15 Ways to Help Kids Stay Connected With Their Grandparents (Near or Far)
Want to help them develop a special relationship with their grandparents?
There are many things you and your kids can do to encourage that connection, whether your kids’ grandparents live down the block or across the country.
In this article I’ll share ways you can help your kids stay connected with their grandparents.
Why Stay Connected With Grandparents?
Whether near or far, grandparents glue the generations together. Grandparents are a way to connect your kids to their family’s history. They’re also lots of fun!
Sam Levenson famously said, “The simplest toy, one which even the youngest child can operate, is called a grandparent.” How true that is.
As life gets ever faster, grandparents are often the perfect, though sometimes taken for granted, support system for families in these changing times.
In a survey conducted by AARP, only 19% of American households contained a married couple and their children, compared to 40% in 1970.
The term “family” is more fluid than ever before. It now encompasses multiple genders, ages and status mixes. That means that the traditional grandparent/grandchild dynamic has shifted too. And in some situations, there are even more options for bonding, so that connection can be even stronger.
In this article I’ll show you how you and your kids can make the most of your precious time with Grandma and Grandpa, through simple ideas to help you all relate and connect.
When Grandparents Are Nearby
If your kids see their grandparents on a regular basis, that’s awesome. Here are some fresh ideas to add sparkle to these visits, especially if you rely on their help for daily childcare.
Also consider these ideas to add an extra layer of “special” for when an out-of-town grandparent comes to visit.
Grandparents add fun to even the most routine ritual. Here are some ideas to help make the most of the mundane activities your parents (or in-laws) do with your kids.
Show your folks this list the next time they’ve got some time planned with your kids and watch the way these fun ideas kick their relationship up a notch.
Beat Mealtime Monotony
Do your kids frequently eat meals with their grandparents? Take a break from the normal routine and get creative about where and how you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together.
#1: Make a Mealtime Treasure Hunt
A food treasure hunt works great for a salad or sandwich lunch. For a salad, hide different vegetables throughout the house or in the backyard. For a sandwich, hide the ingredients. Once the kids find everything, make the meal together.
Make a list of things to find or give them clues. Be as creative as you’d like when you hide the ingredients or the component parts (a juice box, sandwich, chips) around the house.
#2: Switch Out Your Dishes
Ever eat fish and chips out of newspaper like they do in the U.K., or taste some real treats from a tiny tea set? Make meals memorable by having a little fun with how they’re served. It will give you and the kids quite a giggle!
Look around the house and see what items you can swap for plates. Talk to the kids and see what ideas they come up with. I guarantee they’ll think of some doozies.
Think flowerpots, toys or something from another culture, like chopsticks. Or simply designate certain serving dishes (maybe your formal china?) as “special,” only to be used for meals with your grandkids.
When you serve your meal on something other than standard plates, the grandchildren may even be encouraged to help with the meal preparation or cleanup—an added bonus!
#3: Eat Somewhere Different
The kitchen and dining rooms are the obvious locations for mealtime. But there are ways to convert other rooms in the house into unique eating areas.
Put a picnic blanket on the floor of any room, bring garden furniture indoors or make a fort out of blankets and eat inside.
Food tastes better when you eat it someplace special. Plus, you’ll make fun memories.
#4: Have a Progressive Meal
A traditional progressive meal is when you prepare and enjoy various parts of a meal (appetizer, salad, soup, main course, dessert) at different houses. This kid-friendly version is much simpler. Plus, it works for a main course, dessert or even just a snack, instead of a full meal. However, if you want to go full-on progressive, go for it!
Set a timer for 10 minutes (or however long you think it will take to eat a reasonable amount of food). Then start your meal. When the timer goes off, everyone has to find a new place to sit before they can continue eating. You can simply swap seats or even change rooms. Take your plate with you, though.
You can also use the timer as a guide for eating with different cutlery. For example, eat with a spoon for five minutes, then use only a fork for the next five and so on.
#5: Create a Cooking Show
It’s amazing how much more children will eat when they make the food themselves. Encourage kids to cook and teach them how—boys and girls both. One fun way is to make up a cooking show and help them share a recipe (maybe a family recipe) with the world.
Help with prepping the ingredients and come up with a show title and intro together. Then let the kids’ imaginations take over. Have them explain what they’re making as they cook. For extra fun, record the show to play back for parents later.
Bond Through Common Interests
Grandparents possess a wealth of knowledge. Encourage opportunities for grandparents to teach the grandkids things they enjoy and have the kids do the same.
#6: Teach Something New
Grandparents are the perfect partners for teaching grandkids a hobby, like baking, fishing, knitting, crafting or carpentry. Grandparents are tech-savvy too, so there could be some app and online game opportunities to do together as well.
Discuss your interests with the grandkids. When their eyes light up at the mention of something in particular, that’s a huge clue you’ve hit on something good.
Conversations are a two-way street. See what interesting hobbies the grandkids have, ask questions and see if they’ll teach you.
#7: Work on a Project
Projects are more fun when you do them together. Since generations past were raised to be resourceful, junk modeling (building things out of old cartons, tubs, plastic bottles etc.) and scrapbooking are great ways to connect with grandchildren.
Working together to create something is effortless bonding. It provides endless opportunities to talk about the news and pop culture, as well as find out what’s happening in each other’s worlds.
#8: Share Favorites
One of the coolest things about bonding with someone from another generation is that you get to introduce them to things that were cool in your “time” and they get to do the same. Plan a series of “firsts,” where you take turns teaching or learning about something you’ve never done before.
When Grandparents Are Far Away
In today’s virtual world, distance isn’t as much of an issue as it used to be. Many children grow up seeing their grandparents just once or twice a year, but technology bridges the gap.
With just a little thought, preparation and help from the parents, online grandparenting can be almost as good as the live version (only without the hugs and snuggles).
Anticipation of a visit is a great way to connect grandparents with grandchildren. Talk about the walks you’ll take, the popcorn you’ll make and the extra half-hour past bedtime you could add on by reading just one more story.
The following ideas are tried and tested ways to connect generations across the web. Most of these are better using Skype, Google hangouts or other web chats. Many will work on the phone too, with a little tweaking.
#9: Connect During Activities
Children love to share what they’re doing. But when you put them in front of a computer to tell their grandparents about it, they’ll draw a blank. Instead of doing a formal sitdown, use web video to join your grandchildren’s regular day.
Ask the parents to set up the call during mealtime or even while kids are watching their favorite show, although you might have to wait until the end for a chat. That way everyone gets to participate and the conversation feels a lot more natural.
#10: Share Books
Nothing can beat the feeling of having a grandchild climb into your lap as you read a story together. Here’s the next best thing for long-distance grandparents: Ask for a copy of your grandchild’s favorite book or comic. That way you can read along with the kids, name the characters, talk about the book and ask informed questions.
If you get a comic book, you can work through the puzzles together or discuss the pictures and where the stickers might go. The whole point is the virtual connection. You want to do the same things you’d do if you were in the same physical location.
#11: Grow Something
Start the same garden in different parts of the country (or the world), and compare notes on a regular basis. Plant seeds or starters at the same time, and then give regular updates and send pictures every week or so.
If you time it right, you could harvest your crops together during an actual visit.
Send postcards, drawings and letters to one another on a regular basis. Email is nice, but nothing beats an actual letter or a drawing you can put up on the fridge.
The key to correspondence is to write to each other regularly. Whether it’s once a week or once a month, everyone will have a reason to check for a surprise in the mail.
#13: Play Games
Just because you’re not in the same room doesn’t mean you can’t play games. Play online games or more traditional ones using web chat.
If you’re using web video, play the Guess Who game. Have someone put a sticky note on your forehead bearing the name of an animal, cartoon character or anything else you’d both recognize. Since you can’t see the name on your head, you have to ask the other person questions to help you guess who you are.
Phone talkers, play 20 Questions. Think of a person, animal, place or thing and have the other person ask yes or no questions until they guess correctly.
#14: Read a Bedtime Story
Time your calls with bedtime, and read the grandkids a bedtime story.
Download titles onto your Kindle or tablet. Or grandparents can ask parents for suggestions of the kids’ favorite stories. Or just make up stories. Never underestimate the art of made-up stories. Grandparents tell those best.
#15: Share a Common Project
Use time between conversations to work on a common activity. For example, come up with a challenge like “photograph 10 animals.” Then share your findings the next time you talk.
Another option is to work on a progressive story. Start a story (write one paragraph), send it to the grandkids to add to it and go back and forth until it’s done. Or draw a progressive picture. Start a picture and send it around to all members of the family to add to it.
Any project you work on together, even remotely, will be fun. Especially when it starts to take form.
Whatever makes everyone happy is worth sharing and reinforces the specialness of time spent together.
Some Final Thoughts…
The relationship grandparents have with their grandkids is special. And there are so many things that can be done to help forge that bond, whether they live in the next room, on the next street or in the next state.
No matter what you do with your grandchildren, enjoy your time together. And tell them how special they are. You may think it all the time. It’s nice to say it (and hear it) at least every once in a while.
What do you think? What are some of the things your kids and their grandparents do to have fun? What are their favorites? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas for making the most of your grandparent time. Please share them in the comments section below.
Images from iStockPhoto.
Valerie helps companies understand and use marketing to grow their business, but mainly she’s a mother of three boys and a mini dachshund called Walnut. Other posts by Valerie Lindsay »