Supporting grandparents

MARQUETTE – With the help of a Great Parents/Great Start grant Marquette Alger Regional Educational Service Agency is offering monthly events geared toward grandparents.

“The grandparents group was started in September in order to support grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren. However, it is open to all grandparents.” MARESA supporter Marissa Palomaki said. “It provides an opportunity for grandparents to interact as well as play with their grandchildren.”

The group meets at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. every third Thursday of the month at the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum, Marquette. April’s Grandparents event was a Grandparents Teach Too class. Grandparents Teach Too is an organization looking to help stressed out grandparents who are taking care of their grandchildren.

“What we are trying to do is to reach the 34 to 37 percent of grandparents who are taking care of their grandchildren two or more times a week,” Grandparents Teach Too founder Iris Katers said. “We know from talking to them that they are under stress and families today are under stress.”

The two biggest things the program teaches are to read to children twice a day and to promote social and emotional growth. Children who are read to twice a day have 3,000 words in their vocabulary, which means when they enter kindergarten they are prepared to start reading by themselves.

“To get the social growth you can’t plunk the kids down in front of a DVD or in front of a computer, humans don’t work that way,” Katers said. “There is a lot of research that has shown that children need to hear three million words before kindergarten.”

So to foster conversation and learning between grandparents and their grandchildren, the workshop presents 10 different activities that are simple, inexpensive and fun for kids of all ages.

“You don’t have go out and buy hundreds of dollars worth of toys, it’s you the child needs,” Katers said. “Just use stuff from around the house, like you can make a ramp with some old lumber or you can make bubbles on the table with just some water and a couple drops of Dawn (brand) detergent.”

Anything around the house can be used as a teaching tool for children. A simple rug and some masking tape can be turned into a rudimentary road map where children pretend they are driving through small towns and seeing the site. molding clay can be used to teach children shapes and textures, and sand and dirt can be used to teach kids about archeology.

“Baby boomers don’t have to be teachers, all they have to do is say I want to spend time with my child and I want to make a difference,” Katers said. “This time in their life makes a difference for the rest of their life. That is the key time, this window of learning happens now and really doesn’t really happen again until middle school.”

In July, the GrandParents Support Group will meet in Marquette’s Lower Harbor Park at 10 a.m. and in August will meet at Harlow Park in Marquette. All events will have fun activities and free snacks. For more information about Grand Parents Teach Too, visit www.grandparentsteachtoo.org/. For more information on the Grandparents Support Group, call 906-226-5100.

Sylvia Stevens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 240.