Saturday, June 2, 2012

"Got anything for us 'normal' people?"

LOL...or at least I think I'm supposed to laugh at that question! A few of my grandma friends, one in particular - (and she knows who she is!) - continually asks me that. She says she doesn't have room in her basement for an "entire circus" (very funny!), the time to hunt down a puppet show audience or the patience to make life size monsters. She claims she "just sits" in front of the TV set with her grand kids without a clue in her head about what to do with them. (Editorial note: omg!) "Give me some easy ideas, some very obvious ones," she demands, "ones that I can do without any elaborate planning or thinking!" Activities, I presume, that the kids will enjoy and ask to do again and again. Well, sure! We can do that! Although I am certainly not the only source of quick, clever ideas with which to engage grandchildren. Other grandmothers have been there first, authoring sites that feature a full spectrum of tested, age appropriate projects to share and enjoy. Although, be warned! These blogs also include wonderful experiences that do take time, effort and creativity to produce. The best part is searching through them like a hungry, sharp-eyed treasure hunter for the best ideas adaptable for your own use. Here are three favorite grandma bloggers who specialize in these kinds of activities, each one only a click away! How easy is that?

Whenever I settle in to read Grandma Connie's blog, I feel as if I am right at home. We share the same love of sewing and crafting with our grandchildren, however she manages to keep nine kids happy! The Family Harvest Day Connie hosts every year will delight you and guide you toward planning one of your own. This family bonding experience features a scarecrow making session and lots more wholesome fun. Clever everyday ideas, however, are the mainstay of this site. For example, make a set of Connie's scavenger hunt chore cards and watch kids beg to clean up after themselves. Really!  

Heartwarming. That's my one word description of Grandma Shelley's lifestyle. Observe her deftly entertain up to ten grandchildren at a time with events such as Grandkids' Christmas Day Camp. Click on Craft Ideas for Kids for an amazing array of easy-to-make, very cute designs that include my favorites, a marshmallow launcher and a Haunted Halloween Village! What I love about this section is that not one single idea is a junky "space-filler" that you'd never dream of wasting your time on!

But the "great-grandmother-of-us-all" has got to be Susan Adcox at  While Susan is, herself, a fun-loving, family-enjoying, bursting-with-energy grandma, she acknowledges that everything about grandparenthood is not always "fun and games." Sometimes family conflicts arise, and this professional site is where the wise go for advice, solace and information on a wide variety of topics that include diverse opinions and suggested resources. Sign up for Susan's email newsletter and join in to read and comment on the discussion questions she periodically poses. And yes, there are also sections on the "fun stuff," a wealth of ideas gleaned from other grandparents with photos and detailed instructions to follow.

Okay! My turn! I have found some luck keeping my grand kids entertained using three small household mechanical devices.

All three of the kids really enjoy chasing streams of bubbles spewed by a battery operated machine that even produces "baby bubbles" - sometimes 4 or 5 of them! - inside of huge "monster" ones! These machines can be tricky though. The one I bought, Vertical Mega Bubbles Generator ($20) is wonderful, but I had to return the first one because it abruptly stopped working after only four uses. Online reviews for all toy bubble machines aren't that great, so save the packaging and receipt and buy locally from a store that is nice about returns - just in case! Other than that, pull up your lawn chair and watch the kiddos wear themselves out right before nap Brielle does, below.

In this age of microwave-everything, the twins are as fascinated with my little air-popper machine as if it were a rotary dial telephone! I am glad their mommy has never introduced buttered and salted popcorn to them. They happily eat it plain and share some of it with the birds. Then, while they nap grandma polishes off the leftovers with her own layers of custom seasonings!

Making popcorn is such a frequently requested activity that we have our own system for taking turns.
One twin gets to pour in the kernels and the other pushes the button. Then, the "kernel-pourer" gets to be the "first-piece-eater."  The boys are very good at remembering whose turn is up next!

Around here, a carefully watched popcorn maker DOES pop
Do you own pencils? Check! Do you own an electric pencil sharpener? Check! Do you have grandsons in the three year old range? Check! I need not say more. Once the twins observed me sharpening, all I had to do was provide the utensils and a chair to plunk down in while I watched every pencil we have ever owned become restored to a deadly point. Of course some safety considerations are in order here, but other than that, a little boy + any mechanical device = pure fascination + a nice break for grandma!

I started filling my "Grandma's Crafty Jar" the second I knew I would become a grandma! Use a large, clear plastic jar. Fill it with "pipe cleaners" (now known as "chenille stems" I guess!), pom poms, glitter, crayon and paint boxes, glue sticks, kid scissors, and any cute crafty items you find on sale. Make sure, of course, that contents are always age appropriate. Then let it be known to the kids that they are welcome to it whenever the "crafting bug" bites! I also offer three little plastic totes, identified by color and filled with paper, kid scissors, stickers, and glue sticks.

The kids can take their own totes whenever they want to draw, cut or paste. This opportunity introduces a good time to teach responsibility for taking care of supplies and cleaning up, too.

LOOK at me! Can't you SEE that crafting is contagious?

Every crafting session does not need to be structured. The best results often come from free play using the supplies children see before them. Like, for example, when Iggy showed up unexpectedly to make himself a purr-fect pair of yellow pipe cleaner eyeglasses and then hung around to model them for the camera!

Finally, it's always fun to grow something. Whether it's a window sill sweet potato vine or a backyard family of sunflowers, gardening can be a multi-level learning experience. If I lived far from my grandchildren, I would send them a packet of seeds to plant. I would sow the identical ones in my own garden on the exact same day. Then I would initiate a race to see whose plants grew faster. My grand kids would tend their own seedlings, photograph them and email the pictures to me. We would compare measurements and write creatively about the progress we observe. I would probably not resist telling about the little family of gnomes I discovered living under the shelter of leaves in my own plot. I would encourage them to look very carefully for evidence of same amid their own plants. I might even sculpt some little clay critters wearing dandelion hats and leafy clothes as "evidence" that my little visitors exist! For now, my kids are near by and we share a pumpkin patch at my house. But even if all we end up producing is pumpkin leaves, it sure has been fun watching the excitement generated by our hopes of a huge October harvest. For the record, here's what our pumpkin leaf garden looks like today!

There! Have I been helpful to grandmas who seek "normal" ideas for "normal" people? I hope so, even though I remain puzzled about one thing. Usually people who seek "normal" ideas go to "normal" people for answers! Here, after all, we are a family that sharpens pencils for fun and owns a cat who makes and wears his own pipe cleaner eyeglasses. Now really. Be honest! Does any of that sound "normal" to you?


  1. Great post and some wonderful ideas! I'm like you and very lucky to have my granddaughter close by so that we can grow things together. My sister is not so lucky. She is in Michigan and her Grandchildren are in Virginia so I sent her your idea for growing things together in different places! I think that would be so much fun! And if I'm lucky I will get to see the pictures from both! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Oh my, I'm sitting here all choked up! Thank you for that wonderful review of my blog! That was very sweet of you to do and a much needed encouragement to me. I always enjoy reading your post, and your excitement over grand parenting is contagious. I love all your ideas today, and can't wait to see many many more.

  3. I'm in total agreement on the awesomeness of the grandma blogs you mentioned. There's so much to learn from the other grandmas with older (and MORE) grandkids.

    My grandson LOVES the air popcorn popper I got the family for Christmas. :D

  4. Hi I'mvisiting from GRAND Social linky and I'm so glad I found your blog although my granddaughter is only 9mths I am so looking forward to doing lots of crafty stuff with her. I look after my friend's grandson who's 20mths and have bubbles and water pistles, playdough and chunky crayons and have a great time with them.

  5. Welcome, Anne! Congratulations on your little granddaughter! You have many years of fun ahead of you. Crafting is so valuable because it teaches so many things besides creativity. But the best part for both of you will be that you are making things together! Best wishes!

  6. Hi, I'm visiting from The Grand Social. Love your "normal" ideas. I appreciate simple ideas like these. What child doesn't like bubbles? Love the little machine. Your grand babies are beautiful.

  7. I'm laughing out loud at your honest friend! I admit that I've occasionally had a bit of that feeling when visiting your blog. While I don't sit in front of the TV with my grandchildren (ugh!), I'm not as talented and creative as you are. Our crafts don't always turn out picture perfect, but we still have fun. Thanks for the wonderful mention!

  8. hahaha... I would like to say that air-popper machine have really saved you from trouble... anyways I am using it too and I feel so convenient while making popcorn.