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Nurturing the “Grand” in Grandchildren Over the Holidays

With the holidays fast approaching, it is important to remember that a grandparent's love and support have positive impact on children, particularly in the early years of a child's life. According to the Foundation for Grandparenting, when kids develop a strong bond with their grandparents, they feel more stable and even do better in school. This is especially important for African American children because they are more likely than any other ethnic group to live with grandparents. Researchers have also found that these relationships between older and younger generations have long-term benefits for grandparents and grandchildren. There are at least 56 million grandparents in the country, with the U.S. Census Bureau reporting that more than 4.5 million children live with their grandparents. The report also indicates that African American grandparents are more likely to be their grandchildren's primary caregivers compared to other ethnic groups.

First 5 California recognizes the important role African American grandparents play in the lives of young children. Below are helpful tips on how grandparents can support their grandchildren in their early years.

Read to your Grandchildren

November is Child Literacy Month and a perfect time for grandparents to make reading a priority when spending time with their grandchildren. First 5 California encourages grandparents to take their grandchildren to the public library, participate in storytelling activities and take books home to read together. Take advantage of the holiday season and read your grandchildren some holiday classics like "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Keep in mind the following tips to make reading a daily part of your grandchild's life year-round.


Reading aloud provides special bonding time for grandparents and infants. Babies enjoy hearing the sound of a familiar voice while the words, pictures and stories stimulate their brain.


Reading improves a toddler's listening and speaking skills, and helps him or her begin to understand words and phrases. Toddlers enjoy hearing the same story repeated many times as this helps them make connections between words and pictures.


As children prepare to enter school for the first time, regular reading habits can give them an extra boost. That's because reading builds confidence as well as vocabulary skills, which are both important for school success. Make visits to the library a regular part of your activities with your grandchildren, and let them choose several books on their favorite topics.

Pass on Traditions

The African American culture is steeped in wonderful traditions especially over the holidays, and sharing stories helps develop a child's mental, verbal and communication skills.

Share holiday family stories with your grandchildren. Remember, children love to hear what their parents and grandparents were like as kids!

Provide kids with wisdom and guidance - grandma and grandpa can be great role models.

Describe the "good old days" in ways that help kids understand their own life and the world around them.

Good Nutrition and Exercise

The holiday season is often a busy time of year with parties and family gatherings - and that means lots of food. African American holiday meals are deeply rooted in tradition, but many of the dishes are high in fat, salt and sugar. When cooking, try to limit these ingredients or substitute them for healthier alternatives.

As a grandparent, encourage your grandchildren to eat well-balanced, nutritious meals and get regular exercise to ensure they remain healthy throughout the holidays. This is important because African American children statistically suffer more from childhood obesity than non-African American children. Obesity not only affects a child's well-being, but it also contributes to future health problems such as asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. 

First 5 California encourages all grandparents and other caregivers to learn about local resources that can help young children. For more information, call 1-800-KIDS-025 or visit www.first5california.com/parents.

First 5 California, also known as the California Children and Families Commission, was established after voters passed Proposition 10 in November 1998, adding a 50 cents-per-pack tax on cigarettes to fund education, health, child care and other programs for expectant parents and children up to age 5. For more information, please visit www.first5california.com.

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