The psychological perks of babysitting: Get brownie points and a brain boost

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You’ve probably experienced it first-hand – spending time with your grandchildren can feel exhausting, but somehow it still puts a spring in your step. According to science, while they’re keeping you on your toes your grandkids are also helping you prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

That’s because the energy, curiosity and challenge that come with small people can increase your brain function and memory – which helps keep dementia at bay and reduces the symptoms of depression.

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How babysitting all day keeps Alzheimer’s away

Now we’re in Alert Level 1, if you live near your grandkids you can expect to be a regular babysitter. According to the latest research, doing your children a favour could be even more beneficial for you.

The study, published by the North American Menopause Society, involved 186 post-menopausal women, 120 of them grandmothers who took on babysitting duties once a week. Results showed that grandmothers who helped with childcare at least one day a week scored higher on cognitive tests than their non-babysitting counterparts. As a result, researchers suggest that babysitting grandchildren could potentially lower the risk of developing dementia.

Swap depression for nappies

Furthermore, a separate study from the Institute on Aging at Boston College found that building strong relationships with grandchildren can help lower the risk of depression. That goes for you and your grandchildren. The researchers think that as relationships flourish and mature, they help grandparents combat the social isolation that can come with ageing. For a little one, spending time with you helps establish a richer sense of self, a link to family heritage and important relationship models – all of which contribute to better mental wellbeing now and in the future.

“The greater emotional support grandparents and adult grandchildren received from one another, the better their psychological health,” says lead researcher Sara Moorman.

What to do with the grandchildren

If all that sounds wonderful, but the prospect of entertaining a bunch of rowdy children feels a bit much, the first step is to have a plan. Instead of having the kids show up and hoping for the best, take a few minutes to plan some age-appropriate activities to make things go more smoothly.

We’ve compiled a list of ideas on what to do with your grandchildren here.