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In Association with

Grandkid Time without Spending a Dime


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 without planning.
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 self-esteem.
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 to share.

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 events.
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 free.
• 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 area.
• 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 soap, too.

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 plants.

Kitchen Made
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 and creating.

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.

Book Worms:
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 and paints.
• 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 inexpensive.
• 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 or click here.

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