There’s nothing like having your grandkids come over for a visit—especially when you have everything you need on hand. This list is best suited to grandchildren ages 2–5, but may be adapted to suit other ages.
1. A Car Seat
It is now recommended to have children in a car seat or booster seat until they are about nine years old, depending on their weight and height. Babies should stay rear-facing until one year, but it is safest for toddler and preschoolers to remain in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible. (bcaa.com/community/child-car-seat-safety). Make sure you have an appropriate car seat and know how to install and use it.
2. A Yes-Zone
Grandparents’ houses are good places for children to learn how others live, and how to behave in a home that is not their own. It is a good idea to set boundaries about what kids can touch, where to put their shoes and which rooms they can go into. But don’t forget to designate a yes-zone: part of your home where nothing is off-limits. When the adults can relax, the kids have more fun and you can all work on developing a real and meaningful relationship!
3. Outdoor Time
One of the best ways to deal with kids who are getting a little grumpy is to take them outdoors. But do a little reconnoitering beforehand. Find the best parks, beaches and playgrounds near you. If you are living in the home where you brought up your kids, you may know some of those destinations. But some may have changed in the last 30 years! And if you are living in a new place, you will need to start from scratch. Chat with some new parents in your neighbourhood to get their recommendations.
4. Bath Time
The other best way to cheer up a grumpy child is to put them in water. If you can’t get to a pool, a bath with new bath toys, or just some plastic containers and scoops can be really fun! Add colour with a couple drops of food colouring. Or check out bath crayons.
Check with your grandchildren’s parents about what foods they might not be allowed or are allergic to. And then, within those boundaries, stock up on snacks. Plan for some pre-meal fresh fruit and veggies then when dinner is served, the kids will have already eaten their vegetables!
6. Cooking and Baking
Plan a simple baking project. Buy a little apron, perhaps a small rolling pin, some fun cookie cutters. Be aware that for preschoolers, cooking is a rich sensory process. They need to feel, grab, taste, smell and smear everything! It’s not going to be tidy, so relax and explore with your grandchild. Smell the cinnamon, taste the sugar and the salt and the baking powder (yuck!). Focus on the process, and don’t worry too much about the product. Enjoy!
You may be tempted to get a whole bunch of toys to amuse your grandchildren while they are visiting. Be careful! A few toys go a long way. And they make less mess. Building toys (blocks, Lego, Duplo) are very versatile and fun for all ages. Puzzles are great, but make sure they are age-appropriate and not too frustrating. Think about toys that encourage interaction and playing together. Having a big toy bin will make clean-up easy.
If you like gardening, and have a garden, think about how you can share that pleasure with your grandkids. Can you give them a little spot they can dig in? A few seeds to “plant?” A little apron, some tiny gardening gloves, a small trowel and bucket. Make sure the tools are “real.” Plastic tools are often disappointing. My children’s grandmother taught them a lot about the names of flowers and plants, and weeds too. That’s a way of sharing a love of plants even if you don’t have a garden.
Grandparents are important in teaching children about their culture and heritage. Taking your grandchildren to museums, community festivals and events, concerts and movies is a great way to do that. Don’t expect too much of the kids’ attention span though. Be prepared with a lot of snacks and a really good attitude yourself! And be prepared to bail and go home if it just doesn’t seem like the right day for this outing. Try again next year!
When your grandchildren come to visit, things can get intense. There may be too many people, too many family events, too many outings. Make sure there is a quiet time every day, when you and your grandchild can cuddle and read books or watch a movie. With any luck, that will turn into a nap! What a delight!
If there have been several high-energy, event-filled days in a row, declare a hang-out day. Stay home. Wear pyjamas. Eat cereal. Make playdough. (thebestideasforkids.com/playdough-recipe) Build a blanket fort. Those memories are golden!