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It is time to engage your grandparents. Here’s how

It is time to engage your grandparents. Here’s how.

Sarah and her grandma

Living with my grandma all my life has many advantages.

I get delicious homecooked food everyday.

I picked up the Hokkien dialect from a young age and listen to stories about olden Singapore.

But, with assignments piling up, I find myself interacting with her less than I wish to.

I often see her channel surfing on the television or nodding off on the sofa.

While television and cooking may be a good way for her to pass time, engaging with her through conversation and games make a great bonding activity and it also gets her moving and thinking.

You can do many things to engage your grandparents from telling them about your day or bringing them out for their favourite food.

If you want to kick things up a notch, you can consider trying out the Play Huahee card games.

Christel Goh, Co-Founder, Play Huahee created a localised game for seniors in Singapore when she noticed certain changes in her grandma.

Christel was struggling to find relevant activities to engage her grandma.

This led to the birth of Play Huahee which aims to create localised games and activities as tools to encourage interaction between caregivers and seniors.

It is fun for all ages.

If you already have the Play Huahee card games, here are some other ways to inject fun and variation into game play.

Introducing elements such as smell, taste, movement and multimedia involves different sets of cognitive usage, and makes the game interesting and more enjoyable!

Here are three alternative ways to use Play Huahee Matchoonary.

1. Blind Tasting

We all love food and getting tasty treats for our grandparents will surely be a great way to engage them!

Not only will it tantalise their taste buds, but also challenge them to connect the taste to the corresponding card, triggering memory.

You can easily get most of the food featured in the games from any hawker centre in Singapore.

How it works:

  1. Assign a game leader and they will prepare the food beforehand.
  2. Cut into bite sized pieces so that it will be easier for players to taste them.
  3. Blind fold all players.
  4. Place the pineapple tart, ang ku kueh, kueh tutu and kueh lapis in front of them.
  5. Let them taste the first food item. Remember to guide your grandparents by holding their hands!
  6.  After tasting, they can remove the blind fold and you can get them to guess the food they just ate from a range of Play Huahee cards.
A photo of elderly having fun with our memory matching game at Monfort Care Goodlife 16th anniversary event. It was held at Blk 15A Marine Terrace.

2. 3, 2, 1, Action!

Imagine a group of seniors pretending to flip satay sticks while screaming, “Satay! Satay!” Makes me want to join them in the game!

Incorporating hand actions and sounds into the game play adds some form of exercising and makes it entertaining.

Physical and cognitive training work hand-in-hand to ward off and slow down the decline of physical and mental function.

In a study conducted by Tan Tock Seng Hospital (2016), combining physical and cognitive training improved both mental performance and gait speed in early dementia.

Hence, dual task exercises are important for seniors to keep their bodies and mind healthy and engaged.

Keeping this in mind, we suggest incorporating some actions into the card game while saying some form of sound or word related to the card.

This game works even if you are with a big group of 20-30 seniors, or one to one with your grandparent.

How it works:

Pick out the clogs, kettle, straw fan and satay, and explain the actions and corresponding sound.

  1. Clogs: walk around and say, “clog clog!”
  2. Kettle: as if holding a kettle and cup, arms follow the Teh Tarik action and say, “whoosh whoosh”
  3. Straw fan: as if holding a straw fan, fan oneself and say, “zua ah!” which means “hot ah!” in Hokkieen
  4. Satay: flip hands, like flipping satay, and say, “satay satay!”

Have a game master to flash the cards one at a time, saying “3, 2, 1” before changing the cards.

This is a great ice breaker game when trying to engage a large group, and it also works on reaction time, monitoring how fast seniors can change actions according to the cards flashed at them.

Play classic memory matching, charades and storytelling games with a local twist. 26 beautifully sketched local designs such as the Kueh Tutu, Clogs and Tingkat in four different game plays.
Play classic memory matching, charades and storytelling games with a local twist. 26 beautifully sketched local designs such as the Kueh Tutu, Clogs and Tingkat in four different game plays.

For an easier option, you can ask the seniors to say the name of the item in the language that is most common to them instead.

For example, if “clogs” is difficult to pronounce in English, then you can also say “ka soot” which is shoes in Malay.

3. Picture Memory & Drawing

If you often volunteer with seniors, this game may help you entertain bigger groups of seniors.

This game combines light aerobic exercise through walking and encourages memory retention.

Furthermore, drawing as a form of art therapy, is a great way to practice hand-eye coordination and creativity. It is also another way of expressing themselves without using words.

How it works:

  1. Place the chosen card at one end of the room and the seniors at the other with a pen and paper.
  2. Ensure that there is sufficient space clear of obstructions for your seniors to walk.
  3. Split into teams of two to five. One player from each team walks to the card at the other end of the room and memorises it for 30 seconds or more. He or she then walks back to their team members.
  4. The player will draw out the item on the card for two minutes or more without talking.
  5. The team will have to guess what they are drawing.

This list is obviously not exhaustive, and you can use other methods to use the cards.

Our seniors have many stories to tell that we can learn from.

 Through these simple games, we get to interact and know them better while allowing them to be engaged at home.

Let us know which ones you and your grandparents enjoy, or if you have other ways of engaging your grandparents!


Sarah Rachel Teo is currently studying sociology and religious studies at the National University of Singapore, and her love language is food.

She loves people who give her food and loves giving food to people.

Sarah enjoys deep conversations with people and kneading bread by hand to work out those nonexistent arm muscles.

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