6/29/2022 | By Donna Brody

Experienced grandmom and writer Donna Brody shares suggestions for spending time with grandkids, from infants to teens, including important new childcare tips.

“Don’t blink.” Good advice for everyone in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world but especially for grandparents trying to hold on to precious memories with their grandchildren. Covid separation proved that family time is the most important time and not a minute should be wasted. But, how do grandparents make the most of those cherished hours or weekends with their grand kiddos? It helps to meet them at their age level.

Time with grandkids of all ages

Know today’s safety recommendations for infants

granddad holding baby up in the air. photo by Anastassiya Bezhekeneva, Dreamstime. Experienced grandmom and writer Janet Brody shares suggestions for spending time with grandkids, from infants to teens, including important new childcare tips.

Seeing a daughter or son walk through the door with a brand-new baby is to experience pure joy. Fortunately, infant care has not changed drastically in the last 40 years or so. Like riding a bike or driving a stick shift, all the rocking, singing, soothing, pacing, and feeding strategies come flooding back to grandparents as they hold their grandchild for the first time.

However, keep in mind that some things have changed. Babysitting grandparents should know it is no longer acceptable to put a child to sleep on their tummy or their side, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The safest way for an infant to sleep during their first year of life is always on their back. New grandparents may also need to learn to “swaddle” the infant, something the new mom or dad will be glad to demonstrate. Putting that little bundle to sleep on their back in a crib wrapped up like a burrito may seem foreign to grandma, but it does work.

Time with grandkids as toddlers means keeping up or adapting

At what seems like warp speed, the infant will become a toddler and the grandparents need to be ready for this change. After a few weeks of wobbly steps holding onto a coffee table or couch, that toddling grandchild takes off running.

Physically fit grandparents may be able to keep up, but those with some physical limitations should think about playing with the toddler in a confined space. Baby gates or portable play yards have replaced the playpens parents relied on years ago. Strollers today are better constructed with higher bars for pushing and lots of compartments to make long walks easier for all. Toddlers still love listening to grandma or grandpa singing silly songs, building towers with blocks and knocking them down, racing toy cars across the floor, or feeding baby dolls. Having grandma or grandpa join in these activities, especially doing them over and over, will delight any toddler. Getting down to their level by sitting on the floor or on a low pillow or chair is ideal.

Spending time in play advances with preschoolers

grandparents playing board game with grandkids. Photo by Monkey Business Images, Dreamstime. Experienced grandmom and writer Janet Brody shares suggestions for spending time with grandkids, from infants to teens, including important new childcare tips.

Toddlers grow fast, and soon the preschool years arrive. The ages of 3 to 5 might be the most fun for grandparents. Whose heart won’t melt when they hear their grandchild say, “I want Papa,” or “Grandma, hold me.” Playing with children this age opens up all kinds of new possibilities. Doing arts and crafts projects (think stringing beads on pipe cleaners or gluing macaroni to paper), drawing and coloring, and playing board and card games (Old Maid and Go Fish can be found in dollar stores everywhere) are very popular with preschoolers.

Another activity to introduce at this age is cooking. Preschool aged children can handle mixing and rolling cookies for baking, assemble a salad, or put together a sandwich. Some grandparents plan tea parties for their young grandchildren using fancy table linens and china.

Related: Time with grandkids in the kitchen

Preschoolers also enjoy playing “beauty shop” by fixing grandma’s hair or applying pretend make-up. By preschool age, most kids have been introduced to television, so they now have a huge group of animated friends. Want to impress a preschooler? Learn the names of all their favorite characters from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (a Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood spinoff!), Peppa Pig, and of course, the Paw Patrol and My Little Pony. Knowing the correct names makes playing with those dozens of plastic characters your preschool grandchild has acquired a lot more fun. The possible adventures are endless.

School daze and time with grandkids

Grandparents with school age grandkids on a walk in a forest. Grandmom and writer Janet Brody shares suggestions for spending time with grandkids, from infants to teens, including new childcare tips.

When the kindergarten and elementary school years arrive, grandparents might be dismayed to find the games with imaginary friends they invented and the toys they so painstakingly shopped for have become a thing of the past for their grandchildren. Elementary school children have lots of new interests including sports, extra-curricular activities like dance and music lessons, and even chores. School-aged children love having a cheering audience at ball games and recitals, so these become a new part of the grandparents’ routine. Offering to chauffeur the kids to their various programs can also be a big help to working parents.

Most parents encourage their kids to help out with chores, and grandparents can benefit there, too. If it is okay with Mom and Dad, pay the grandkids to mow the lawn, pull weeds in the garden, wash the car, or help with grocery shopping. This can also help them learn about managing money.

Elementary-aged kids and highschoolers still enjoy playing board games with parents, grandparents, and siblings, and activities like mini-golf, go carts, and visits to theme parks will appeal to the whole family.

The teen challenges and tips

grandparents traveling with teen grandson. Photo by Vito Cervo, Dreamstime. Grandmom and writer Janet Brody shares suggestions for spending time with grandkids, from infants to teens, including new childcare tips.

Teen years are unarguably the most challenging for parents, but maybe not so much for grandparents. Camping and fishing are two activities some experienced grandparents shared for spending time with grandkids as teens. Shopping and having lunch are also popular, at least with granddaughters. One grandmother said her five teen grandchildren formed an assembly line to make strawberry jam. Another said taking long car trips and talking, especially sharing stories of when the kid’s parents’ and the grandparents were young, led to some great memories. Board games and card games like 500 Rummy remain popular, and poker and dice games can be added to the mix with a teen grandkid.

One note of caution if you are hosting grandchildren from different households at the same time: there may be varying rules regarding sharing toys, eating sweets, bedtimes, etc. Check with all the parents involved and then establish rules for Grandma and Grandpa’s house to ensure everyone has the best experience.

Spending time with grandkids and making memories is one of the biggest rewards of getting older.

Donna Brody

Donna Brody is a former community college English instructor who retired to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She enjoys freelance writing and has self published three romance novels. Besides writing and traveling with her husband, she keeps busy visiting her seven grandchildren.

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