By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
These days grandparents have a lot of competition for the grandchildren's attention. If it's not sports, dance, or other activities that keep the kids occupied, then often, they're glued to their tablets or video games with little time for anything else.
But let's face it. Sometimes everyone needs some Grandma or Grandpa time, but finding fun and creative things to do together can be challenging. Children have a litany of interests that vary from personality to personality, but usually, there is something you can find to do. Sometimes you just need a list of suggestions to get you started. I've compiled some tried and true fun activities to do with your grandkids that don't cost an arm and a leg, encourage imagination, and, best of all, help grow relationships.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/DuxX
1. Fort Building
Most of us can remember the days when we made forts (either outside or inside). But there is something to be said about blanket forts inside that often lead to other activities. Now, if you're used to a tidy house, this is an activity that will require you to show some flexibility. But don't worry! It's all clean-up-able!
Consider using your couch for one part of the blanket fort wall. You can stretch blankets across to a card table or coffee table. Use heavy books or, if you're brave, duct tape or something to hold the corners down. The best blanket forts are big ones. So don't limit yourself to a tiny six-by-six area. Take up the majority of the living or family room. The kids will go crazy with excitement. If you're creative, you can use pillows and such to make tunnels underneath the blankets or even hollow-ended boxes!
The best part—after building it, of course—is playing in it! I know my kids have spent hours in their blanket fort with Grandma and Grandpa. Sometimes reading books, playing with flashlights, hauling in piles of stuffed animals, playing a board game, and so on. Why is it so fun to be in a fort? I'm not entirely sure of the answer to that, but I will say that I am all up for fort building to this day!
2. Annie-Annie Over
This is a vintage game, but one that kids (and adults) don't tire of. And it's also great for various ages and can be quite thrilling. In short, if you've never played it, it's meant to be played outside with a ball and a small outbuilding. If you have a garden shed, a playhouse, or something of the like, that'll be perfect.
Split into teams. One grandparent on each side of the building and then the kids equally balanced. The goal? One team starts by yelling, "Annie-Annie over!" and they attempt to throw the ball over the roof of the building to the team on the other side. The receiving team's goal is to catch the ball before it touches the ground while predicting where the ball will even come over the roof! If they catch the ball, they can psyche out the other team pretending they didn't while sneaking around and then tagging the opposing team with the ball. The players who threw the ball need to keep their eyes open, 'cause if the opposing team rounds the building to tag them, they can get "safe" by racing to the opposite side of the building before they're hit with the ball.
While it does take some energy, you can make the rules where the grandparents help throw and referee if you're not up to running and tagging. Whether you play or pass, the kids will have a blast in this old-fashioned game of Annie-Annie Over.
3. Rock Painting and Hiding
This activity is fun for all ages. With minimal investment in some good acrylic paints, you can gather the kids around a craft table or outside if the weather is nice. Have them find rocks to paint or have them ready to go. The kids can spend hours painting rocks, and if you want to get really creative—especially with older kids—you can download ideas online for some ridiculously cute and fun rock painting ideas.
Once the rocks are painted and dry, have the kids take a Sharpie marker and write the year on the bottom of the room and an identifier (if you want). Some people like to identify with their school or church, or town. It makes it fun because it becomes a bit of a mascot for whatever you choose.
Pack up the kids in the car with all the rocks in ice cream buckets or easy-to-carry pails. Then, drive to a nearby park, town square, main street, or anywhere you can go for a walk. Each child can have their painted rocks, and you can have fun helping them hide them around town as happy little gifts for people to find. The kids may not want to part with all of their rocks but let them know before you paint that this is the intention. And, they don't have to hide the rocks in hard places, as most people won't be looking for them. Leaving them somewhat in the open makes it fun when passersby are attracted to the bright colors.
You may find you've started a trend in town. Don't be surprised if more people begin to join in on the rock painting/hiding fun!
4. Treasure Hunt
This one is nothing new to most people, but did you know you can go online and find pre-made lists for all sorts of fun hunts to do with the kids? Some of them include nature-hunts, town-hunts, department store hunts, and more.
How it works is simple! Download or copy a treasure hunt list and get ready to do some fun scouting with the grandkids. If it's winter, a department store hunt can be a lot of fun. It doesn't mean you're buying all the items, but you take your cell phone and list and go around the store trying to find all the items within a specific time. Super fun if you split into teams and it becomes a race to find more than the other team!
If it's warmer weather, nature hunts are always fun, and get the family out for a hike, whether it's in the park, a wooded trail, or your backyard! You can also do a Zoo hunt where you go on a quest to find specific animals on a list at the local zoo—even particular species of the animal! Or maybe you're going around town and trying to find historical landmarks or specific architectural buildings. However you spin it, it can captivate the grandkids just because you're on the lookout for something. And, if the kids are older, that competitive element makes it become just that much more fun.
It's not hard to find things to do with the grandkids once you start thinking about it. Granted, it may take some cajoling to convince them to cooperate—and to leave their tablets back at the house. But in the end, these are the memory makers that will stick with them well into adulthood. And isn't that the ultimate goal? Legacy making?
So have fun, be creative, engage, and be willing to revert back to your own childhood and act a little silly yourself!