Kids might constantly be on cell phones and playing video games, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get their attention to do something non-tech oriented. What kids often love more than anything is learning something new that was “cool” a long time ago, and finding out about their family’s history. And you're the perfect person to do these activities with them.
Read on for seven grandparent- and kid-approved activities that are guaranteed to be fun and promote that special bond between grandparents and grandchildren.
All kids love a good treasure hunt, and scavenger hunts turn ordinary walks into adventures. Make a list for your grandchild—a red leaf, a Y-shaped twig, a feather—and start walking and collecting. If kids are older and you have time, you can make rhyming clues that they need to figure out. Or take a camera with you and have kids take a photo of something that begins with each letter of the alphabet. “A scavenger hunt not only teaches kids observational skills, “says Gina Kaurich, RN, a professional care manager for FirstLight HomeCare in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a grandmother of seven, “but also a sense of accomplishment with you as their team mate.”
Grab the baby books—not your grandchild’s, but their parents. There is nothing children like better than seeing their parent as peer (rather than the person who tells them to clean up their room and it’s time for bed). Talk about their mom or dad’s first step, first word, anything he or she did that was naughty or funny. “My 16-year-old granddaughter still loves hearing about her mom,” says Elaine Hayutin, a grandmother of four in Denver, Colorado. “We always end up comparing her development to her mother’s. It’s amazing how similar they are."
Whether it’s bridge, gin rummy or mah jongg, playing games you love with your grandkids opens them up to new experiences and shows them a piece of you and what hobbies you enjoy. What child doesn’t love competing against Grandma, or seeing Grandpa make mistakes? “Sometimes, I purposely goof up,” says Kaurich, “because my grandkids love it when they catch me."
Okay, the yum factor makes this an obvious winner, but the hidden benefits are important, too. Kids like to be included in grown-up activities, and cooking or baking is just that. But it is also about family traditions and history. So while your grandchild is measuring and stirring, you‘re teaching how to plan, follow instructions, and develop patience. You also might be sharing where the recipe came from, and how your mother or grandmother used to make it. Knowing these facts goes a long way with kids.
We know we said no-tech for these activities, but a lot of bonding can take place over a video game. Here, kids become the teachers and can show you what they like and how they do things. And if you don’t catch on, don’t worry.” "Yes, you may be a klutz,” says Kaurich, “but that will only make it more fun for the grandkids." This is sportsmanship with a huge potential laugh factor—plus everyone gets exercise.
Is there anyone—child, teen, or adult—who doesn’t enjoy a soothing back massage? Maybe mom and dad are too tired to give more than a three-minute back scratch, but you can become the official Back-Rub Gran. Put on relaxing music, grab a favorite blanket for the child to lie on, and warm your hands before you start. When it’s over, be prepared for, “I want more!” or the sweet sound of a child sleeping. What else they like: drawing letters or numbers on their back with your finger and guessing what you drew.
Encouraging reading has no downside, and it can easily be turned into a ritual kids will love. If your library has a story hour and kids are younger, go for that, and then go to the children’s section and browse with your grandchild. If grandkids are older, ask them what they’re reading, check out a copy for yourself and start your own mini-book club together.
How well do you get along with your grandchild and other family members? Want to know if your personalities mesh?Find out here.