Becoming a grandparent is one of life’s most rewarding milestones. But connecting with your grandkids isn’t always easy. Each generation has their own way of doing things, and a shared understanding might sometimes be hard to reach.
Fortunately, having fun is universal. Engaging with your grandchildren through games, activities and play can help you build bonds that last a lifetime. Here’s just a few fun things you can do with your grandchildren as they progress through the various stages of life.
The Early Years (6-24 Months)
Those first couple of years are miraculous. You recall what it was like to be a new parent yourself, the delights, the surprises and all the new challenges to balance with life and work. Fortunately, being a grandparent means you don’t need to sweat the small stuff.
Building bonds that last a lifetime
Building a bond with your grandchild takes effort. No doubt, young children require a lot of attention, but what does it matter when it’s so rewarding. Just being with them when they need you can go a long way to forming a relationship that’s unique, invigorating and full of joy.
Even from an early age, story time is an engaging way to interact with your grandchild. Most experts agree telling tales, whether it’s your own stories, songs, fairy tales or tales of adventure, will engage young children and help them develop, from improving social skills and communication to understanding what’s real and what’s make believe. They’ll also appreciate the value of books, even if they can’t fully comprehend the story.
Songs and rhymes help them to comprehend language and can serve as memorable lessons in understanding their emotions and dealing with change, while rhythms can help them learn motor skills and body movements.
As a grandparent, you’re instrumental in helping your grandchild build an identity, comprehend the world around them and engage their own imaginations. Simple games like peek-a-boo, hide and seek, or playing with toys open up the potential for discovery in understanding both themselves and the world around them.
Forming a Lasting Bond (2-5 Years)
These formative years are some of the best for the grandchild-grandparent bond. Curious minds, active bodies and a natural inquisitiveness often goes hand in hand with a newfound sense of independence.
Teaching them the basics
As they transition from toddler to preschooler your grandchild will start to form new friendships with other children and broaden their horizons with playdates and early schooling, but they’ll still look to their grandparents for connection, instruction and engagement.
Through play, teaching and new experiences, you can help shape how your grandchild sees the world. Even something as simple as teaching them how to tie their shoes can be fun if you make a game of it.
Food for thought
One of the best parts of being a grandparent is spoiling your grandkids every so often with sweets, ice cream and other delicious treats. Why not have them over and teach them how to make the perfect banana split. Or if you prefer, go for a stroll and get ice cream along the way.
More generally, connecting with young children over food can help them understand their family history, and build healthy eating habits.
Fun with costumes
Dress ups are another engaging way to share a day with your grandchild. Grandma and Grandpa’s closet is the perfect place for young kids to develop their unique fashion sense or dress up like their favourite film and book characters. Captain Jack Sparrow, anyone?
And while we’re on the topic of dress ups, why not a costume-themed birthday party. Helping Mum and Dad organise their child’s special day will help you stay active and involved in your grandchild’s life.
Beyond the fun and games, Parenting.com have listed some studies that have shown that dressing up can help kids develop empathy and a better understanding of others, literally walking in someone else’s shoes could help your grandchild better understand the thoughts and feelings of others.
Finger painting is another engaging play idea that helps to express ideas and creativity (and it’s always more fun when the grandparents join in.) Kids Learning HQ outlines that finger painting can help kids in a number of key developmental areas, including motor skills, communication, sensory integration and creativity. Look for the kid friendly paints at the store, and if they’re stuck for inspiration, why not their favourite animal, or character from a book.
Learning to swim
Out of the house, swimming lessons are important for every child. Kids can start learning to swim with an adult from as early as 18 months, so why not throw on a bathing suit and enrol your grandkid at the local pool. It’s a rewarding way to get out of the house, meet others and teach your grandchild valuable lessons all at the same time.
Exploring Shared Interests (6-12 Years)
Primary school is a great time for you and the grandkids to explore shared interests. Sports, hobbies, arts and crafts and the bumps, scrapes, laughter and tears that go along with them. At this age your grandchild will also start to find their own interests, so why not explore those and discover new passions of your own.
Comic book conventions
Does your grandchild have an interest in comic books? Why not give the parents a break and take them to a comic book convention? ‘Cons’ are far more inclusive these days, bundling together fan groups from all over to meet actors, writers and celebrities and interact with other fans.
Their first sports match
Are they showing an interest in sport? Be the one to take them to their first game of footy, and make sure they end up supporting your team! Following a team can also encourage them to become more active and join a team of their own.
Meet their favourite author
For the bookworm, why not a book signing? A chance to meet a favourite author can be a great day out and keep them interested in books and reading.
Laser strike and ten pin bowling
You can often find both laser strike and ten-pin bowling relatively close to each other, and often in the same venues. This can be a popular pastime for kids this age, especially when it’s raining. Don’t be afraid to hop in yourself, nothing quite says cool granddad like having a go.
Talk with the animals
A visit to the zoo is an opportunity to see exotic animals from books and TV up close. If your grandkids are animal lovers, hobby farms are another excellent experience to share with them. Interacting with animals can help foster a sense of empathy in your grandchildren, as well as entertain them.
Make the most of the time you have
With the grandkids in school there’s less time to see them, so try to connect over the holidays and on weekends. Fortunately, for the pre-teen, life is a near endless discovery. If you can find a way to discover with them, you’ll find having fun with the grandkids a breeze.
Supporting Teenagers (13-18 years)
Is there any more challenging time in a young person’s life than the teenage years?
Between entering high school and becoming an adult, your grandchild will go through tremendous change. As a grandparent, you can play a positive influence by supporting them with your wisdom and experience, just remember to keep it fun and engaging.
Their first job
Who doesn’t remember their first part time job? Offering advice on what to expect and how to manage work with study and social life might be a way to engage with your teenage grandkids. Similarly, helping them write their resume or prepare for an interview could give them the confidence boost they need.
Getting a license
Learning to drive is another tough teenage experience. Mum and Dad might not always have the time to take their children out to practice, so be the one to sit beside them as they learn proper road safety behind the wheel.
Technology might have changed the way young people meet and date, matters of the heart still tend to be universal. You’ll be surprised what you can learn from one another just by having a light-hearted conversation.
Respecting their independence
Part of becoming an adult is learning independence and exploring our identities. It might be harder to find time to spend with your grandkids, but that doesn’t mean they won’t want to make the most of the time you do have together. It might not always be easy, but that’s part of the challenge, and the reward, of being a grandparent.
Adulthood and Beyond
Even as adults, grandchildren never cease to surprise. There paths may not always be where you expected, but the love you share with them never falters.
Learning from your grandchildren
Through the course of their life you’ve played the role of babysitter, playmate, mentor, educator and most importantly, grandparent. And though they’ve learned plenty from you along the way, they’ve also been teaching you. Now their adults, don’t be shy about asking for help, they probably have plenty to offer when navigating the modern world.
It’s not what you do, it’s who you do it with
Just because you’ve slowed down a little doesn’t mean that there isn’t time to be spent enjoying each other’s company. A day at the park, a nice Sunday lunch, even a trip to the cinema together to check out the latest film. In truth, it’s more about the quality of the company than what you’re doing.
A new generation
If you’re lucky enough to have great grandkids, your grandchildren will look to you for advice on raising their own. After all, you’ll have been through it twice now. You’ll also get to see firsthand the joy of your own children experiencing the miracle of grandparenthood for the first time.
And remember those books you’d read your grandchildren when they were young, the ones full of daring adventures set on the high seas? It’s time to pass them down to another generation.
Always remember the good times
The most important thing is to stick with it. No matter how old they get, how successful And remember those books you’d read your grandchildren when they were young, the ones full of daring adventures set on the high seas? It’s time to pass them down to another generation., you’ll always be a grandparent to them. Life might occasionally take them away, but when they return there’s always the opportunity to reflect and recall those earlier times.
So make the most of every moment you have with them, because these memories last a lifetime.