January 26, 2015


With Spring Break coming up soon, we thought it would be fun to  suggest some creative activities to do with your great/grandchildren. 

Most of these activities are for young readers, but some are for beginning or non-readers.  You’ll have to be the judge of what is appropriate for your family. These activities all involve using the newspaper (that out of date media source), magazines, online resources, throw-away ads, etc.

  • Ask the grandchild/ren to pick a destination outside of the United States that s/he would like to visit.  Using a map or a globe, find that place and also find where you live, so that can be the starting point.  Let the grandchild/ren become your travel agent. Ask her/him to use the internet or ads in the paper, to find the cheapest airfare from your home city to the desired vacation spot.  Have the grandchild/ren compare airlines and other means of travel, if appropriate.
  • Investigate what currency is used, if different from the U.S. dollar, and if age appropriate, figure out how much money a dollar is worth in that country.  The business section of the newspaper often has the current rates, or they can be found online.
  • Find out what local language is used. If you’re all very motivated, learn how to say “hello”, “goodbye”, “thank-you” and “where is the bathroom, please?”

  • Using in-store ads, mailed advertising pieces, the internet, etc., give your grandchild/ren a “budget” to go shopping.  Ask her/him to cut out both a picture and the price of the items s/he would like to purchase.  Paste them on a piece of paper, and ask him/her to add up the cost of those items, and if there is enough money in the budget to buy them.  If there is enough, how much will be left over? 
  • For younger children, ask him/her to find certain numerals that you and/or they choose (ex: 1, 4, 8, and 10). Have her/him find those numbers in magazines, newspapers, advertisements, etc.  If the grandchild/ren are reading, you can ask them to also find the written examples of those numbers.  It’s important to be “skill” appropriate.

·         Find a short article in the newspaper or a magazine, that is relevant to your grandchild/ren’s interest. (Ex. sports, review of a children’s movie, fashion, history, etc.).  Cut out the article, excluding the headline.  Read the article with the grandchild/ren, and then ask him/her to make up a relevant headline. It’s a great way for you to talk about why headlines are important tools and how they help the reader focus their interest.  If you want to continue the discussion, look at other magazines, online articles or the newspaper, and decide if the headline accurately represent the content or if it is misleading.
·         For younger children, go through magazines, newspapers, ads, and have the grandchild/ren cut out the letters of her/his name.  They can paste the letters on a sheet of paper.  You can also include the letters of your name, mom/dad’s name, etc.

There are hundreds of other ideas like this, but we thought these would be a fun way use items that are recyclable and already in your home to challenge and engage your great/grandchildren. 

January 14, 2015


This has been a very trying time, both in the US and abroad. Paris is aflame with anger and distress; New York is a boiling pot of resentment and rage; brutality on the screen and on television envelops us.   People are protesting in the streets and parents and grandparents are concerned about how all of this affects their families. Finding peaceful ways of settling differences is imperative to our survival.

We re-discovered a wonderful article, written by Barbara Oehlberg*, for the Ohio’s Peacemaking Education NetworkThe article is very relevant today.   We’re excerpting parts of that article to share with you. Although this was written for teachers, it is applicable to families. This is important stuff!  Please note, we've added some of our thoughts to the article, in regular type, while her text is in italics. 

“We talk about violence in the streets, abuse in the home, and injustices in the economy as an inevitable part of life.  We even talk about non-violence, which seems to accept violence as a ‘given’.

If violence is in fact increasing, how or why is this happening?  Who is inadvertently training children to become violent adults?  What sort of homes and schools are these children coming from?

According to Ashley Montagu, aggressiveness and violence stem from a perceived sense of powerlessness, not from feeling powerful and competent.  Children have to live in or experience peace and justice if they are to become champions of these virtues.

Our attitudes as teachers (parents-grandparents) toward bad tempers and aggressiveness could be a contributing factor to nurturing violence if it communicates ‘It’s only human nature and you can’t change human nature.’  The ‘boys will be boys’ attitude makes aggression a virtue of masculinity.

Emotions or feelings become the language by which we all share with others how we view the world.  In order to use emotions constructively we all need to understand and accept our own emotions, otherwise they dictate our lives and deny us the freedom to choose our responses to and interaction with others.

By fulfilling children’s emotional needs and teaching/modeling the acceptance of ALL feelings, we empower children to choose to be instruments of peace.  However, when adults insist a child say, ‘I’m sorry,’ I suspect it is more to fulfill a need of ours (perhaps for tranquility or order) than a carefully designed learning experience in justice for the child.

Saying ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t not absolve the pain of jealousy, frustration, anger or rejection within the child.  What the request does do is imply that the very real feelings the child is experiencing are not valid or acceptable.  The child has just internalized the profound learning experience that his/her feelings are not normal and certainly can’t be trusted.  Saying ‘I’m sorry’(in these circumstances) will neither resolve the conflict in a just way nor impart the skills for dealing constructively with it.

Acceptance and affirmation are the basis and the foundation, of conflict management for persons of all ages.  Accepting all of a child’s feelings (not necessarily the behavior) as normal, as ‘OK’ is the first step toward peacemaking.  As adults, this may be an uncomfortable and difficult task as we fear our acceptance may be misinterpreted as condonement…and so it is that children are often denied the energizing experience of being allowed to accept their own feelings and using that sense of trust as a motivation toward building responsible justice.”

Some of these ideas may not be a perfect fit for the circumstances.  For example, when a child does something hurtful to another child, perhaps you can step into the situation and take some part in resolving it before it escalates…”I’m not going to allow you to hurt Jacob.  Let’s talk about another way of being with Jacob and not hurting him…maybe figure out why you’re doing this.”  If Emily and Jason are going at it, after separating them, feelings can be discussed and validated, but also help start a discussion of other ways of resolving their issues, including apologizing if they have done something wrong. Sometimes it is better to wait until things calm down to have this discussion.  Often in the heat of an argument, rational thinking cannot be expected.

Being a child, a parent and/or a great-grandparent is not easy. In families, each person has his/her own personality and feelings. Often it is beyond stressful to be able to engage each one and react in an even handed and thoughtful way, especially under pressure and when there is more than one child involved. Taking an affirmative stand for a peaceful solution is a vital  tool for adults.  As hard as this may be, it is an important step in modeling peaceful and thoughtful responses.