Grandparents have a special impact on the entire family. Here are 15 ways you can celebrate them now and throughout the entire year.
In December of this year, I experienced one of the biggest thrills of my parenting life—I was in the delivery room with my daughter and her husband when my first grandchild was born. My grandson is now eight months old. Not only am I totally enjoying my new gig as a grandparent, but I have an entirely new respect and appreciation for the incredible role that grandparents play in our kids' lives.
This year, Grandparent’s Day is celebrated on September 8. Grandparents Day is a US national holiday that has been going strong since President Jimmy Carter declared it in 1978. It's great to do something special to commemorate grandparents in early September, but you can honor grandma and grandpa any time. Here are 15 ways you can celebrate grandparents now and throughout the year.
#1 - Use your words. It's important to connect with the special people in our lives to remind them that we love and appreciate them. But in our busy, overscheduled lives, we can go days or weeks without making time for expressing our heartfelt feelings towards our childrens' grandparents. We get so absorbed in our chaotic schedules that we neglect to say “Thanks for being a special part of our family’s lives. We really appreciate all you do for us.” Take a moment to express gratitude on Grandparent's Day. You can also create reminders for yourself to say thanks at other times throughout the year.
Take a moment to express gratitude on Grandparent's Day. You can also create reminders for yourself to say thanks at other times throughout the year.
#2 - Give them a book on grandparenting. My favorite is Creative Grandparenting: How to Love and Nurture a New Generation by Jerry and Judy Schreur, along with their granddaughter, Erin Schreur. It gives so many practical ideas for relating to grandkids of any age. I like the narration of both grandparents and one of their grandchildren. Plus, this is a great read for both grandparents and their children alike.
#3 - Create alone time. Situations vary from family to family, but in many cases, parents are eager to let their kids spend some quality alone time with grandma and grandpa. Depending on your children’s needs and ages, try to arrange one-on-one time for the grandies and their grandkids so they can bond and continue to build that special relationship. When my eight kids were really young, my in-laws were always excited when I invited them to come hang out with us. I was able to run errands without little ones in tow, and Grandma and “Bop” got to enjoy hands-on time to play, read, take walks, and anything else they wanted to do. They were never rushed. Because they were able to give their undivided attention, they made my kids feel like they were the most important human beings in the world.
#4 - Take a road trip. If distance is a challenge for building an intimate grandparent relationship, you’ll need to get creative. You want your kids to be able to know and bond with their grandparents regardless of the miles between you. Make it a priority to have regular family visits with the grandparents. Clear your calendar and plan a road trip where you can spend a few solid days of quality time, or arrange to meet somewhere half-way at a fun location. These trips will hold special memories for years to come and show your kids that you value the relationship they have with their grandparents.
#5 - Research your family tree. Delving into your family's history by researching your family tree is a hot trend. My siblings and I all received genealogy kits for Christmas last year and found it fascinating to learn about our heritage. Grandparents are the perfect family members to head up your research team and begin learning about your roots. You can gift the grandparents with a popular genealogy kit or start the process at a free site such as Ancestry.com.
#6 - Conduct a recorded interview. One of my favorite memories growing up was the time I spent listening to my grandparents tell stories about their lives. I shared the same birthday as my paternal grandmother. That, in itself, was special to me. But the stories she told about dating my grandfather and about all the shenanigans my own father pulled while growing up were not only hilarious, they made me realize that regardless of our age differences, we all still have so much in common. It's easy to forget details, so why not archive stories? One way your kids are sure not to forget a great story by grandma or grandpa is to record it. And we have easy access to recording tools on smartphones and laptops! You can create a fun Q&A or simply ask them to share a favorite memory from their own childhood and tape the entire conversation. This could become a treasured keepsake for the entire family for years to come.
One way your kids are sure not to forget a great story by grandma or grandpa is to record it.
#7 - Create a selfie album. Taking selfie photos will probably never go out of style. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Next time the grandparents are chilling with the kids, encourage a selfie-photo shoot. You can then create an online album or selfie scrapbook that everyone is sure to enjoy looking at again and again.
#8 - Get "board." Dig out your family-favorite board games like Monopoly, Chutes and Ladders, Scrabble, or even checkers. Busy parents don’t often have the free time to hang out and play a good, old-fashioned game ... but grandparents sure do! If Grandpa is a whiz at chess or cribbage, this is a great opportunity for him to teach an older grandchild a classic. Many kids don’t know how to play old-fashioned card games like Solitaire or Crazy 8, but grandparents can easily teach them lots of fun new ways to stay busy.
#9- Build a fort. One of my kids' favorite memories from their grandparent’s house was building forts. They grabbed blankets and sheets from the linen closet, and pillows from the couch, and constructed their own amazing kingdoms. As parents, fort-building might make us cringe (deconstructing the living room couch is not on the tops of our lists), but now that I’m a grandmother, I’m already planning ways my grandson can make a cool fort in our dining room.
#10- Get scheduled. As I've mentioned, sometimes you have to get creative to stay connected. If you don’t have a standing date like Friday night pizza or Sunday family dinners, you can still create quality time for the kids and their grandparents if you schedule it on your calendar. Once you’re all in a routine of connecting at a certain time each week, you’ll find that everyone looks forward to it. Regardless of whether my kids saw their grandparents twice a week or once a month, we set aside time every Saturday evening after dinner for a phone call to both sets of grandparents. We’d call at the same time each week and then let all the kids get on the phone to talk. Some of them had little to say, but others—oh, my!—they would go on and on for endless minutes. This kept everyone in the loop and feeling like we were all a part of each other’s lives. Now we have Skype, FaceTime, texting, and other ways to keep in touch. Even so, a phone conversation will never go out of style.
Once you’re all in a routine of connecting at a certain time each week, you’ll find that everyone looks forward to it.
#11- Go on a scavenger hunt. There’s nothing like a scavenger hunt to get the creative juices flowing and to create a buzz of excitement for those taking part in the hunt. I’ve long been a fan of scavenger hunts because you can be as simple or elaborate with your theme and clues as you want. Creating a scavenger hunt can be something you and your kids do for the grandparents or that the grands can do to entertain the grandkids. Pinterest has a slew of imaginative ideas to create a stellar scavenger hunt that will leave the entire family smiling for days.
#12- Start a grand club. Kids love to belong to groups—Boy or Girl Scouts, a swim or soccer team, class council—whatever it is, it gives them a sense of pride to belong to group that gives them purpose. Why not help your kids' grandparents start a grand club? Basically, the club includes grandparents and grandkids engaging in activities they can all enjoy. Theme ideas include books, kayaking, birdwatching, or gardening. Whatever topic you choose, grand clubs are a great way to encourage quality time between grandparents and grandkids.
#13- Get cooking. Among my kids' fondest memories are the times they spent learning to bake and cook with their paternal grandmother. Cooking was her passion—and it still is at age 95! When my oldest daughters were only three and four years old, their grandma spent time in the kitchen letting them roll out cookie dough and decorate sugar cookies with every frosting and sprinkle imaginable. Once the cookies were cooled, she’d set up a tea part for them on her porch. My daughters are now in their mid-twenties and still smile about those days baking with grandma. Cooking with kids is great for development and building kitchen skills. Older kids and teens benefit from this experience as well. If your kids have grandparents who love to create family-favorite meals and baked goodies, spending time in the kitchen together can be a special time for all.
#14 - Establish new traditions. Family traditions create special moments to remember all year round. I’m a sucker for rituals and traditions because I think they keep us grounded and give us something to look forward to, no matter what the season. In many cases, the traditions we create today will be passed on through generations.
Get your kids involved and brainstorm some fun, meaningful new traditions you can establish with your grandparents and kids. My daughter just established one for my grandson and I—I’ll be taking him to story hour at the library twice a month, and then he and I will be going to her favorite childhood restaurant for lunch, just the two of us. I can’t wait!
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