I was near the end of my visit with my out-of-state son and daughter-in-law, when 16-month-old Zion ran to me with arms open wide. He’d finally transitioned from crying around his long-distance grandparent to recognizing and appreciating me. That’s a moment I won’t soon forget. It’s the joy of having a relationship with the next generation, of finding thing to do with grandkids that help you both experience a moment of connection.
I’ve learned that building memories with grandchildren doesn’t have to be dictated by proximity, whether we’re separated by hundreds of miles or are right around the corner. Here are some simple but creative ideas that I and some other amazing grandparents have done to better bond with our grandchildren:
At one time, our three grandchildren lived 10 hours away from us. When we were all together, my husband, Kevin, and I planned kid-friendly outings—such as the zoo, a children’s museum or the aquarium—but with a twist. We added our decades-old stuffed bear, Paddington, and told the kids that he enjoyed going on “mystery tours.”
Each time we visited, the kids would ask, “Where are you taking us this time?” I’d point to Paddington and say we were going on a mystery tour. That meant our destination would be a surprise.
Paddington sat next to me in the front seat or between the children in the back. Every few minutes I held him up to Kevin’s ear so the bear could give directions.
The kids loved it. They giggled from the back seat and said, “Grandpa knows where we’re going. Don’t you, Grandpa?”
With a serious tone, Kevin always answered, “We’ll just have to see what Paddington has up his sleeve this time.”
Whether we spent the day at a museum or simply visited the ice cream shop, having Paddington along always made our things to do with grandkids more fun.
We hosted a week-long French camp as an annual event for two of our home-schooled grandchildren who lived in another town. During their visit with us, we spent the mornings on French and the afternoons doing interesting activities in our area. Grandpa helped by making all the meals.
I set up a simple French language program to teach colors, numbers, shapes, greetings and feelings. Over time, I added topics such as foods, body parts, ailments, clothing and seasons.
Reviewing the basics was never boring, as I developed new game variations each year. One of the children’s favorite games was tossing beanbags at a compartmentalized box in answer to vocabulary questions. We sang along with simple video songs I had bookmarked on the internet. Also, we sang “Jesus Loves Me” in French, adding hand movements. We even planned a French-themed birthday party complete with crepes for Georges, a dog puppet we adopted as our mascot.
Not only did my grandchildren gain more confidence in French, they also formed a special bond with their out-of-town grandparents. I’m now planning French camp for our younger grandchildren, who will soon be mature enough to participate.
I make the things to do with my grandkids special by creating “An Adventure With Grammy.” I keep the child’s age and interests in mind as I talk to Mom and Dad and make plans. On the day of our adventure, I pick up the child, and we head to his or her favorite restaurant for breakfast. Once we’ve finished eating, we’re off. The possibilities are endless. Here are some of our adventures:
- Biking along a path at our local river (with a picnic lunch)
- Feeding the chickens at a friend’s house
- Looking for fun treasures at a thrift store
- Going to a sculpture garden to climb on the elephant sculpture
- Visiting my friend to play with her cats
- Perusing books at a bookstore or library
All our adventures give me great opportunities to connect with my grandchildren. We talk about all sorts of topics, from faith to what’s happening in their world. I learn more about them, even as they learn more about me.
—Jill M. Munoz
Grandma’s Book Club
As a former college English instructor and as an editor, I know how important books are to a child’s learning and development. So I’ve always wanted books to be special to my children and grandchildren. That’s why I created the Simple Literature Book Club.
Each month I send each grandchild a book. Once the grandchildren are 2, they receive books quarterly. At the age of 5, I send them a book flyer I’ve created. They can select the book through the flyer that they and I can read, either separately or together, and talk about, whether face-to-face or through FaceTime, Zoom or Skype, depending on the child.
If you’re looking to do this activity, you can use my flyer called the Simple Literature Book Club with your grandkids. It comes out weekly but the flyer alternates between picture books, middle grade books, activities, and books from Christian publishers. But if you want to locate books on your own, you can find excellent fiction published by Focus on the Family or use monthly kids magazines issues from Focus on the Family. If you’re wondering about the appropriateness of certain books, consider reading book reviews from a biblical worldview at PluggedIn.com/Books. Whichever way you go, remember that books will open the door to discussions with your grandkids that you might not have had without them. And that makes this things to do with your grandkids special.