If you have grandchildren, chances are you’ve already discovered the importance of time spent together. Naturally, you want to make the most of that precious family time. The best grandparenting activities flow from the interests of both the grandparents and the grandchildren. You can create a deep, loving relationship with your grandchildren by sharing the things you love with them, and by being available to hear about what excites them.
Learn how to strengthen the bonds with your grandchildren whether you’re a full-time grandparent, a step-grandparent, or a long distance grandparent living a thousand miles away. Becoming more attached happens when you show your grandchild special ways you care. All grandparents can learn new ways to strengthen family ties and give your grandchild great memories.
No matter the specific circumstances, when you are expressing love, showing concern for the child’s safety and wellbeing, being consistent in your behavior and paying attention to their needs and words, you are doing the best grandparenting possible.
The best grandparenting activities flow naturally from the interests of both the grandparents and the grandchildren. You can create a deep, loving relationship with your grandchildren by sharing the things you love with them, and by being available to hear about the ideas and activities that excite them. Some ideas for thinking about activities and ways to spend time with your grandchildren include:
Take it easy together
Make an effort to enjoy leisure time with your grandchildren. As a grandparent, you get to interact with your grandchildren without the same daily pressures of a parent—you don’t have to worry about driving carpool or juggle making dinner for the family with soccer practice and grocery shopping. Allow yourself slow down and to become really absorbed in an activity. Remove the normal boundaries of the day and spend time with your grandchildren without thinking about a schedule or what’s next on the list to be done. Moving at a slower pace than usual can give children a sense that time can be ‘stretched’—that you don’t need to hurry through activities. And, as with adults, it gives them the psychic space to feel, reflect and express without feeling rushed.
Children love the outdoors, and trips to the park or the beach can be a great jumping off point for some wonderful adventures and happy memories. Nature walks and day hikes can provide lots of interesting things to talk about, and water activities can be especially fun. Throwing stones into the water or watching the tide or the current play with the sticks are simple activities that can be fascinating to children. You can start these activities when kids are toddlers, and expand the games as they get older. Spending time in nature and near water also provides an opportunity to experience stillness.
Share your interests or your work
Engaging in hobbies and activities that you love or your grandchild loves can be a great way to spend time together and learn about each other. Sometimes, activities that you might not expect your grandchildren to be interested in, like knitting or gardening, might turn out to provide an important point of connection for you. Similarly, if you take an interest in something they are passionate about, like trading cards or the Harry Potter book series, they may open up in a new way because they get to share their special area of knowledge.
If you are still working, a visit to your place of work can add a dimension to your grandchild’s perception of you. If you are retired, pictures and stories about what your working days were like can do the same.
Making the most of your grandparenting time
Carve out one-on-one time. On occasion, spend time with individual grandchildren. It will give you an opportunity to bond, without competition, with that day’s companion grandchild.
See the sights. Concerts and plays, movies, science centers and museums, parks or walks in the neighborhood provide opportunities to be together and to exchange ideas and opinions.
Play games. Board and card games are a unique opportunity to watch kids in action and to see how they operate in the world. Games also allow you to help your grandchild learn to be a good sport and play fairly.
Communicate family history. Tell stories about games or trips you shared when the grandchild’s parents were young. This is a great way to weave a ‘tapestry’ of shared experiences for the whole family.
From the beginning, engage your children in the process. They can help you learn about the stages the baby/toddler/child is going through, what his or her interests are, and what the ‘rules of the house’ are in regard to appropriate reading/viewing materials. When the child is old enough to interact, whether on the phone, Internet, or through mail, start engaging the child directly. Special efforts to communicate specifically with your grandchild will establish the foundation for a strong long-term relationship.
For the computer-savvy, the Internet can add a whole new dimension to long-distance grandparenting. You’ll discover many sites you can share with your grandchildren. And you can visit some of these sites together. The list can grow as your grandchild’s interests change and as you discover more of the world—on and off the Internet—together. If your grandchild has his or her own email address, you can Instant Message with them or maybe even set up a ‘chat date.’
Other ways to stay connected
Of course there are many long distance grandparenting activities that have nothing to do with the Internet. There are inexpensive phone cards (even international ones) that make it possible to say in touch regardless of the distance. When you’re talking to your grandchildren, make notes about their interests, pets’ names, books they’ve been reading, doll’s name—anything you can repeat in the next conversation so they know you’ve been listening.
“Snail mail,” too, can make remote grandparenting feel less distant. Even before a child can read, he or she will be able to recognize their name on an envelope, and will love the feeling of importance implied by receiving mail or a special phone call. Check out bookstores, and books on tape or CD. Better yet, you can record yourself reading a few of your favorite children’s books and send the tape along with the books, or make a tape of songs you would sing if you were together.
When you share photographs, write stories about the people in the pictures, send music cassettes or CD’s with your comments on the music. All of these small things communicate your interest and love. Children will respond positively to the special attention and care, allowing you the chance to know them better when you do have the opportunity to be physically with them.