By Denise Long
As a grandparent today, you are part parent, teacher, friend and playmate. One of the greatest benefits is being able to see the world through a child’s eyes again. The key to building a relationship that both of you will treasure forever is to find ways to engage with your grandchildren.
Here are proven ways to entertain and engage with your grandchildren while keeping them (and yourself!) safe.
- Carve out time to focus on your grandchildren. Find out what makes them tick. Researchers have found that children have better communication and language outcomes when their interests are included into everyday learning activities. If your grandchild is crazy about trains, roll with it! Visit train museums, read books about trains, and talk about them together.
- Conversely, share with your grandchild some of your interests and hobbies, such as baking, photography or gardening. Whether you’ve got a woodworking project in your garage or you’re knitting a scarf, you can share your passion with them.
- Make a time capsule together and bury it in your yard. Include anything from drawings and newspaper clippings to toys and baseball cards. If your grandchild is old enough, you can write each other a secret letter that can’t be read until the capsule is opened. Decide when you’ll open it — in five or ten years or on a special birthday.
- All children love science experiments. A great resource for educating and entertaining is Earth Science Jr. Check out their rainbow magic milk science experiment that uses items you have on hand.
- Get outdoors! Go for a simple walk in your neighborhood or head to your nearest park. And never underestimate the fun that can be had on a good ol’ swing set. Research shows that the benefits of swinging go far beyond fun, too. In addition to being a mood booster for those of all ages, swinging also helps with coordination, focus, and sensory integration (so crucial for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders). According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), about 51,000 children are treated in hospitals each year as a result of an injury sustained on at-home playground equipment. Because of this, you’ll want to do your homework and read about the best-rated swing sets if you plan on buying one.
- According to Richard Rende, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist, researcher and educator, when parents and grandparents engage in arts and crafts activities with their young ones, it not only provides immediate and lasting cognitive benefits, but also creates a unique bonding experience. Luckily, you do not need to be artsy or crafty to engage in any of these art activities.
- One of the most memorable things you can do with a grandchild is travel with them. The possibilities for making lifelong memories are endless — from planning the trip together to returning with all kinds of stories to share. Once you’ve got that first trip under your belt, you may end up making it a yearly tradition.
Lastly, part of being a grandparent is providing a safe place for your grandchild — not only emotionally, but physically as well. If it’s been awhile since toddlers have been running around in your house, you’ll probably need to make some safety home updates to make it a safe and fun place to be. For added peace of mind, you’ll also want to have a family emergency kit on hand as well.
There’s an old Welsh proverb that says, “Perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild.” As a grandparent, the best way you can show that love is by the quality of time you spend with your grandchild. Whether you take your grandchildren out to lunch once a week or have grand sleepovers with arts and crafts, what makes for lasting memories is truly engaging with your young ones, getting to know all their interests, and being there for them with open ears and an open heart.
Denise Long is the Grandma in CHIEF at grandmothering.info