A few things that help us when we visit:
We talk about why you are visiting. Before we go, we talk about why it is important to see Papa Fred.
We take a gift. We get to choose it and give it to Fred. Simple things such as fresh fruit, new magazines, large print books, chocolates, etc. are usually great items if Mom and Dad don't already have something in mind.
We talk about how to behave respectfully in a nursing home. Mom told us about the nursing home before you went the first time. It's a place where they keep their voices down, walk instead of run, look out for other people in the corridors, and understand that elderly people might not see them or notice them when they are walking around, so the we should be aware to get out of people's way first.
Reember that they are old and don't feel their best. Some residents are sort of cranky and don't like children. We try to think about what it might be like and to try to understand how hard it must be for them.
Take things to do. We like having something to do when it all gets "boring" – which, it will. We take items such as a book to read, a coloring-in book to color, magnetic boards, electronic games, writing book, etc. Anything that we can do quietly in a corner is ideal.
Keep the visits short. It is kinder and easier generally to make more short visits than to make occasional long ones. We don't stay long, but Fred enjoys it.
Let your kids interact the way that they feel is most appropriate. Once your kids have understood the meaning for the visit, and know and respect the ground rules applicable to the visit, give them a little free rein to adjust to the situation themselves and to approach the elderly resident in their own way. Kids have a different perspective on life that many of us lose sight of as middle-aged adults, pursued by our permanent rush. Let the very young and the very old communicate in their own very special way and just sit back and watch.