10 Activities That Can Help Children Understand Dementia

Today’s post comes from Marilyn Boyd – a Community Activity Organiser in Glasgow for Alzheimer Scotland. The views expressed are those of the author. Find out more about Marilyn in the footer of this post.

Dementia is not something you hear children talking about very often, however this is not to say they don’t know about it or aren’t experiencing living with it.

I work as Community Activity Organiser in Glasgow for Alzheimer Scotland. It is my job to make sure there are plenty of socially inclusive activities/groups as well as ensuring we have provision of activities that are specifically for those living with dementia to take part in which involve direct support and opportunities to socialise with peers that may be experiencing similar things to them.

The link here to children is simply activity! It’s a proven fact that participating in regular activity has many benefits to physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Reflect on a personal activity you may participate in e.g. swimming, dancing or anything you enjoy and I am sure you will recall the uplifting feeling you experience during and after the activity. Why? – you have not only participated in something you enjoy, but it’s also something you have chosen to do and it’s something that probably makes you feel a part of something.

It’s important for people with dementia to have a choice to participate in things they enjoy and to continue to feel a part of something and be part of their community. More and more places are working towards becoming dementia friendly and communities are therefore more accessible for people living with dementia. It’s important that children are also included in this, after all the majority of children will be touched by dementia at some point in their lives whether it be through a family member, friend or neighbour having a diagnosis. It’s just as important to make sure they also have some kind of understanding of dementia as well as knowledge in communicating and interacting with someone with dementia. What better way to do this than through something fun and that everyone can join in with – as opposed to a formal lesson.

There are so many things out there that both kids and people with dementia can get involved in together, whether it be with a grandparent or a family friend. By doing this you will find that through the child simply spending time with someone with dementia they themselves will start to develop and understand possibly only requiring small prompts or explanations from an adult. It is also a good idea to have a short but age appropriate discussion to explain some of the facts to kids beforehand. This will afford them a basic level of understanding and a starting point and then will support them to build this knowledge and understanding themselves through activity and spending time with someone living with dementia. There are lots of different leaflets & books that may assist you with this, the one we use /recommend is called ‘The Milks in the Oven’ by the Metal Health Foundation and it’s a great booklet about dementia for children and young people.

Below I have outlined ten activities that I’m sure will prove popular for all ages to have a great time together!

1. Colouring in / Gardening together (therapeutic activities / hobbies)
2. Watching a short movie (one with lots of music are particularly good)
3. Taking a grandparent / relative / friend along to a kids school show
4. Going for lunch / shopping together
5. Watching something (interest specific) together such as a football game / a concert etc.
6. Arts & Crafts (painting / sewing / knitting / seasonal specific i.e. making Christmas baubles)
7. Reminiscing (looking at photos / old family heirlooms / make a life story scrapbook together)
8. Go for walks / walk a pet / take a photography trip to a woodland area / somewhere scenic
9. Play a game together – kids are very into iPads / Playstations etc. Is there an app that on old game can be downloaded on? And then they could support each other on how to play the game and how to use the device / console
10. Baking / cooking – nothing better than baking cakes and sitting down to enjoy them with a cup of tea or a glass of milk

The list is endless and really it’s just about making everyday things inclusive!

Remember also when kids ask questions that we sometimes can be a little embarrassed by (I have found myself in many of these situations with my children). They are simply curious and this should be seen as a positive thing – they are giving you the opportunity to teach them about something and it’s important that we brush off the embarrassed feeling and instead seize the opportunity give them some knowledge and understanding in a child friendly way!

You can find out more about my work and the work of Alzheimer Scotland on our website or you can get us on Facebook & Twitter – you find out more about me and connect in my bio below.

Thanks for reading!

Marilyn Boyd
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Marilyn Boyd

Marilyn Boyd age 26 – Wife and Mum of 2 (son age 8 and daughter age 3) Community Activity Organiser in Glasgow for Alzheimer Scotland.
Marilyn Boyd
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