Saturday, May 28, 2016

13 "Grandma + Me" Summer Ideas!

Current exhibit:
"Invasive Species!"

An anonymous fellow grandma friend insists I use her case study as the intro to this post. She has a great sense of humor, self diagnosing as woefully deficient at entertaining grandchildren in a fun and fulfilling way. She blames years of "corporate bossiness" for her condition. "But I'm just not domestic and crafty like yoooou are!" she wails. "What should I dooooo with them after we get home from the zooooo?" 

Oh, geez, Louise! (not her real name!) Haven't you ever heard of cookie dough or a dollar store glow stick or a home made sock puppet?

I promised "Louise" a handful of ideas to use this summer. And I guaranteed her that my list wouldn't include "Take them to the zoo!" That lame directive pops up on top of every list screaming "TEN Fresh Ideas for Grandparents!" Come on, people! What kind of a grandma doesn't already dooooo thaaaaat on her own? That's what zoos (and their amply stocked gift shops!) are made for anyway!

Try these instead:

1. Make a cardboard box doll house. This one's an ongoing project that will have you working side by side with your grandchild for weeks. You'll utilize scraps of lace for curtains, clear plastic packaging material for windows, toothpaste boxes for sofas, bottle caps for kitchen stools and fabric scraps for carpeting. Recycling. Designing. Measuring. Dreaming. Remodeling. It's all there. My sisters and I each made our own one year after mother came home with a discontinued wallpaper book. I still remember the red flocked huge fleur de lis pattern I selected for my shoe box living room - the "cat's pajamas" to an eight year old of that era. I wonder today, in horror, if anyone actually ever papered their walls with it. Probably. It was the 50s!

If a doll house isn't appealing, turn the box into a Natural History Museum showcasing backyard finds, or a school classroom, art museum or playhouse for a pet cat.

Our Nature Museum is an ongoing project. Cousins add and subtract as seasons change and new finds are discovered.

If you don't want to bother with the fine details, escort your kids into a room filled with cardboard boxes of every shape and size (the bigger, the better!). Add only a roll of wide masking tape and let the constructing begin! Make tunnels and bridges and places to hide. When you're done, fold them all up and lead a good citizen patrol to the community recycling station.

2. Cook age appropriate things together, then create a recipe book that includes photos of the children at work. Provide watercolors for decorating each page. Bind everything together at the spine with ribbon scraps laced and tied through punched holes. Lovely gift for parents!

3. Visit the public library and bring home a huge stack of kids' books covering a range of fiction and non-fiction topics. Design a photo library card for each child and invite them to browse the cardboard box shelves you've stocked. Initiate a reading club and offer a reward for every ten books completed. Create a cozy reading tent with draped blankets and/or bean bag chairs and a flashlight or camping lantern. Install a cardboard box book drop and a kid sized desk and let grandchildren take turns working. Host a story time. Turn your library into a family resource by collecting books and magazines from everyone and include adults as borrowers - serviced (and late-fined!) by the kids, of course! Here's the one I made - now entering its second successful year!

4. Turn your neighborhood walk into an active scavenger hunt. Send grandpa to hide messages beforehand along the path you'll take. Read clues to the kids to direct them to each find. Make messages directing crazy challenges for the entire group (you too, grandma!) such as:

10 jumping jacks!
Sing "If You're Happy and You Know It" as loudly as you can
Spy something yellow (or shiny, or prickly, or sticky, or fuzzy)
Hold hands and skip for 20 seconds
Point to three things that start with "H"
Take one turn each to lead "Simon Says"
Do the "Hokey Pokey!"
Find three bugs each
Go trick-or-treating right now at the house in front of you!*

Yes, the goal is to make a spectacle of yourselves! Leave a trail of neighbors peering out of windows, smiling away at kids fortunate enough to have such a fun goofball for a grandma! (Or wondering if they should lock their doors. That, too, I suppose!)

*Okay, this one does need an explanation! I'm lucky enough to have a fellow neighborhood grandma who agreed to be in on the prank! She dressed as a princess, answered the door, and handed out jumbo candy bars to my kiddoes as if spontaneous trick-or-treating on a balmy afternoon in July was the most normal thing on earth! This year it's my turn to reciprocate when her grandkids show up on my porch!

5. Teach something unique that the kids will always identify with just you. How about a new way to communicate? - American Sign Language - Morse Code - common phrases in a second language - Hieroglyphics - your own invented secret language! My two sisters and I did this, becoming quite fluent speaking "Sister-ish" in public! We authored a pictorial dictionary, adding and practicing new words every day. Wrote songs in our language, too! I still recall many of our descriptive sentences. "Newmon ooff doe gantzie!" ("Telephone for you!") That's from the old days, you know! Phones with a cord were attached to the wall!

Enrich school skills by introducing Roman Numerals or tales from Roman and Greek mythology. Identify classical music. Hold a Swan Lake dance party with silky scarves to wave or decorated wrapping tube wands to twirl up a storm of majestic beauty! March to The Nutcracker. Peter and the Wolf is rich with instruments to recognize and animal behavior to mimic. Display the work of famous artists and discuss them until the kids converse easily about Warhol, DaVinci, Cezanne and Michelangelo. Hang a few Monet prints on a clothesline in the living room and refer to it as the "Monet Gallery" until the works are familiar. Then add another room and artist. Make a Bingo game of significant works and play it together.

6. Guide your grandchildren to give to a good cause. Plant catnip in your backyard and care for it. In the meantime, show the kids (boys too!) how to hand sew small fabric square pouches that will eventually be stuffed with a little polyester filling and a few sprigs of the dried plant. Deliver the completed toys to an animal shelter or sell them at a garage sale for donations to a pet rescue.

7. Contribute to family game night by creating original fun to play at home. Make something as simple as "Familiar Faces Bingo" (family member photos on squares) or a board game that twists and turns with challenge cards that feature inside jokes:
"Oops! Someone forgot to clean the litter box! Go back 3 spaces."
"Can you believe it? Everybody's got their jammies on and it's only 8 PM! Move up 5 spaces!"

8. Going out together after dark is awesome fun! Hide glow-in-the-dark lizards (or glow sticks with rubbery critters attached) and search for them. Then come inside and make plastic jar habitats for them with mini cactus plants and glow-in-the-dark "moonstones" or stick-on stars. Use as soothing night lights.

9. Crafty Grab-Bagging! Go Pinterest-ing for a variety of simple craft projects. Find at least 3 per child. Place directions and supplies inside individual paper bags and tie with a length of yarn. Hang a group of individual bags to the underside of a light fixture, patio umbrella or the branches of a tree. (If needed, mark some for "boys," others for "girls.") Children will cut down one bag at a time and complete the project inside. When parents arrive to pick their kids up, invite them in to view an exciting craft show.

Here's a few ideas:
Stamp pad, paper and marker for making thumbprint animals
Sock puppet
Popsicle stick doll furniture
Paper tube race car
Bird seed ornament
Origami paper and instruction sheet
Wood scrap blocks, bottle caps, glue and directions for robot sculpture
Strips of colorful paper, glue stick and wiggle eyes to make paper chain snake

10. Food Sculpting Lunch Event! Cut trays of veggies and fruit. Supply pretzel sticks, crackers, cheese cubes and small bowls of cream cheese tinted with food color. Create little houses, bugs and animals using cream cheese as glue. Healthy munching while you work? Yep! That's lunch!

11. Ladybug Launch! Take kids on a hike to find ladybug-shaped stones, then paint them. Print "Good Luck!" on the bottom of each one, or "welcome!" on ones destined for new neighbors. Go for an after dark walk together to hide the bugs in semi-conspicuous places in the neighborhood. Indicate spots where bugs are left on a pre-drawn map. Speculate on which ones might be found, then check the next night to see if you guessed correctly. Small and cute. That is all.

12. Create an ongoing family newspaper or single edition magazine with editorial offices at your house. Brainstorm for stories, then compile raw material into published editions. Include a calendar of family events, puzzles, art work and creative writing. Make it extra fun by awarding a prize to the first reader who calls in with the correct answer to "Find the Fake News Story and Win!"

13. And finally, yes! You you do have my "permission" to take those grandkids to the zoo! Attack that gift shop, ride that train, feed that giraffe and come home sticky fingered in cotton candy and frosty-faced in gooey goodness. Fall asleep in the car on the way back - right alongside the kids!*
* Designated grandpa-driver a "must-invite!" - he'll get you "kids" home safely!

And again, for the record, "Louise" you don't need to be "domestic" or "crafty" in order to complete any of these 13 tasks. I don't share a single moment of your corporate boardroom experience, yet I am still quite capable of bossing people around!......

UPDATE! I found another great source of ideas for grandparent-child interaction. This one focuses on clever things to do before and after visits from long distance family members. A "days-to-the-next-visit" candy jar, "acts of kindness" day, and "hidden notes left behind" are all favorites of mine from an engaging list of ten you'll find here at Kay and Leslie's GrandparentsLink blog!

FURTHER UPDATE! are even more new ideas from Kay and Leslie! In this 2017 batch, I like the "Grandma's Salon" experience, time capsule making, and especially the Boy Scout badge earning suggestion.

But why the latter? What is it about Boy Scouts that piques my interest and swells me up with pride? Hmmm....these two, perhaps?....pictured on the May 2017 evening they advanced from wolf to bear pack? :)

AND THE FUN CONTINUES! Click here for a great group activity invented by my friend, Connie, at Hill House Homestead. She has organized a clue based scavenger hunt that employs a home made decoder. Kids really have to put on their thinking caps and work together in teams to enjoy this delightful adventure! - it's one that I can't wait to try with my own grandkids!


  1. you are very creative woman Love from Poland

  2. If only I had lived next door to you when the grands were little. They would have loved you more than me. :-) Camping adventures were always popular then but the wonderfulness of the cardboard box was tops with my granddaughter. We had them in the attic for years and would drag them down and then put them away. My grandson was born in the video game era and looked at a cardboard box like I surely was nuts. Well, we know the answer to that, but I could never convince him there was any merit to a plain old box waiting to become something wonderful. Glad you're back and hope you had a marvelous time. :-)

  3. Hello, these are all great creative ideas for the summer. I think the kids would be happy doing any or all of these fun things. The zoo is fun too. Happy Memorial Day! Happy Sunday, enjoy your new week ahead!

  4. What a bunch of fun ideas! Thanks for sharing at the DIY party on Pleasures of the NW!

  5. More fun than you can shake a stick at - love the ideas. I've been doing lady bug rocks too - but for myself. But now I want to hide some around the neighborhood - that will be fun - off I go - to paint more ladybugs. Wonder what I should put on the bottom -hmmmmmm. I like good luck to start with.

  6. LOL Joyce you are as always, amazing!! XO

    I DID do a creative thing today...but not to your scale, ha ha. I fried up some home made onion rings and shared with them down the street. FIRST TIME making that's my creative miracle for the day / nothing ever equals yours m'dear:)

  7. So many ways to spend time with the grands. Going to the zoo - a favorite we love to do. Today our creativity was taking the littles to a skate park and let them race their cars on the slopes. They had a ball. Thanks for sharing at Tuesday Talk.

  8. I am NOT crafty so I really LOVE all of your ideas. I think I will tackle that museum when 2 grandsons from NC stay a few days in July. Why didn't I think of the cookbook!!! I better get on that. Thank you again for your wonderful ideas

  9. LOL I wonder how long it took for that kitty to pose SO PERFECTLY!! Just too cute!

  10. You've got such great ideas! I especially like the catnip idea, the plastic jar habitats, and the lady bug rock. I'm making an area in my yard into a flower garden. A flock of these painted by my grandchildren would be a perfect addition!

  11. What a great list! Amara's school has a garden and they have a RAK Club that I think would love the catnip idea! They could even sell them at the holiday boutique or just donate them to the animal shelter.

  12. You are one of the most creative people on Blogger :) have a great Monday!

  13. These are all such great ideas and look so much fun to do with the kids! Thanks for sharing at the Inspiration Spotlight party. Have a great week ahead. Pinned & shared.