Ten Simple Activities to Get You and Your Grandchildren Talking this Summer (or your nieces and nephews or friends’ young children or…)!
Many grandparents travel during the summer to spend special time with grandchildren and young friends and relatives. Or those families with young children are travelling to visit you! It’s always good to have a few tricks up your sleeve to engage the kids!
My kids and I are lucky to have both sets of grandparents living within a few minutes of our home. But one set of grandparents travels a lot so there is often some “warming up” that has to happen to get the relationship back on track.
My kids, especially when they were younger, weren’t that great at sitting around having in depth conversations with my parents. So my Dad, who is a very creative guy, would figure out some kind of craft that they could do together and while they were busy with their project my kids would start chatting about all the little details of their lives!
Some ideas you could try with your grandchildren…
1. Huge paper posters – Buy a roll of white paper (the type they use in church basements to cover the rectangular tables!) - you can find these at party rental stores or craft stores. Bring scissors to cut large chunks off the roll and some masking tape to tape the corners to the floor. Bring washable markers in bright colors and then get down on your hands and knees with the little ones and create! One idea would be to have them lie down on the paper so you can trace their bodies and then “dress” them up with the markers. Take it a step further and head outside to collect rocks to glue on as a necklace or “diamond ring” or twigs to glue on as hair.
2. Puzzles – I love puzzles and I love doing puzzles together as a family. My kids love puzzles to a point – so I have to be careful to not buy puzzles that are too big for the kids’ attention spans! Small puzzles for small kids are great – they can be done over and over again. And some puzzles have lots of conversation points – small details to explore within the large picture, ideas and images that you can use as segues to share about your own past experiences. We have four puzzles in our shop – 2 smaller puzzles with 48 pieces with wonderful scenes to build and 2 – 96 piece puzzles with pictures of castles and knights and princesses. The scenes are illustrated in that uniquely European manner that, as one of our customers put it the other day – has “heart”!
3. Rock Art – Throw a glue gun into your suitcase and your grandchildren will think Mark Poppins came to visit! With really young children you’ll be the one wielding the gun but you’ll be creating together! Take a walk along the beach and collect a bunch of rocks of all shapes and sizes – bring a small bucket to carry your treasures! Then bring them back to the campsite or cottage (or house or apartment!!) and glue them together to make stone people or inukshuks (Inuit structures) or monsters or whatever little imaginations dream up! Don’t forget a handful of extra glue sticks so the fun doesn’t have to stop! (My daughter’s friend just read this and said “You can make Olaf!” Your grandkids would be impressed if you knew this little snowman from the movie Frozen!)
4. Read a book – snuggling up on a deck chair or couch with your little person is one of the best things in the world! A silly Doctor Seuss for very young children is always a hit – although after being asked to read it for the 100th time you might get a bit sick of it! If your heritage includes another language – like German or French – and your grandchildren don’t speak it you might like to read them one of their favorite books in your own language and share with them stories of when you were growing up. For older kids and for longer visits reading aloud a book like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe would be an option. My Mom read my sister and I this series more than once on trips to the lake – we loved it! (Other family favorites – from my daughters - A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engel, The Mysterious Benedict Society series and The Little House on the Prairie series; from my son - Gary Paulsen’s Masters of Disaster, the Hatchet series, Woods Runner and How Angel Pederson Got His Name; and my husband's suggestion (he's been reading this with our ten year old son) - The Old Man and the Boy by Robert Ruark.
5. Write a book – We had a very inventive baby sitter one summer who made books with our kids. They would talk together about the plot and the characters and then she would write out the story and the kids would illustrate it. They came up with some wonderful and crazy stories – most of them had one or all of the kids as characters in them! They had a great time working on the book and then totally delighted in sharing it with my husband and I!
6. Make a Nature Mobile – using that glue gun again plus some string or fishing line and an old hanger, suspend the treasures you collected on walks together in the forest or beach or park (or for that matter along the city streets!). Pieces of driftwood tied at different heights from the bottom of the hanger could be complimented with some special stones glued to the string and hung amidst the wood.
7. Card and Board Games – I loved spending time as a child with a special Aunt – she knew a lot of card games and had the patience of a saint to teach them to us and then play over and over again as we figured out the rules! Simple games like Go Fish or Crazy 8’s and even Rummey (check out this website for rules). And for much younger children regular playing cards can be used to play Memory – randomly place the cards face down in a grid pattern then take turns turning over one card and then trying to remember where its match is.
8. Cooking and Baking Together – So this is an area that I am not good at – cooking and baking!! As kids, when people asked if our Mom was a good cook, we would respond that she could make an “excellent reservation” (at a restaurant)!!!! I’m much the same! But many of you are excellent cooks and bakers and this is a very special activity to share with kids (especially if their parents don't cook or bake!!). Engage them in chopping vegies or measuring out ingredients for chocolate chip cookies. You get to create the treats together and then you get to eat them together!
9. Bring your slides or old 16 mm movies – To this day we love getting together to watch old movies that my Dad made of us when we were kids. He still has the 16 mm projector and we can watch short clips forward and backward – jumping into the lake and then miraculously jumping back out!! And my Mom is the keeper of the slides and pulls out a few batches from time to time. My kids get a kick out of watching their mom and their Aunt as little girls! Old movies, slides, videos and photo albums are a great way to tell the youngsters of your past and give them a sneak peek into other parts of your life.
10. Star Gaze – Stay up late and sneak out of the house! Slap on some bug spray if necessary! My Dad claimed there were such things as “Shooting Star Weekends” in the summers of my childhood! Perhaps there were/are or perhaps it was just an excuse to get us outside and bonding! Either way – these are good memories and we did indeed see some spectacular light shows. Meteor showers are scheduled for late July/early August – check out this article at EarthSky.org.
Simple, low key activities can lead to lifelong memories for you and for the young people in your life. Slow up and get down to their level – they’ll open up to conversation and appreciate your investing some time into them creating a special bond.
Thanks for visiting us at Gingerbread World! Use the Respond option below and share your good ideas for spending time with your grandchildren. I am especially interested in hearing about how you pass along your heritage to the next generations.
Enjoy your summer and the young people in your lives!