The first Sunday after Labor Day is Grandparents Day. Like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, it is a time for family celebrations and a chance to honor the important roles grandparents play in our children’s lives. It’s a day to reflect on the impact grandparents have had on our own destiny and on society as a whole. In that spirit, we will help you celebrate the Grands in your life with traditional activities for the whole family.
Art projects, movies, and walks around the neighborhood are great, but it’s the special, original, offbeat activities that bring grandchildren and grandparents closer together. Personal traditions offer benefits that can help you connect and providing structure for building special relationships. These activities can also generate anticipation for fun and meaningful time together.
Here are some creative ways grandparents are bonding with their grandchildren through personal traditions. Adapt some of these tips for yourself, or create some new family traditions of your own.
Alice K, two grandchildren: My 3-year-old grandson, Stephen, loves reading about firefighters and fire stations, so about a year ago I started taking him to the local firehouse every so often. First, we stop at the supermarket to buy doughnuts or cookies for the squad. The crew talks with Stephen, flashes the lights for him, and sometimes lets him sit in a truck. I love that I’ve played a part in building on this interest he has, adding another dimension to it. And it’s also great to see him becoming aware of his community and connecting with the people around him.
Kathryn C, one grandchild: I started a journal for my four-year-old grandson even though he can’t write yet. When I sleep over, I ask him what he would like to remember about his day when he grows up, such as events that took place at his preschool. I write down his answer and he draws a picture on the following page. He loves it! I thought this was a good way to get him to tell me about his day, and when he’s older and learns to write, he can take over the journal.
Carolyn S, three grandchildren: Growing up, we had a small vegetable garden that my parents maintained; later, as an adult, when spring came each year, I would dig and plant. Our home has a large flower garden that I try to plant each Memorial Day with things that will bloom in the summer. My 3-year-old granddaughter, Katie, loves to help with this; in particular, digging holes for the plants, watering them, and looking for earthworms to rescue, she finds them fascinating! I cannot say enough about the reward for me. We have a wonderful bond that’s definitely enhanced by our gardening projects. She remembers every detail of what I tell her and what we do, and I can see that she likes to know that she’s participated in something special.
Molly S, six grandchildren: I’ve been an avid golfer all my life, so I’ve shared this with my grandchildren and several have started to show an interest in the game. Last year I had two grandkids visit for “Grandma Golf Camp,” a weeklong session I customized for them, featuring golf clinics with a pro, a private lesson and short game practice with me. The finale was a nine-hole event we played. We’ll do it again next summer and we may even play 18 holes.
Elizabeth M, five grandchildren: When I spend the night with my grandchildren, they like me to tell a story about my childhood instead of reading books to them before bed. Sometimes I also include stories about their father’s antics as a child, which they love even more! I’ve started to suggest that they each tell a few stories, too, about whatever they choose and it’s amazing what they come up with. I have enjoyed seeing their storytelling skills expand, as well as their creativity and imagination.
Start your own traditions with these guidelines.
1. Make a list of common interests you have with your grandchildren, as a starting point; then think about related activities that are simple, reproducible over time, and flexible enough to change or adapt as your grandchildren grow older.
2. Children tend to greatly value a connection to family roots, so they’re likely to love hearing about a tradition you had as a child, and replicating it themselves.
3. Give older grandchildren real input into designing a tradition together, they will be more invested in it and will want to keep it going. W