I really love my time with my grandchildren, ages 7 and 5. This summer we have planned Camp Susan on Mondays and Wednesdays.
We are together from around 9:30 in the morning to 3:30 or so.
Being with children of all ages is my passion. My own kids have always called me a “kid magnet.” Invariably, wherever I am, kids tend to smile, play and interact with me. I love it!
It’s easy for me, but not all grandparents feel like a sunfish in the lake like I do. Sometimes friends ask, “What do you do with your grandkids?” They feel a little overwhelmed at the idea of spending time with their youngest grandchildren and usually say something like, “I’ll be great when they are around 10, but I have no idea what to do with them now!”
I think there is the fear that they will have to play with LEGOs or dolls, be “childish,” that the kids will be bored, or that they have to be just like the kids’ parents. It just isn’t so….. kids love being with their grandparents. We’re not busy with the daily parental grind, so it can be pure fun. There is time and the ability to “just be.” And, from the kids’ point of view we have such interesting faces, soft cozy laps and arms, great stories about when we were kids– and even hilarious ones about their parents!
One of the best and easiest ways to plan is simply to ask the kids what they would like to do with you! Early in the summer the three of us brainstormed a gigantic list of all the things we wanted to do. I wrote it all down. We called the list “Adventures.” Kids love making lists of their ideas. They feel heard, and it gives their thoughts real importance.
Here are our top 5 choices:
Mess around in forests.
Play and swim at the beach.
Take a bus or train to museums.
Not a LEGO in sight! With these and the other 54 things on our list I could see that we had three strong categories: nature adventures, art adventures and taking buses and trains to cool places and museums adventures.
Here is a sample “Nature Adventure” that we shared this week:
First: Choose a location and make a plan the day before or even just an hour before.
The kids had discovered their own “secret forest” in the rough edges of nature off the playground at a birthday party the day before. Even though we had plans to visit a farm, I was happy to shift gears. They were jumping out of their skins to show me their find.
Prep: Ask parents to pack a lunch and sun screen the kids before you get there. Parents are the best with sunscreen! They’ll even sunscreen you in the process.
Packing list: Cut up veggies and fresh fruit. Lots! In zip lock bags. Peeled and cut carrots taste lots better than the pre-packed faux baby ones. Slice up a whole cucumber, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, whole apples, grapes, cherries, blueberries… Leave out the candy and cookies. Your time together is sweet enough, and you never know when an ice cream truck might show up.
Wet towels in a zip lock bag. Band aids. Money. Handful of tissues.
Cell phone. Two pieces of printing paper, a pen, tape and a few paper clips always come in handy.
Their very own forest. Actually, they had fallen in love with an amazing area with three distinct habitats! We spent four hours exploring sand dunes, rocky wilderness and forest all within yards of Lake Michigan. Sliding down the dunes, spotting a bunny and even dumping all the sand out of their shoes was great fun. Much of the time I was quietly present at a distance, allowing them be totally free to experience the challenges of traversing steep paths, climbing on rocks and balancing without my input.
Key elements to having fun with grandkids?
Mutually chosen location in raw nature
Water and sand or dirt
Cut up veggies
Observation and listening skills
Stories, songs and smiles
Understanding and flexibility
Actually, I think these are my key elements to having fun by myself or with anyone.
Hope this post has given you food for thought, and I would love to hear about your own grandkid adventures!
© Susan Caruso and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2013
Not only did you stay away from Legos, but you didn’t even mention video games or texting! I know they are too little to text, but soon texting may be all the rage in the 3 year old’s life~ (Listening to you makes me miss my grandchildren even more.) How lucky they are to have a grandma like you and to have Camp Susan in their lives. Lovely blog. Thanks,Susan.
I love the idea of brainstorming about simple, unplugged summer adventures. The boys are excited for my parents’ visit later this month, and I will suggest that they brainstorm together!