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April 19, 2011

The Role of Grandparents in Nurturing Creativity

by aliciaarnold
A stereotypical caricature of a pirate.

Image via Wikipedia

Growing up, my grandparents lived with us. I spent most of my first 18 years under their tutelage. I still fondly remember my grandfather helping me learn math by cutting the bottom off a Twinkies box and writing down the multiplication table. I also remember my grandmother spending endless hours teaching me to sew, playing Othello, and showing me how to pick beans from the garden.

Fast-forward many years, and now I have children of my own. I always hoped my sons would have the same relationship with their grandparents as I did with mine. I am elated to share, they definitely do…and then some! My boys are fortunate to have grandparents who love spending time with them and who give the most precious gifts of time and patience. Papa, Nana, and Grandma nurture the boys in another way too. They inspire my boys to tap into their creativity and to use their imaginations!

In 2004, we went on a summer vacation with PapaNan (the short form when referring to Papa and Nana as a pair). My then, one year old toddled into PapaNan’s room to admire the sunrise. Soon, he settled in between PapaNan and the pair started telling fantastic stories of going on an adventure in a boat. They encountered crocodiles, found treasure, battled pirates and more. Over the years, the tales intertwined and story time became affectionately known as “Bed Boat.” For the next 5 years, Bed Boat became the most requested game my son played with his grandparents. As he grew older, and my younger son came along, my older son jumped into the role of adding to the story with his grandparents. Although my oldest son has outgrown BedBoat, he still regales in the magical stories PapaNan created. Sometimes my boys talk about BlackBeard, RedBeard and BlueBeard. When I ask what movie they saw the characters in (for such richly detailed characters could only come to life on screen) they laugh and say, “They’re from BedBoat!” Though BedBoat has given way to wiffle ball, water balloon fights, and trips to the bowling alley, the memories PapaNan created live on in my boys imaginations.

While my boys inherit their love of stories from PapaNan, they inherit their love for Legos and playing Frankenstein from my mom. When Grandma comes over, she moves in…literally for the weekend. While she’s here, Grandma spends endless hours playing Legos and Frankenstein. Playing with Legos was one of my favorite activities as a child. Grandma must have remembered this. For, she saved our childhood Legos and gave them to my kids.

Grandma has built many villages, islands, houses and structures with the boys. After building, they visit each others creations and extend the play. One of the funniest times was when my youngest son built “Potty Island.” Potty Island was an island of, you guessed it, toilets and urinals. His little mind thought, “with all the visiting, they’re going to have to go to the bathroom.”

If not for Grandma encouraging their minds to wander and explore, these wonderful creations would never see the light of day. And, when they’re through with Legos, Grandma leads them on a wild game of Frankenstein. Frankenstein is a combination of hide and seek with a twist. Once Frankenstein (Grandma) finds you, she chases you all around the house. You can tell which way the kids ran through the house by which way the pictures on the wall are tilting!

I am most grateful for the time Papa, Nana and Grandma spend with the boys. While many things in life are fleeting, these experiences and the memories they create will last a lifetime.


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