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for grandparents & those who love them

Posted on July 1, 2010 by Christine Crosby in 

60 Summer Memory-makers

  1. March around the mall. Left with a three-year-old and his four-year-old cousin while the mothers shopped, I formed a three-man pantomime band with bass drum, guitar, and   trumpet and we paraded around the Palisades Mall – for nearly an hour — to my loud and off-key dut-da-da rendition of “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Broadway never called, but the children (including the ones who were spectators and, occasionally, participants for a moment or two) were briefly entertained.
  2. Take photographs.   Disposable cameras are cheap; digitals run a gamut of expense, but give the rush of seeing the pictures immediately. As a complement, after viewing the results of a shooting session, visit a photography gallery and learn through the lens of an artist.
  3. Paint pottery. Studios where you can paint your own pottery (prices for “raw” forms begin around $9) abound.   Most are individually owned; some are regional chains, as in The Clayroom in the Boston/Rhode Island/Connecticut area.
  4. Explore an old house.   Most towns have an official historic house to visit. Non-history buffs will be surprised at how fascinated children are by crank telephones, woodstoves, grandfather clocks, and ostrich-feather lamp shades.   (Outstanding choice: the 151-year-old Rengstorff House inMountain View,California.)
  5. Sing silly songs.    Oh, she sailed away/on a bright and sunny day/on the back of a croc-a-dile/oh, she said, said she/ he’s as tame as tame can be/I’ll just ride him/ Up the Nile. But the Croc winked his eye/as she waved them all goodbye/Wearing a great big smile… They came back/from the ride/with the lady inside/ and the smile on the croc-a, smile on the croc-a, smile on the croc-a-dile.
  6. May Day! Make a cone-shaped basket from a piece of colored contruction paper, paste a handle on it or make ribbon ties, fill it with fresh flowers, and hang it on someone’s front door.
  7. Pick up litter. You could go so far as to adopt a section of a highway in the name of you and your grand! But there’s plenty to do short of that…just carry some garbage bags with you and pull over when you see the need. Then: everybody washes their hands and heads downtown for ice cream.
  8. Start a collection
  9. Skip rocks. You need a big pond, a lake or a tranquil river for this one.   Plus, smooth, flat rocks and an agile wrist.
  10. Fish. You need (see above) plus at least a rod with a worm on the end of it. Look for state and county parks: many places require no licenses for children under 12. Of course, big-time, “real” fishing is one of the best outdoor bonding adventures you can experience with a child, not to mention teaching him patience and the joy of solitude.
  11. Blow out eggs and make monsters.   Begin with very large white or brown eggs. With a safety pin at the large end, carefully poke and prick a hole about [visual needed]; on the small end, make a much tinier hole. Leaning over a bowl bowl into the small end until the yolk and whites come out the large end. Rinse out in cold water and set to drain dry. From rings of heavy construction paper make collars to stand the “eggheads” in.   Use every bit of glue and paste and fingernail polish and fabric and glitter and paint and … ohhh, the faces you can make. (Don’t forget hair and hats.)
  12. Dance, party down, rock ’til you drop. Our favorite is from a disbanded klezmer group, the Mazeltones, “Dancing with the Little Ones.” It’s available over the ‘net from Global World Music in New York. (A grandfather has just piped up to suggest Led Zeppelin, and another is touting “The Mamas and Papas Greatest Hits” – both of those are on Amazon. com).
  13. Read poetry aloud. (Recommended by Anne Levy: This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems from Around the World, edited by Naomi Shihab Nye (Four Winds Press); Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich by Adam Rex (Harcourt Children’s Books), and Songs of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems by Joyce Sidman & illustrated by Becky Prange (Houghton Mifflin).
  14. Quiz shows.   From face-offs with vocabulary flash cards to trivia questions to toughies from old S.A.T.s   — some children love the competition of home-style guessing games played with Monopoly money or prizes (I keep a box of “junk” – single earrings, old napkin rings, hotel shampoos and soaps, decks of cards, “gifts” from cosmetic companies, etc. – as prizes).
  15. The thrift shop scavenger hunt. This is a winner with the 8-12 year-olds: make a list of odd items (to find, not to buy!) and make a trip to a thrift shop (the bigger, the better).   Each person takes the list and first one to find all the stuff wins! There is high excitement and a bit of running around the store, so be sure you find one with a friendly staff. Sample list:   A two-slice toaster.   4 pink sweaters, any size.   Strawberries (as decorations). Big Bird (as decoration). A Disney book. An old-lady black dress. A rattle. A cowboy belt. A radio that works. The American flag painted on something. ….
  16. Thank you notes.   The craft. Make the stationery on the computer, finger paint, decoupage, photographs, fabrics, pressed flowers … and then, the etiquette:   how to write a proper thank you note. (Trick: teach them to be specific:   I “I love the book you sent, especially the page on the flying monkeys.” “Thank you for the silver bracelet. I’m wearing it to my friend’s birthday party.” “Thank you for taking us to the park.   The best part was the peppermint ice cream cone.”)
  17. Polish silver. Warm water, soft rags, an old toothbrush and a jar of Wright’s Silver Cream. And if you’ve got stories (“Your great-great-grandmother leftRussia with only this spoon”) all the better.
  18. Adopt a puppy/kitten.   Keep in mind that a trip to an animal shelter is often a sobering, emotional experience for a young child. And unless the adoptee is going to stay with the grandparents, advance parental permission is strongly advised.
  19. Seal your secret bond by learning phrases in an obscure language, like Lower Sorbian. “Glej!” (“ Look! “)
  20. Wear costumes. Even a very ordinary day becomes momentous if you’re disguised.
  21. Tell jokes. Forget Steve Martin or Chris Rock. To a 3- or 4-year-old nothing beats a knock-knock joke. (Knock, knock. Who’s there? Dishes. Dishes who? Dishes your friend. …. Knock, Knock. Who’s there? Granny.   Knock knock. Who’s there? Granny. Knock Knock. Who’s there? Granny. Knock Knock. Who’s there? Aunt. Aunt who? Aunt you glad it’s not Granny?)
  22. Learn a magic trick together. (Free, on-line, easy-to-learn at www.blifaloo.com).
  23. Perform scientific experiments. (Our favorite: make lemon Jell-O and pour into 4 or 5 little Pyrex custard cups. Put in refrigerator to set. When jelled, let your grand rub his dirty hand over the top of one. Leave one out in the air. Rub the sidewalk with a paper towel and put that on top of the other. Let him spit on one.   Then, put them in a dark place (not refrigerated), leave them for a week or two   — and welcome to the world of molds. Especially good for 6-8 year-old grandsons for whom getting grossed out is consider the height of entertainment. Plus, it’s educational. Really.)
  24. Haul the sleeping bags or bedrolls outside and stargaze. Find the constellations. Need brushing up yourself? We recommend Night Sky: A Field Guide to the Heavens by Mark R. Chartrand.
  25. Build a bonfire in the back yard, the beach, at a state park, on the river bar.   Roast wieners. Make ‘smores. (Two squares of a Hershey chocolate bar, without nuts is best, on a Graham cracker. Smush in a toasted, melted marshmallow. Put a second Graham cracker on top and bite. )
  26. Nap together in a hammock.
  27. Make fresh lemonade. (If you like to use a machine instead of the old-fashioned, green glass grooved domes, Target has the best one, a electric Presto for $25 that includes the pitcher).
  28. Whittle. Whistle. Whisper. Wish.
  29. Watch a Memorial Day parade. Better yet, be in a Memorial Day parade. Pick flowers, make a small bouquet, and let your grand place it on the grave of the Unknown Soldier. From solemnity comes compassion.
  30. Enter something in the county fair. (In some states, only 4-Hers are allowed to enter the junior categories. If your Grand isn’t in 4-H, let him help you make your entry. And give him the ribbon you’re sure to win! By the way, winning recipes are on State Fair Recipes.com, a site that also includes a recipe for Corn Dogs and Caramel Corn – just in case you don’t live anywhere near the fairgrounds.
  31. Make a video and post it on YouTube. About what? Let your tech-wiz middle-school grand get you on camera for a bit of dramatic personal history.
  32. Go to a real restaurant with napkins and tablecloths and play The Queen’s Manners. (Begin by reminding them that a used napkin is only returned to the table at the final exit; during a bathroom trip, it is placed on the seat of the chair.) And just to put a fine point on it, give them a copy of the hilariously helpful “Dude, That’s Rude!” etiquette book for real kids.
  33. Attend a live theatre production. If you’re lucky enough to live inMinnesota,   check out the live Children’s Theatre inMinneapolis; “Busytown,” a musical based on Richard Scarry’s What Do Peple Do All Day? Is running at Seattle Children’s Theatre until June 15; Des Moines Playhouse has an exciting curricula of summer classes for grades K-12; the Cobb Children’s Theatre in Marietta, Georgia will present TKTKT in August … and if you Google Yourtown Children’s Theatre, you’ll find nearly every community in the country offers something delightful.
  34. Hang out in a library. Yes, the Dewey Decimal System will probably not survive the 21st Century. But, no, not everything can be found on the ‘net. Finding a book in a college library still requires certain basic decoding skills…ones that our generation learned in the third grade but which, sadly, are not commonly taught. Grands to the rescue of an illiterate planet!
  35. Find a discarded piece of furniture and paint it a wild color. An excellent use, we have learned, for that what-were-we-thinking quart of Pink Flamingo and an old chair. Paint “chip” samples from hardware stores are also one of the more interesting ways to teach a preschooler his colors.
  36. Make jewelry.   Start with drinking straw necklaces: cut up colored straws in different lengths,   pull a needle with yarn or string through the straws, tie the end of the yard around a safety pin (the in is removed later, it is just there to keep the whole thing from falling apart). When the necklace is long enough (should be long enough to go over the head when tied), remove the safety pin and tie the two ends of the yarn together.   (This, and lots of other ideas, can be found at https://crafts.kaboose.com.)
  37. Bugs. Steve Parker’s book, Bugs: Creepy-Crawlies in the Wild is a good resource to begin (chapters include “Earwigs avoid ears,” and “Bees do not mind dying”).   Knock their socks off: a trip to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington to see the new Live Butterfly Pavilion. Or, go outside with Mason jars and collect fireflies.   Sit “like trees” in the country and listen for insect sounds.
  38. Clouds. I see a dragon? What do you see?
  39. Go fly a kite. Wondrously, the best kite pages on the ‘net are from NASA.   In other words, you paid for it, so get your money’s worth! And the site includes the history of kites and a scientific explanation of how they can fly. There are amazing kites to buy nowadays (check Resources section for a range of prices and styles), and – why not make one from scratch?    https://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/airplane/kite1.html  Nasa’s history page has the scientific explanation (why kites fly) and to learn how to make your own kite: https://parenting.ivillage.com/tweens/twactivities/0,,88lp,00.html
  40. Ride the rails. Our picks: the short train rides (see https://www.touristrailways.com/) such as the Big Fork Scenic Railway in Kentucky; Pine Creek Railroad in New JerseyJersey; https://www.njmt.org/; engineer for a day vintage steam locomotive S on the umpter Valley Railroad https://www.svry.com/engineerforaday/htm; or ride a   lumberjack steam train in Laona, Wisconsin, entire family $56 for a full day.
  41. Visit an airport. News flash: you don’t have to go anywhere to visit an airport. There are still places where you can sit in the windows and watch the giant jets land and take-off. The whole scene is a thrill for young children and, conveniently, prepares them for the idea of airplane travel.
  42. Play with make-up. There’s make-up for looking beautiful and then there’s make-up for wild dress-up. (Turn the grandchild into an old man by putting heavy foundation all over his face and having him scrunch up his face as much as he can – and hold it there – while you dust it with face powder. What chagrins us – wrinkles – is amusing to a 7-year-old.
  43. Shop at a farmer’s market. Buy a weird vegetable. (“Weird” is subjective.) Take it home and cook it.
  44. Prepare weather reports. Explain barometers, watch the Weather Channel, examine the wind sock, consult the cumulus – see if the grandkids and you can predict the weather from the clues.
  45. Play “Hide the Thimble. ”   This is not a game simply for the under-10 crowd. The last time I introduced it to a child, the “big kids” got intensely involved with “warmer, warmer; colder, colder; freezing!”
  46. Compete over one of the new “Euro” board games like Cartagena or Power Grid.
  47. Visit a museum.   Grand Ruth Nathan says, “Some of us may remember the hours and hours we spent as children being dragged from one exhibit to the next-through gigantic, dry, lifeless corridors. Well, all that has changed! There’s been a tidal-shift in how museums are designed, due in great part to advanced technology. For example, real sea water right from the sea outside its walls is the tank-water used at theMonterey (California) Bay Aquarium, which lets us see far more sea-life alive and up close (www.mbayaq.org/). Also, museums tend to be child-friendly nowadays:   hands on (feel this!), interactive (push and see what happens!), and fabulously exploratory.   The new (2007) Crown Family Play Lab atChicago’sFieldMuseum draws grandparents, parents, and kids in alike with its slogan: ‘Dig in…Dress up…Explore and Grow!’ It’s an immersive environment, perfect for 2-10-year olds, which includes six rich and unique areas, from scientists’ labs to pueblos (www.fieldmuseum.org/playlab/).”
  48. Make doughnuts. The yeast-raised (another scientific experiment opportunity!), old-fashioned kind that are fried in deep fat (be careful!) and drained on paper towels before being sprinkled with powdered sugar. There’s a fine recipe in your old Joy of Cooking or, for super fancy, check out Lisa Ackleson’s story in the Chicago Daily Herald (https://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=146224.
  49. Find nests. You don’t have to live in the country to introduce your grandchild to this thrill: plenty of barn swallows should be pushing their first family of the season out of the next about now … and the nests are as profuse around strip malls and commercial locations (much to the merchants’ dismay) as they are in the woods and fields. By the way, if you spot some barn swallows, be sure to mention that come September, they’ll fly back home – toArgentina.
  50. Consult a map. Kids love maps. The AAA gives them free to members; National Geographic always as a few good ones inserted; and for teens, one of the coolest spots on the ‘net is Strange Maps (https://strangemaps.wordpress.com).   For the 4th-6th grade set, home-made maps (on brown paper sacks, naturally) showing a guide to buried treasure (be sure to bury some first) is one of the great adventures of all time. (Suggestions for treasure: pennies, junk jewelry – perfect resting place for those single earrings; tchotkes you should never have purchased in the first place).
  51. Give a tea party. Tiny ones into television will enjoy “The Backyardigans: Tasha’s Tea Party Book,” which you can read and then emulate. There’s also “Let’s Have A Tea Party” for older children…and then, there’s just plain common sense.   Make a pot of tea, get out the good china, make tiny sandwiches, have a platter of cookies and another of bread and jam. Silly grands (I’m one) would also include hats and gloves.
  52. Assemble a time capsule. Bury it in the yard. Plan to open it in 10 years. Mobile society alternative: make a video/photo/word time capsule and put it on a DVD.
  53. Make popcorn and watch an old movie. (Groans, complaints, “It will be sooo boring!” Ignore this. Pick an age-appropriate movie from the list below, and just start watching it. You’ll be quietly joined. Or, you can adopt an offensive strategy, which is:   Movies?! You don’t know from movies if you haven’t seen these!”) For 10+, particularly boys, we’ve had success with Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Dr. Strangelove, Seven Days in May, The Great Escape, Amadeus,   Bridge on the River Kwai, The African Queen,   Rebel Without A Cause,   Double Indemnity, Some Like It Hot, All Quiet on the Western Front, Das Boot,   High Noon, The Bicycle Thief, Schindler’s List, Casablanca, and, of course, To Kill A Mockingbird.
  54. Plant an “initial garden.”   Marie Cecchini and her grandson, Aiden, clear a section of the garden, draw his initials in the soil, and plant the seeds (Marie recommends alyssum) in the furrow. No question who owns the garden when the flowers bloom in a brilliant AY.
  55. Cards. Teach your 9+ grandchild what may be the most important cancelled flight survival skill in the world:   a two-person card game (War, Spit, Go Fish, Concentration, Old Maid, see https://www.usplayingcard.com/gamerules/childrenscardgames.html) Our favorite is a sophisticated, two-handed whist called 10-9-8.
  56. Picnic. Ceremony is what it’s all about: if you have antiquel wicker baskets with chintzy napkins,   splendid. If you have leftover lasagna , four celery sticks, and a package of saltines in a plastic sack – equally splendid. Eat in unexpected places (the steps of a university library, an empty baseball field, a pocket-park bench, or,   very discreetly, in an afternoon movie).
  57. Write a letter to a newspaper or a Congressman about an issue you and grandchild feel deeply about. Sign both of your names.
  58. Invent a flower-arranging contest. Take a trick from county fairs and have a theme (“At the Circus,” “Around the World,” “Cowboys”). What next: fresh flowers and greens (pick in the wild or from your garden; I’ve pulled over on highways and gathered weeds for this) and any container that strikes the imagination. Only rule: always design on an “odd number” basis (3 daffodils, not 2 or 4).
  59. Make a quilt.   If you have no idea how to do this, ask someone. JoAnn Fabrics, for example, is filled with folks who love to talk about these things, and your house is filled with enough old fabric (you’re never going to wear that dress again, get over it) to blanket the earth. Older children can use sewing machines; younger ones can hand-sew.   Over a summer, beautiful things can happen.
  60. Give things away. Select a local charity that needs clothing, kitchen ware, books, and, with your grandchild, see your things through “new eyes.” (Many rest homes and convalescent hospitals like donations of small items like hotel soap bars and costume jewelry and paperback books for bingo prizes.)   Teach the joy of giving. Anonymously.
BONUS: Laugh . All the time. At everything. If a 3-year-old spills his milk on the floor, float Cheerios in it. We’re grands, after all, and if we know nothing else, we know life is funny.
Courtesy May-June issue of Grand, “60 Summer Memory-Makers” by Wendy Reid Crisp.

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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