Grandkid Time without Spending
by Sam Goller
Do you feel as though you spend enough time having fun with your
grandchildren? Are you often torn between work, household duties
and family time? A recent poll commissioned by the Center for
the New American Dream showed that 60% of the children surveyed
said they'd rather spend time having fun with their parents than
shopping at the mall. A majority of the grandkids surveyed wanted
to change their parents' jobs so Mom and Dad could spend more
time doing fun family activities.
Some of the best time you can spend with your grandkids happens
You're sitting at the kitchen table reviewing a document for work.
Your grandchild comes in and just starts talking to you.
Is this an interruption or a golden opportunity to share a special
moment? How you react will help define your relationship with
your grandchild and the values you want to instill. Why not make
this a special moment? Take time out from your work. Get down
at your grandchild's level so you're looking eye-to-eye. Use a
soft voice to discuss and admire what he or she has to share.
After a while, you both go back to what you were doing.
Without spending a penny, you've just created an experience that
will go a long way to raising a happy child filled with love and
No matter how much time you spend with your grandkids, any amount
of quality "family time" is priceless in their eyes.
To help you spend a lot of time without spending a lot of money,
we've gathered some other wonderful ideas for you and your grandchildren
Finding Home Town Fun
Be a tourist in your own town. Once you start looking for inexpensive,
fascinating experiences, you will find an abundance of ideas and
Here are some easy ways to get started:
• Look in your local paper for free events.
• Check with local museums and attractions about events
that might be of special interest. Also find out which days are
• Contact your local library for a schedule of events.
• Keep an eye open for bookstore offerings and author events.
• Watch for family activities sponsored by local community
centers, hospitals and community colleges.
• Talk with the parents of your kid's friends and see what
types of activities they enjoy doing together.
• Look for musical, artistic or spiritual events hosted
by religious groups.
• Get a schedule from your parks and recreation department.
• Surf the Internet for fun or unusual things to do in your
• Contact your Chamber of Commerce or Convention and Visitors
Bureau and ask for local tour and visitor's information.
The Grand Outdoors
You don't need to have anything planned to enjoy being outdoors
with your grandchildren and art together invites your grandchildren
to widen their interests and expand their creativity.. You can
just go outside, either into your yard, on a walk or to a nearby
park and see what unfolds. Part of the fun is giving your grandkids
unstructured play time (and giving yourself some as well).
Here are some ideas for those times when you need something new:
Clue In: Go on a "detective walk."
Look for objects on the ground that might serve as clues. You
can look for either natural things, such as interesting rocks
or twigs, or "found" objects, such as scraps of paper
with handwriting on them, ribbons or abandoned toys. Pick up these
clues as you walk and weave together an entertaining story. You
may want to wear gloves or take along waterless anti-bacterial
Go to the Dogs: Many local parks have areas
where dogs can run free. Take your grandchildren and your dog,
if you have one, and mingle with the other dogs and owners. It's
a treat to see all kinds of interesting dogs and meet their owners.
If you don't have your own dog, you can still go watch the dogs
play. Or, go with a friend who has a dog.
Digging the Time Together: Gardening is a great
family activity. You get the fun of playing in dirt with the reward
of growing something beautiful or edible. Here are some ways to
have fun gardening together:
• Have your child pick a package of seeds. Find a special
place and help your child sprout them.
• Ask your grandchildren to come with you to help an elderly
neighbor in his or her garden.
• Get a plot in a community garden - as a family, plant
a flower or vegetable garden.
• Volunteer to help beautify a local park, by either weeding,
planting or picking up trash. Gardening also provides an excellent
educational opportunity to talk to your grandkids about how plants
grow, as well as learning to fulfill a commitment to care for
The kitchen is a great place to connect with your grandkids and
teach them a valuable life skill. One mom had every Friday night
as someone else cook dinner night. One of her children would choose
the menu and prepare the dinner, with assistance as needed. This
kitchen time was so popular that her son later became a chef.
When you plan activities in the kitchen, choose times when you
are relaxed and not in a rush. If you want to teach your grandchildren
about cooking, pick recipes they will enjoy preparing and eating.
Try to eliminate distractions and make this a time for talking
This is a great way to help your grandkids feel comfortable in
the kitchen. The kitchen experience includes cooking survival
skills, the culinary arts, parent-child bonding and fun. In addition,
you often turn out something delicious to eat.
A Recipe for Delicious Fun: Choose some dishes
your grandchildren love eating. Then invite your grandkids to
help you with what you need to cook. According to their ages and
abilities, have them chop and stir with you. Ask them to mix and
knead. Throw in a little instruction and direction. Then relax
and let the conversation flow while the meal cooks. Enjoy the
process, as well as the product.
The Icing's On: For extra fun, invite your grandchildren to help
you decorate cakes, cupcakes or cookies. Encourage them to be
creative. Provide different colors of frosting and different toppings,
such as candy-coated chocolates, sprinkles or crumbled cookies.
This is a fun way to spend an afternoon. Some grandchildren may
even enjoy the idea of baking their own birthday cake.
Carry Out: Bake a dessert for a neighbor, friend
or for a good cause. This is a chance to combine culinary creativity
with good deeds. Plus, if you're giving your dessert away, it's
fewer calories for all of you.
Creative Explorations - Books, Arts, Culture and More
The arts are a wonderful part of life. Exploring words, music
and art together invites your grandchildren to widen their interests
and expand their creativity.
Go for the Culture: Join a zoo, museum or similar
group. For a small initial payment, you gain access and reduced
price or free entry. It encourages you to make use of these wonderful
cultural resources. Ask about reciprocal agreements with other
museums. Some science museum memberships are good for museums
throughout the country.
Read out loud. Grandkids love to have stories read to
them. In the summertime, go outside. Some families have an ongoing
story they read every night, or one night a week. Some families
read a short prayer or inspirational story before meals. Choose
a variety of books, including the classic books that grandkids
like and understand but might not read on their own. Or read books
that excite historical interest, such as the Little House
on the Prairie series.
Reading to your grandchildren can help you relax. The experience
also gives you a common story to refer to and talk about.
Craft and Arts: Get a book that lists crafts
you can make and let the grandkids select a craft project you
can do together. Or, go to a craft store and let your grandkids
pick out a kit, then work on the project together.
Creative Pleasures: Here are more ideas of fun
things to do with your grandkids:
• Sit on the floor and create posters with markers, crayons
• Dance to music. Take turns being DJ.
• Play cards.
• Make greeting cards.
• Create a game.
• Get chalk and create sidewalk or driveway art.
• Gather old magazines and create collages.
Good Old-Fashioned Fun
Here are a few more ideas that are relatively inexpensive and
provide everyone some fun.
• Take your family bowling at a time when the prices are
• Go to the batting cages. Everyone can take a turn.
• Visit the discounted movie theaters. Save money by bringing
your own snacks (provided the theater will let you).
• Walk or ride bikes to the ice cream shop and share an
ice cream treat.
Taking time to do some of these activities will deepen your relationship
with your grandchildren and will also make your life more fun.
Excerpted from Yes, You Can... Afford to Raise a Family
by Sam Goller. Copyright © 2004 by Stowers Innovations, Inc.
Excerpted by arrangement with Stowers Innovations, Inc. All rights
reserved. $19.95. Available in local bookstores or call 800.234.3445