Grandparents are the backbones of many families and we wouldn’t be the same without them. Cheers to all the Grandpas, Grannies, Mommoms, Poppas and Nanas!
One of the best gifts you can give your kids’ grandparents this year for Grandparents Day (Sept. 11) is to encourage a close relationship with your kids. Kids enjoy having a connection to your family history through grandparents and will benefit from having an adult to talk to who loves them but is not entrenched in the day-to-day tasks of parenting.
Here are five ways you can encourage your children to connect with their grandparents regardless of how far or close they live to you:
Set up a date
Although baby-sitting grandchildren is a good way to spend time together, it is also important for children to spend time with their grandchildren on other occasions. For grandparents who live close by, set up a regular time each week or month for your kids to spend time with them. This establishes a relationship and memories distinct from you and other siblings. The date can be for a few hours after school or for a sleepover on the weekend. By setting a regular schedule, such as the first Saturday of the month or every other Wednesday, this special time together is less likely to get overlooked. If your child’s grandparents live long distance, try to set up a date for your child to spend time alone with a grandparent during visits.
Use technology to communicate
If you have teenagers, think about how your child likes to communicate with his friends. Encourage your child to communicate with his grandparents using text or instant messaging and, if necessary, teach Grandpa how to send a text or set up a chat. By using your child’s favorite technology, she will be more likely to share things in a spontaneous way and enjoy talking with her grandparents.
For grandparents who live long distance, consider setting up a webcam so your child can have a video conference with their grandparents. Both you and your child’s grandparent will need a basic webcam that can be purchased for $30-$40. Your child can see Grandma on the computer screen and the grandparents will enjoy being able to view the child’s expressions and how much they have grown.
Write letters to each other
While technology is a wonderful tool to keep in touch, writing letters to each other is a very personal way of communicating. While many people send e-mail regularly, handwritten letters are special and more likely to be saved for years.
Have your child and their grandparents pick out a journal together and take turns writing their thoughts in it. Encourage them to write stories about their life, share memories of each other and ask each other questions. For long-distance grandparents, take turns writing in the journal and mail the book to each other. If a journal mailing is an obstacle, have your child and his grandparents write letters to each other and store the letters in a special box.
Share a book
Books are a great way to connect generations and many classics are still loved by children today. For younger children, encourage the grandparent to read your child one of their favorite picture books. An option for grandparents who live in another town is to make a digital video recording of them reading a book to your child. They can either send the file to you or put the video on a sharing website such as YouTube. If they are unfamiliar with the technology, you can set up the tools for them on your next visit. While your child is watching the video, have her follow along with her own copy of the same book.
If your child is reading chapter books, have her ask her grandparents to read the same book she is reading. Encourage talking about the book after they have both finished. Once they have finished with the book, have the grandparent pick out a book to read together next.
Start a hobby or project together
Another way for grandparents and grandchildren to connect is to share a hobby or activity. Encourage the grandparent to take an interest in your child’s hobbies and have the child t
Theyre just like you, only they let the kids eat ice cream for dinner, buy them toys just because and let them stay up an hour past bedtime.
The grandparent and grandchild relationship is a unique one, says grandparenting expert Jerry Witkovsky, author of The Grandest Love: Inspiring the Grandparent-Grandchild Connection, a book all about being a grandparent.
Entering your grandchilds world is a wonderful experience, he says. What is their world of music? What is their world in the books they read? What is their friendship world? I also want them to enter my world. What is my world? What is it like to be a grandpa?
Here are some ways to do that in person or virtually through Skype or Google Hangout. Dont forget, Sept. 11 is National Grandparents Day.
Bake a family recipe
Theres something sweet about passing down family recipes. Get the generations together to make a family favorite. While mixing the ingredients, share the story of the recipe and recall significant moments spent around the table.
Break out the baby books
Kids will love seeing themselves in photos, and if their own pictures arent enough, break out their parents baby books. Kids will get a kick out of seeing their parents as tykes, and who better to explain the stories behind the pictures than grandparents?
Bond over favorite board games
Get the kids and grandparents together for a game challenge featuring some favorites from the grandparents time and some from today. Its guaranteed laughs for all.
Take a trip down memory lane
When grandparents share their favorite stories about growing up, help kids spot the differences and similarities between the generations and talk about them.
For birthdays or holidays, your kids make you lists of things they’re coveting, your teenaged neice just wants a gift card, and your husband, well we all know what HE wants.
But how do you get the kids involved in the giving too? The grandparents are a great place to start.
Here are five fun and easy ways to say “Happy Grandparent’s Day,” to the matriarchs and patriarchs of your clan.
Say It With Snapshots
This year my dad asked for something I thought was just great. A custom collection of snapshots from the boys’ lives. We take tons of digital pictures and they are all housed on our computer, but we rarely get them printed and put into albums. My dad just wanted pictures he could hold. So, one day he went through the hoards of photos on our computer and made a file of his favorites. (If your parents live far away, you could select a slew for them yourself.) He asked that we simply order them for him and make that his gift. We’ve decided to create an album for him, and put a couple really great ones into nice frames. You could also use their collection for one of the great photo books you can now create on-line. Check out Snapfish, Shutterfly and Blurb. It’s so darn simple, but taking the time to put together a compilation of moments from your kids’ lives is really a thoughtful and meaningful gift.
Use Your Words
Wordle is a site that will let you create fun and beautiful “word clouds” to represent each grandparent. It’s super simple and FREE. Just go to the Wordle site and have your kids write or dictate things they love about their grandparents or memories they have of fun times together. Place all of the words into the wordle form on-line and it will create a really fun and beautiful word cloud. All you have to do is print, and pop it into a frame. Wordles are sweet and their sentimentality will make the grandparents gush.
Make a new Pen Pal
If the grandparents live far away have your kids help to create a pen pal kit for them. Find a lovely box to house the goods, buy or make some pretty note cards or print your kids’ pictures on postcard paper (found at any office supply store), pop in a beautiful pen and some stamps, and you’re set. You could make one for your children too as a surprise on Christmas morning as an incentive to write to their Grandmas and Grandpas over the coming year. The thoughtfully written letter or card is a dinosaur worth resurrecting.
A Grand-Parental Play Date
Present each grandparent with a certificate for a pre-paid play date with their grandkids. Your child gets to pick what sort of outing they’d like to have with each grandparent. These can be simply made with construction paper or printed on the computer. It might be lunch and a manicure with Grandma, bowling and (root) beers with pappy, or dinner and a movie with Nanna. You treat for the outing, and they get priceless time together.
If You Build It, They Will Come
Here’s another one for the grandparents who live close by. Simply pick up several “build-it-yourself kits” for things like birdhouses, model cars or airplanes, or any other make-it yourself masterpieces. Place them all in a special box with an invitation from your kids to help them build each thing. Grandparents seem to LOVE showing their grandkids how to do stuff…have you noticed? Give them the opportunity over the next year to spend time working on these projects together. Your kids will have one-on-one time with their Grammies and Pappies, and the elders will treasure the uninterrupted time with their kid’s kids.