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10 Fun ways to connect with your grandchildren this summer

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Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 07/23/20

Whether you're seeing each other in person or over video call, here are some suggestions to make special memories together.

The past few months have been a strange time for everyone, and grandparents are no exception. Many haven’t seen their beloved grandchildren in many months due to travel restrictions and social distancing precautions. Meanwhile, those who are seeing their grandchildren, because the families have joined together in a “quaranteam” or “quarantine pod,” may have found themselves doing much more child care than usual while schools and day cares are closed, or might even have been in charge of the grandchildren’s distance learning.

Whether you’re seeing your grandchildren virtually or in person, you can connect and strengthen your bond in plenty of ways, and bring a healthy dose of fun into their days! Here are 10 ways to have fun with your grandchildren this summer, either over video call or in person.

5 Ways to Have Fun Together over Video Call

Being on a video call with a small child is nothing like video chatting an adult! One minute they’ll be telling you something fun they did that day, and the next they’ll be crawling under the table making animal sounds or holding the phone up to their eyeball. Go into the call prepared for all manner of silly and rambunctious behavior!

The secret to success is to go along with whatever they start doing and have fun with it. Think of it as a real-life game of improvisation. Joking around with them, like “Oh no! Where’d you go? I can’t find you anywhere!” or continuing the game they’re playing, like “I hear you barking down there! Can you howl like a wolf? Quack like a duck? Wow!” will make the call lots of fun. Be prepared to roll with whatever shenanigans they pull and respond in a playful and lighthearted way. Meanwhile you can plan on these five activities to meaningfully connect over a video call.

1Tell them stories about your life.

Even very young children would love to hear stories about your childhood, especially anything funny or mischievous you did! They’d enjoy stories about their mom or dad as children too.

COMPUTER CHAT
Stivog | Shutterstock

2Play an imaginative game.

Learn a little bit about your grandchild’s favorite book, movie, or TV show and play that the two of you are characters from that world. I’ve seen the success of this strategy firsthand: My 6-year-old son loves superheroes, and occasionally my father-in-law calls him pretending to be Batman’s sidekick Robin, while my son is Batman, to talk at length about saving the day in Gotham City. It makes my son so happy!


GRANDPARENT SAINTS

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3Play show and tell.

Even a very little child can join in this simple activity that’s always a delight! Ask your grandchild to bring you something from their home to show you and tell you about it, and then you show off something of yours too. Whether it’s their favorite toy, a craft they made, or something silly like a spoon (because kids), this is an easy way to get to know each other better and get a peek into their daily lives.

4Read them a book.

You know reading aloud is so beneficial for kids, so keep reading together even from afar! You could even act out the story with little toys or mail your grandkids a copy of the book (perhaps with related activities like a coloring book or stickers of the main characters) to form a family book club over video chat.

COMPUTER
Africa Studio | Shutterstock

5Sing or dance together or do finger play games.

What toddler doesn’t love “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”? Even babies enjoy finger play games and older kids can show you all the ones they know. Plus finger play games help children learn to count, develop a sense of rhythm, and learn about the world around them. For older children, you could plan a dance party or sing-along.


GRAND-MERE AVEC SES PETITS-ENFANTS

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5 Fun Activities to Do In Person

If you’re lucky enough to be seeing your grandchildren in person this summer, you might be disappointed that your usual favorite “grandkid spots” like the zoo, the beach, museums, and playgrounds are closed. But you can still make special memories together at home or in the great outdoors!

The secret to success is to plan ahead so you can give them your full attention, and really savor and soak up the sweetness of this cute little person. Unlike their parents, you have the gift of perspective to know how short and fleeting is this time of them being so small and adorable. Spending time together in person is a chance to enjoy their littleness as fully as you can.

1Listen to their stories.

Chances are their mom and dad are a little tired of hearing them talk about the same things over and over, so they’ll appreciate a willing audience for their stories and observations! You might ask, “What do you want to talk about?” or “What’s your favorite thing you did today?” to get the conversation going. Listening with interest, and perhaps even saying something like “I love hearing what you have to say! Thank you for telling me about that!” is a surefire way to their hearts. 

2Play outside.

The zoo and playground might be closed, but the great outdoors is still available! And there’s no better place for kids to run, climb, learn, and grow.

Go out for a neighborhood walk, a short hike, or a scenic picnic together. Take your grandkids fishing for a really special experience: My parents took my kids fishing last month and it was a highlight of their summer! You might play sports with them if you feel up for it—most kids would love a game of soccer or catch! If it’s available near you, the beach or a miniature golf course are always fun.

FAMILY
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3Play a board game.

If you can’t get outside for whatever reason (it’s raining, too hot, etc.), play a great children’s board game together. Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Guess Who, Connect 4, The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel, SmartGames Little Red Riding Hood … there are so many fun options!

4Follow their lead.

“Follow the child” is a principle of Montessori education that applies to so many situations with children. If you’re not sure what to do, just ask them, “What do you want to play?” And go along with their ideas, while enjoying their playfulness and creativity.

grandmother and granddaughter
By Ollyy/Shutterstock

5Read to them.

This activity is important enough that it made it onto both the virtual and in-person lists! Reading aloud is truly one of the very best ways to connect with a child, especially if you talk about the book afterward and perhaps do some games or activities based on it. You might make a point of seeking out favorite books from your or your children’s childhoods to share with the next generation. This is the stuff of which wonderful, lasting memories are made. 


LEWIS LEIGH

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