature image: Janell Cleland and granddaughter
ABOUT THE AUTHORS – JANELL CLELAND AND ANN RIEBOCK
Janell and Ann are retired educators who spent their careers working in public school settings as teachers, administrators, mentors and consultants. In each of their roles as educators, they sought to help students think critically and creatively and to seek understanding of others’ perspectives. Their expertise in learning theory and reading development provided them with a foundation to experiment with ways to deepen their conversations with their grandchildren.