How to be a thoroughly modern grandparent

Tips and fun ideas for spending time with the grandchildren.

How to be a thoroughly modern grandparent

Psychologist and child expert Dr Michael Carr-Gregg says: “A child’s relationship with grandparents is invaluable – it builds a sense of identity, resilience and belonging.”

Nanna, poppy, gran, gramps, ganny, nonna, gorgs – whatever your grandchildren call you, it’s one they hopefully associate with a lot of love, fun and laughter (and a little healthy rule-breaking too!).

The role of grandparents has changed a lot in recent times as more and more parents go back to work after starting a family. Grandparents are increasingly relied on to look after grandchildren and are playing a more integral role in the lives of young people growing up.

Modern grandparents have so much to offer and their interactions with a grandchild can be incredibly rewarding and valuable. And that’s not just hearsay. Research shows just how important a grandparent’s contribution is to a child’s wellbeing and high levels of grandparental involvement results in youngsters with fewer emotional and behavioural problems.

So grandparents, never feel as if you are ‘just’ a babysitter or a free childcare service. Never underestimate the value of the time you spend with your grandchildren – the benefits are enormous.

Kids will be more prepared to do what are perceived as ‘old-fashioned’ activities with a grandparent – and these can be great mechanisms for passing on your wisdom and helping kids develop essential skills such as problem-solving, resilience, self-confidence and communication.

Check out these tips and ideas for fun times with your grandchildren (that will do more good than you realise).

Baking
Choose an easy, fuss-free recipe for a yummy treat and let the grandchildren get stuck in.  You could even choose something that’s topical like Halloween biscuits or Christmas shortbread, which they could decorate in theme. What about writing out the recipe on a piece of paper and getting the kids to draw or colour in a picture of what they’ve baked? A collection of grandma’s special recipes will be a treasured heirloom in years to come – and it will be even more special if they’re accompanied by happy memories of time spent together in the kitchen.

Sewing
This is another skill that’s gone out of fashion, but everyone should know how to sew. A fun activity is to punch holes in cardboard, thread thick embroidery needles with some coloured wool and get the kids to sew a pattern. It’s great for their fine motor skills too.

Hobbies
Enjoying a hobby together is one of the most meaningful ways of interacting with your grandchildren. Not only will you make precious memories, it’s also a chance for you to pass on some of your skills and experience while having fun. Fishing, woodwork, art and crafts are just some of the activities that you and your grandchild can do together.

Games and puzzles
Enjoy a little friendly competition with your grandchildren with board games, puzzles and cards.

Gardening
Encourage their green thumbs by getting the grandchildren out into the fresh air for some gardening. You might even get them to pull out some weeds for you. With a few basic tools (even an old kitchen spoon and fork will do), the kids can prepare a small patch of soil and plant seeds or seedlings and watch them grow. Alternatively, a walk in a park to spot some well-known plants is also a lovely shared activity with benefits.

Reading
If only more children read books. Spending time with your grandchildren reading to them or helping them learn to read is invaluable. It’s also a great opportunity for you to pass on your wisdom and tell children some funny and interesting stories about their parents when they were young.

Kids love to know about their family history and hearing anecdotes. A grandparent can be a wonderful storyteller, linking the past to the present and keeping family legacies alive.

Playground activities, movies, outings
Going on an outing with your grandchildren will keep you young and them entertained. Whether it’s a movie or a meal out, a trip to a market or a museum, a visit to the circus or an afternoon in a playground, there are plenty of fun activities that don’t have to cost a fortune. Check out seniors’ specials or look for deal offers online and get the fun times rolling.

As a grandparent, you’ve got the ability to:

  • teach your grandchildren valuable skills
  • pass on your wisdom and experience
  • keep your family history alive through storytelling
  • be an emotional support to your grandchildren and give them a sense of security
  • keep lines of communication open within the family.

The trick is to make an effort to keep up to date with the children’s world. Yes, they love hearing about the ‘olden days’, but it’s really important to try to understand their context too (such as social media and digital technology). 

Also, children love joking around and, as a grandparent, you have a licence to have a heap of fun and break the rules just a little bit. They’ll relish learning a few pranks from their ‘grandies’ and being teased a bit, but remember to always keep things good-natured and, of course, safe.

Do you have a good relationship with your grandchildren? Does it help to keep you young?

Jennifer Bond is a people and quality leader with Nido Early School.

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