By Molly DeFrank, Crosswalk.com
It’s hard to imagine a lovelier relationship on earth than between a grandparent and their grandchild. I’ve heard more than a few folks describe grandparenthood as “a reward for all the hard years put in as parents."
While I don’t know what it’s like to BE a grandparent (yet, as my oldest child is 10), I have experienced the joy of being a grandchild. I’ve also experienced the delight of watching my own kids savor time with their grandmothers and grandfathers.
The best memories with my own grandparents were the simple ones: grandma teaching me to play jacks, telling me stories of my parents when they were kids. I’ll always remember my grandfather telling jokes, grandma recounting stories of growing up in Brooklyn, and how her eyes sparkled when she laughed and said, “God love ya!” Sleepovers with cousins in her tiny living room will be some of my fondest memories.
As I watch my kids bond with their own grandparents, I’ve observed some beautiful ways they have bonded. Interestingly, just like in my own childhood, my kids’ favorite memories with their grandparents are in the simple stuff. Here are some ways they’ve solidified their relationships, and ideas simple enough for any grandparents to do with their grandchild.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Yakobchuk Olena
1. Play Catch
The kind of repetition and patience required for teaching a child how to swing a bat or throw a baseball is exactly the kind of patience moms of young kids are short on. I watched from inside as my husband’s father quietly and patiently taught my son to swing a bat, pitching bucket after bucket of whiffle balls on the lawn. My son will carry these memories with him forever.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Andrey Popov
2. Eat Donuts
My dad had a Saturday morning tradition with his grandkids. Whenever we would visit from out of town, he’d take them to get donuts. He’d let the kids pick out their favorites and then bring home a pink box brimming with sugary yumminess. The kids looked forward to “donuts with Pop-pop.” While my dad isn’t with us any longer, we think of him every time we visit a donut shop.
© Unsplash/Kobby Mendez
3. Cook Together
This can be as simple as preparing a box of Duncan Hines cupcakes or assembling a microwaved quesadilla. Reading Mastering the Art of French Cooking is not required to bond with your grandchild. It’s all about logging time together in the kitchen, creating space to make memories.
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4. Play a Board Game
Today’s kids have no shortage of games and entertainment available. But research is showing that face-to-face interaction is on the decline. And this is the very thing that builds character, trust and empathy—not to mention relationships that cross generational lines. If you can’t readily find a board game you both love, keep trying! There is no end to the options available for all ages: Connect Four, Sequence, Scrabble, Boggle, Monopoly, Uno.
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5. Watch Their Favorite Show Together
What are the kids into these days? You might find it boring, OR, you may learn something new about your grandchild. He loves Shark Tank? Do you have a budding entrepreneur on your hands? Maybe you started your own business long ago and have a lot of wisdom to pass on to this child. Tracking and following their interests creates a valuable point of connection.
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6. Show Up at Their Sporting Events
A cheering voice on the sidelines means more to kids than we know. Even if they don’t realize it during the game or track meet, years from now they will think back and remember your applause, your support, that you searched for parking in a crowded lot, walked across fields and sat for hours, all because you care.
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7. Teach Them Your Trade or Hobby
My husband’s grandmother is talented at cross stitch. When I married into his family, I was struck that both of her granddaughters had taken up cross-stitch, too. These women bonded while creating something beautiful. Whether that’s cross-stitch or cooking; woodworking or golf, you have valuable skills that would be wonderful to pass along to the next generation. Even better, watch how you bond as you teach your expertise.
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8. Tell Your Story
Tell your story, and stories of your parents and grandparents. You’ve lived a lifetime of lessons, love and losses. Pass those on to your offspring. While they might be less receptive to a list of dos and don’ts, watch them listen intently to your life’s ups and downs. They’ll glean the lessons from the stories you’ve lived.
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9. Talk about Your Favorite Books
My grandparents passed away years ago. But we are so grateful that my husband’s grandparents live in town. We see them almost every Sunday. His grandmother and I share a love of reading. Comparing books with her is one of my favorite things to do. She has been reading for much longer than I have. I soak up her book recommendations and love hearing her insight on what makes for a great book club.
There are thousands of great activities for grandchildren and grandparents to enjoy together. What activity you do is less important than logging time with your loved one. Face-to-face interaction and bonding with grandkids changes their lives. The generational impact you can have as you deposit time, love and patience into your grandkids—it can’t be measured.
Josh Shipp said, “Kids spell trust: ‘t-i-m-e.’” The more time you spend with your grandkids—even if the time seems mundane—you are building their trust. As time goes on, these kids will be more receptive to your wisdom and advice. And since you’ve lived a long life and have wisdom to share, what a valuable opportunity to pass those lessons and stories onto the future generations, leaving a legacy of love and connection.
What kind of activities and experiences built memories with your grandparents when you were a child, or even as an adult? If you’re a grandparent, what are your favorite activities with your own grandchildren?
Photo Credit: © GettyImages/Yakobchuk Olena