My littlest ones can be a handful. Gage and Anna are full of energy, curiosity, and spunk. During the school year, my grandparenting time is limited to brief visits after school and on Saturday mornings. I try to schedule Grandma days through the summer months for each one. I want spending time at Grandma’s house to be a memory to cherish. I’m always amazed at the simple things that thrill a child. Here are a few of our favorites.
Read a stack of books. I have my own collection of picture books, but before my book collecting days, I went to the local library and carried home the maximum number of allowed picture books. When the grandchildren visit, I pull a stack of stories with a related theme. One day we had pirate day and learned to talk like a pirate, another time I read train books after playing with the train set.
Play hide and seek. Since there are only so many places you can hide a grandma, and I try to keep the curious souls confined to one room at a time, we play hide and seek with small stuffed animals. Somewhere along the way, I picked up a box of adorable stuffed puppies. My grandchildren love hiding the puppies, but we’re still working to learn how not to give away the location. Being a school teacher, I can’t stop myself from turning this activity into a learning game, matching the color of the puppy to the background where it’s hiding as we talk about camouflage, teaching directions, “Did you look on the left side of the room?” “Let’s see if we can find new places to hide the puppies.”
Do chores. Each time the grandchildren visit, I try to find a small set of chores and ask for their help. I figure it’s never too early to teach them responsibility and some basic simple-living skills. I ask Gage and Anna to help me hang curtains on the line, scrub the patio deck, wash dishes, and put sheets on the bed. Who says you can’t do summer housecleaning while entertaining company? My grandchildren enjoy filling the wheelbarrow with the weeds I’ve pulled and pulling a few of their own. They love to help pick beans. Grandma sometimes has to relax her standards about which beans should be picked and not groan when a stalk gets trampled. Often, after gardening, I’ll give wheelbarrow rides around the house. I get exercise; they get a bumpy ride, followed by the picture book “Bumpety Bump” by Pat Hutchins.
Water flowers. When I was a child visiting Grandma Wert’s house, I got paid a nickel for watering flowers. Grandma had lots of flowers. I loved carrying the old tin watering can around the house, trying to find all the windowsill English ivies and crimson coleus plants. Grandma’s ferns were bigger than me. Guess what my grandchildren want to do when they visit? Water flowers, inside and outside. I pay them a dollar – inflation.
Play sink or float. Children love to play in the water at the bathroom sink, an outdoor tub of water, and the toilet bowl if left unattended for too long. My grandson Gage always asks to play the sink or float game. We gather about five objects, pull a chair up to the kitchen sink, and test our objects for buoyancy. I ask Gage to make predictions before dropping each item in the water, “Will it sink or float?” He’s beginning to realize that rocks always sink to the bottom, no matter how large or small. Metal objects sink. Containers with pockets of air float. His transforming toys usually have to take a swim, too.
Did you notice none of these activities cost money? As I began to list the activities my grandchildren enjoy, I realized this post could go on for miles, so I’ll save some of our other activities for another day. Better still, I hope to share some of your ideas for money-free, high-interest memory makers. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section below.