Playtime Promotes Inter-Generational Bonding

Affection between grandparents and their grandchildren is one thing. But it can be hard for grown grandchildren and their grandparents to relate to one another. We know how important familial bonds are for a person’s mental health and sense of social support. So how, family researchers wondered, do we find common ground across generations? In a recent study published in Family Relations and funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, authors looked at grandparent-grown grandchild relationships to find what, exactly, helps these two groups come together.

Their conclusion, put simply, is that generations bond by doing fun things together. The original article refers to this as “playtime,” and lists leisure activities including cooking, baking, gardening, and shopping, The grandchildren were ages 18-24, so these activities weren’t “play” in the childlike sense. But the freedom and spontaneity that comes with play, the element of doing things that are simply fun to do—and to do together—is what makes it so effective. “Finding common interests between generations can pose a challenge,” write the studies authors, since pastimes, interests, and cultural preferences aren’t likely to overlap. But by simply doing fun things together, adult grandchildren and their grandparents can both learn about the others’ personality, interests, and outlook while working together on shared ground.

What has this to do with psychotherapy? Strong relationships across generations of a family go a long way in securing a positive mental health baseline for those involved. Elderly people are prone to depression if they’re left alone and lack interaction with their loved ones. And young adults can learn much about empathy, wisdom, decision-making, and life lessons simply by listening to more seasoned relatives’ experiences. Just like people from different cultural or religious backgrounds, people from different age groups can learn and grow through one another. And when it’s done by growing closer to a close family member, it’s all the more valuable.

© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Dilbert


    February 17th, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    I love going cycling with my grandpa and he likes it because he likes being with young people full of energy.My friends adore him too.And it is a perfect weekend whenever we do our cycling trips :)

  • molly


    February 17th, 2011 at 7:21 PM

    grandparents are ever helpful in looking after kids while they are growing up and are very affectionate towards them.the kids like to be with them too.but the same cannot be said once the kid enters his or her teen years.grandparents suddenly become un-cool and someone they cannot relate to and have nothing in common with them.I feel your recommendations here are all good and would surely work in practice too.a lot of people are going to be benefitted by this kind of an article.a sincere thank you from my side.

  • Sally


    February 18th, 2011 at 5:43 AM

    My grandma and I used to be so close but now that I have gotten older, it would seem like we should have more in common that we did but it feels like we have less. We have nothing to talk about and she cannot go anywhere anymore due to not being able to get around on her own. Our relationship should have evolved and it has not grown with us as we have. That makes me very sad.

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Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on