Fay Klingler is the author of “The LDS Grandparents’ Idea Book.” She shares fun grandparent getaway ideas and ways to make the day successful!
What are grandparent getaways? They are opportunities for grandparents to get away with grandchildren without the parents. It may be for several days or just a few hours. It may be at their house, your house, or somewhere in the community. Wherever it is, grandparent getaways can be a choice time you and your grandchildren look forward to, share, and remember fondly.
KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL GETAWAY:
1. Watch Your Attitude
2. Look at Your Options
3. Make the Necessary Preparations
4. Remember You Are Not in Competition with Other Grandparents
5. Watch Your Attitude
Watch Your Attitude
Successful grandparent getaways start with the right attitude. The most important gift you can give to your family as an event-takeaway is the joyful memory of grandma/grandpa’s emotionally healthy attitude.
Start with feelings. Ask yourself, “What do I hope the grandchildren feel when they attend this event?” Then ask, “How do I want to feel when they leave?” If your goal is for the grandchildren to feel welcome, accepted, and loved and for you to feel happy and fulfilled, then you have to prepare your attitude and your activity to accomplish that goal. Both your body language and your mouth must convey a feeling of safety to those who choose to attend.
Sometimes the event is focused on the grandchildren just having fun. So I plan numerous activities I think they would enjoy together. At times my goal is for us to work together and feel the natural resulting camaraderie. But if I want to facilitate the well-being and happiness of my family, one thing is sure—my attitude will make all the difference.
Look at Your Options
In planning grandparent getaways, consider the following:
• Do you have a specific goal—something you want to accomplish with this activity?
• What activities lend to your disposition and health?
• How much room do you have for an activity?
• How much energy can you provide?
• How much time can you invest?
• How much money can you use?
• Will this activity work best with many or only a few children, and will age make a difference?
• Will this event become a tradition?
Make the Necessary Preparations
Each activity has its own set of challenges and details to work out, but some of the common elements to determine are the following:
• What date works best for the most people?
• What time?
• How many people should you expect?
• Where can you hold the event; do you have room or will you need to rent or arrange for a facility?
• What special equipment do you need?
• How should you extend your invitations—phone calls, e-mails, written letters?
• How much advance notice will your family need?
It’s a cliché to say it, but it is true; all families are busy. So giving your family members enough notice helps to see more in attendance. However, because of in-laws, illness, finances, or other reasons, no matter how close your family is, there might be members who are unable to attend. Instead of berating those who do not come, focus on understanding their reasons and point of view and on being grateful for those who do attend.
Remember You Are Not in Competition with Other Grandparents
Each of your grandchildren is unique. Building a close relationship with some will be easier than with others, but it will not be determined by how well you “one up” the other grandparents!
Granted, much is out of your control. By that I mean your grandchild’s parents play a key role in determining how much influence you have on their child simply because of their biased (favorable/unfavorable) attitudes and their ability to control how much (or how little) opportunity/time you can spend with the grandchild.
Your influence and relationship with your grandchildren comes about as you share your heart and time. They sense your sincerity when you say, “I love you,” whether you provide big/many activities or small/few get-togethers.
In my case, at the present time, having thirty-one grandchildren, I’m spread pretty thin! The numbers often regulate what I can offer or plan to do and how spontaneous I can be in putting an activity together. It would be unfair for me to compare myself to another grandmother who has four grandchildren and often has them over for sleepovers. I could, however, if my health and disposition allowed, plan for a sleepover with a certain age group of my grandchildren, limiting the numbers involved.
Watch Your Attitude
Pay attention to those things you can do instead of those you cannot. Be a solution seeker, considering all your options. Your attitude may significantly impact how your grandchild views the challenges of life.
Remember, the bottom line is that you can have a great deal of influence doing small and simple things. Even a smile and hug can make a difference. Your goal is not to put on a show. It is to be an asset to your grandchildren in bringing them happiness, a listening ear, happy memories, and a clear sense of safety and love.
GRANDPARENT GETAWAY IDEAS
You will find many ideas for grandparent getaways in my book—The LDS Grandparents’ Idea Book. But here are a few suggestions to get you started.
1. Share a Message: “Grandchild Dinner and Talent Night”
Consider inviting your older grandchildren, say between the ages of 8 and 18, to your home. Extend a personal invitation to each grandchild. Ask them to come in their Sunday best and bring a talent to share. You might ask the parents to drive the grandchildren to the activity and plan to have you take them home when the activity is over. Give the parents a suggested time frame so they will have an idea when to expect their children home.
When we did this activity this past winter, while we had our grandchild activity, my daughter and son-in-law went on a movie-date night, enjoying their time together without any children at home.
For our grandchildren, we prepared a nice dinner, not the paper-plate kind, but the china-and-crystal variety. We talked about good manners and how much we enjoy having our grandchildren with us. Then we had each child share a talent. We told our grandchildren how proud we are of them and how happy we are to see their skills developing. They really had some nice things to show us.
2. Address a Need: “Summer Fieldtrips”
When there is a need in your family, such as illness, new baby, or necessary travel for parents (such as funeral attendance or investigating an area for a move) and you have the grandchildren, make the time together fun for all of you. You might be surprised at the number of shop owners who welcome teaching children about their trade.
Last summer, my daughter was quite ill. So she could rest, I arranged to have her sons with me every Wednesday. My daughter-in-law and I organized fieldtrips for the boys and a few of their cousins. In the process of having fun, we all learned a lot about a variety of subjects.
Our first field trip was a guided tour of a grocery store. We learned about the deli section, and the children were treated to a sample ice cream cone. In other sections of the store, we learned about fresh fruits and vegetables, where foods are placed in the back of the store before being brought out to the shelves, how cold the dairy case is maintained, sanitary conditions in the meat market, how to cut cheese, and what is produced in the bakery.
The children received sample cartons of orange juice, donuts, cheese, and balloons. It was a great field trip!
Our second field trip was to an ice cream shop. Yum! The children really enjoyed that! We went in the back room and learned how ice cream is made, tasted the fresh, creamy product, and saw how ice cream cakes are stored in the freezer. The children were allowed to sample different flavors and purchase their own mixture.
Third, we went to the basement of the BYU Museum of Art and learned all about how the displays are put together. We watched a framer using a special brush to put gold leaf on a large frame. We learned about the different saws used to cut the frames and how the artwork is safely stored. The grandchildren each took home a small piece of framing wood. Wow! That was a real educational trip for the adults and the children.
Our fourth field trip was horseback riding, which was a delight for everyone.
The fifth week, we visited a pizza shop. We were taught how to fold pizza boxes, make pizza dough, put on the toppings, and bake the pizza in huge ovens with conveyer belts. Each grandchild was allowed to make his or her own pizza to take home.
Next we enjoyed a backyard picnic and swimming party.
The following week, we visited a shoe repair shop and learned about the special sewing machines and paraphernalia used to repair shoes, boots, purses, and other goods.
Next we went to a flower shop where we learned the art of flower arranging.
The fire department field trip was great! We learned what fireman and ambulance workers do and when to contact them.
We then went to visit a candy manufacturer. Even the small babies had to wear hairnets. That extensive tour taught us all about candy making on a large scale. After the tour, we purchased sweet snacks to eat when we got home.
Our last field trip of the summer was playing miniature golf. Here we stressed being fair and kind and taking turns. All in all, the grandchildren learned a lot, enjoyed each other’s company, and were pleasingly occupied so my daughter got her rest.
3. Enjoy Nature: “Take a Hike”
There are times year-round when the weather allows outdoor activities. You might take two or three grandchildren at a time on a hike to enjoy and discover nature. Exploring nature can be comforting, uplifting, and liberating in any season. Spring is a particularly good time of year. There is so much to see as nature awakens from a cold season. Listen for and point out the sights, sounds, and smells. Do you see the many hues of green in the landscape? Can you identify and name the birds by the sounds you hear? Do you recognize by the smell the lavender growing freely on the hillside?
One of my grandchildren is in a daycare five days a week. Last week, I picked him up and took him with his cousin on a hike along the Jordan River. The expression on his face and the hug he spontaneously gave me when I picked him up was worth the effort I put into the whole day. Wow, he made me feel like a million dollars!
On the hike, we witnessed a man catch a fish, felt the wind in our hair, smelled spring flowers, and watched white, billowy clouds float by. We ate snacks, sitting on a bench along the trail, picked up a lady bug, and laughed as we chased golden butterflies.
When we got home, we made paper butterflies, ate cookies while sitting on the porch swing, and played ball in the backyard. Ah, happy, sweet memories . . .
To help them remember the fun we had, I took pictures, laminated them, and mailed the pictures to the grandchildren.
4. Teach a Skill: “Cooking with Grandma”
What is your favorite hobby or skill? Do you do carpentry work? Maybe you love music or enjoy gardening or cooking. Whatever your passion is, take the opportunity to share it with your grandchildren.
I love to bake, especially bread items. To celebrate National Pretzel Day (yes, there really is one, and you can find more information at homeschooling.about.com/cs/unitssubjhol/qt/apr26a.htm), I gathered a number of my grandchildren to make cheese and chocolate pretzels. They had a lot of fun rolling and shaping the dough, experimenting with what to put on it, and seeing the finished product come out of the oven.
One grandchild was overwhelmed with the number of children at the table. So I sent some dough home with him where it would be a little quieter and he could enjoy making the pretzels with his mother. Not just because of this grandchild, but because I had difficulty answering every grandchild’s questions and really noticing with a smile each grandchild’s finished product, I decided the next time I did this activity I would limit it to a certain age group, making the numbers more manageable.
5. Build Camaraderie and a Sense of Security:”Cousin Pajama Party”
Certain age groups love sleepovers! One grandmother built a family tradition by having sleepovers.
Once a year we invite our grandchildren over for a slumber party. We usually make honey taffy, do a take-home craft, or play games. They bring their bedrolls and sleep on the floor of our family room. In the morning we all work together and have fun in the kitchen fixing a big breakfast (The LDS Grandparents’ Idea Book, p. 85, Fay A. Klingler, Spring Creek Book Company).
(For a more extensive sleepover/slumber party, refer to The LDS Grandparents’ Idea Book, pp. 97-99, for a description of a true “Grandfather’s Camp.”)
You might turn a sleepover into a cousin pajama party. For younger children, in the evening, consider reading Dr. Seuss’ book Green Eggs and Ham. Then in the morning, serve ham with green eggs or green pancakes.
For a little older group, you might take pictures of each grandchild in the evening. Then in the morning after breakfast, have each grandchild make up a page about himself or herself to go in a time capsule that will be opened in an agreed number of years. On the pages you could include: a picture of the grandchild (that you took the night before), his or her drawing of what he or she thinks he or she will look like in the future, personal written predictions for two years from now, and his or her own descriptions of:
Or you might have the grandchildren help you write a story and put their pictures on the pages they helped with. You start the first page of the story and leave blanks for the part the grandchildren are to fill in. The story builds from what was written on the first page. Later, make and distribute to each grandchild a copy of the story. (Note on the sample, the underlined part was the part the grandchildren filled in.)
Or you might have a scrapbook fair so every grandchild that day takes home a tangible remembrance of the get-together. Include pictures of all the cousins in attendance with information about each one, somewhat similar to the time capsule, but in miniature form. (Note the personal information suggestions on the sample scrapbook page.)
Whatever you plan, your grandchildren will fondly remember the time you spent with them. Spending quality time and making positive, consistent, emotional connections is better than any thing or amount of money you might give them.
Fay A. Klingler appears as a guest speaker on radio and television shows across the nation and offers unfailing advice to seminar participants. Her expertise ranges from betrayal recovery to blending families and successful grandparenting. Her bestselling book The LDS Grandparents’ Idea Book includes over 400 ideas of things to do with grandchildren. Fay and her husband, Larry, have twelve children and thirty-one grandchildren in their blended family.