Fun with GRANDkids


by Eva Shaw, Ph.D.

Have the "there's nothing to do" doldrums ever invaded your family? I've known it to strike, without warning, on cloudy days, rainy days, holidays, and weekends.
What's a grandparent to do without sacrificing next week's grocery budget for a good time?
Here are some time-and-kid-tested fun and nearly free possibilities. Your only "rule" is that kids do the work and you participate, not as a grandparent, however, but as one of the kids. (Of course you'll need to keep a watchful eye on the little ones.) Not only will you be encouraging creativity, you'll be making memories.

  1. Go on a nature scavenger hunt (or nature sighting) in the backyard, the park or seashore. With list in hand (which you'll need to make challenging enough for each child), seek out animal paw prints in the dirt, a pine cone, a pink pebble, or an acorn.
  2. Take a walk in a new part of town. Stop in a park for lunch or a snack.
  3. Teach the kids a dance you did as a teenager. Disco? The twist? The hokey-pokey?
  4. Make mud pies and decorate them with expendable twigs, flowers and leaves.
  5. Plant a garden, even if you're using pots on the window sill.
  6. Clone each other. (You might want to call this "making paper angels.) Tape sheets of newspaper (or paper from a large art pad) and make the length of each child. Have each child lie down on the paper (the kitchen floor will work best) and using a washable marker, trace the child's outline. Cut out the "angel" and then using newsprint color and design faces, clothing and jewelry that is then taped to the angel. If you like, include those angel wings, too. Tape the finished art to the wall. Everyone will be amazed at their "real" size.
  7. Place kitchen chairs in a line and create a train. Go for a magical ride.
  8. Look over old photo albums and talk about when Nana, Pops, Mommy or Daddy were just married or the kids were babies. Share stories of "back then." Have the kids share their oldest memories.
  9. Collect all the "junk" jewelry you can find in your jewelry box or acquire more from garage sales (discarding those things with sharp edges, points or small parts). Put on the jewelry and tell magical tales of brave women and men, all with enchanted abilities, of course.
  10. Get out blankets and make a tent over kitchen chairs. Eat lunch or a snack inside. This is especially fun at night when you can turn off the lights and take flash lights inside.
  11. Cook or try an ethnic food. Talk about it's history and the culture from which it comes.
  12. Learn a bit of sign language and talk with your hands. Boys and girls love to know "secret" hand signals. Your library has books for adults and children on American Sign Language.
  13. Learn some foreign phrases.
  14. Get a simple book on astronomy and study the stars. The skies are alive with magic heros and mythical creatures.
  15. Re-tell a favorite book or story with a child as the main character.
  16. Ask about children/parent volunteer possibilities in your community. Participate in an activity that is age appropriate for your grandchild/children.
  17. Have a tea party. Make tiny sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly works, cucumber does too). Be sure to remove the crusts, get out the china and serve "tea" (juice, hot chocolate and hot apple cider are perfect substitutes). Make sure the table includes flowers and special napkins. When everything is ready, change into dress up clothes or tea party costumes; old hats with ribbons tied on the brim increase the fun. Pretend you're all at a fancy tea party.
  18. Pretend to be a tourist and visit the cultural or notable places in your town. Ask your librarian for a book on the area before hand so you and the grandkids can "study up."
  19. Lying on a blanket or the grass, look up at the clouds. Tell stories about the clouds.
  20. Take a long car ride with no expectations or particular destinations. Do it at sunrise, twilight or at night. Swap stories, jokes and secrets. Listen to music. Be together.
  21. Be sure to share with your grandkids the free-and-fun activities that your parents and grandparents shared with you.

Eva Shaw, Ph.D., is a mother, grandmother, educator and author of the acclaimed book, For the Love of Children. The book is a treasure trove of quotes, quips, and practical advice celebrating children and the people who love them. Shaw's book is easy to read, quotable, uplifting, and fun. $11.95. Copyright 1998 by Eva Shaw. Available in bookstores or order from the publisher Health Communications, Inc. by calling 800-441-5569, or click here.