How to Add Spontaneity to Your Grandparenting

According to the "Economist," January 12, 2023, there are 1.5 billion grandparents worldwide, with 70 million living in the United States. Of those grandparents, many need to learn how to put some fun into grandparenting. If you ask grandchildren to describe their grandparents, they will probably make you a list.

1. They are old.

2. They like to sit on the porch.

3. You have to help them down the stairs.

4. Most grandmothers are good cooks.

5. They don't like playing yard games or football but love card games and board games.

6. Grandmas always smell good.

7. They like you to hug, kiss, and sit on their lap no matter how big you are.

8. They don't have many friends their age.

After looking at this list, just how do grandparents become fun and spontaneous?

A good place to start is with a smile. Always be glad to see your grandchildren. Laugh at their jokes. Greet them with open arms. It is hard for a grandchild to be grouchy when greeted with unconditional love.

Do the unexpected. One year we were at the beach with all the children and grandchildren. I wanted to take a group picture with all the grands. So I gathered them together after supper one night. "Ok, everyone. I really want to take a picture of all of us. It won't take long if you cooperate, and after that, we are going to do something really fun."

"What are we going to do, Grandma?"

"You'll have to wait and see. But I promise you it will be fun."

"Ok, if you are sure it won't take long."

"No, it won't. Let's go out to the beach and get started."

Everyone quickly moved to the beach and made no negative comments when I started arranging the family. For fourteen people, just the arrangement of people can take a few minutes. However, this time everyone moved quickly and soon had the perfect picture composition. Our photographer set the camera and asked, "Everyone ready?"

"Yeah, let's get this show on the road. We have something fun to do!"

"OK. On three. One, two, three." Smiles all around. "Let's try just a few more. Nobody move. One, two, three. Perfect. Now a funny one, and we are done. Ready? One, two, three. Very nice! All done. Now we'll go have some fun."

Grandma stepped out of the picture and held up one hand. All the cute grandchildren, dressed in white complete with hairbows for the girls, jumped up and down. "Line up by age, please, and follow me."`

Grandma led the children and grandchildren back across the street from the beach. When they reached the street, she held up her hand again. "Look both ways," she said. Heads rotated back and forth as they made sure no car was coming up the road. "Ok, everyone." Grandma stepped out into the road to make sure it was safe.

The group crossed the street into the parking lot of the pool. They formed a circle and danced together, then Grandma pulled away. "Follow me, everyone!"

Grandma skipped toward the pool. (Don't worry, Grandma, if you can't skip, just walk, and the rest will keep your pace.) Grandpa opened the gate of the pool and went through. After making a circle or two around the pool, Grandma looked over her shoulder to ensure everyone followed along. After another half lap around the pool, Grandma took a few quick steps toward the pool, held her nose, and jumped in the pool, picture clothes and all. The child behind Grandma looked at her mom, Mom shrugged her shoulders, and grandchild number 7 jumped right in. The entire group came out giggling. "Mom, can we just swim? In our clothes?"

"Sure, go ahead."

That was probably the most memorable and spontaneous photo session we ever had.

Find your special thing to do with your grandchildren. All of our grandchildren love to swim, so when we are together, one of the things we love to do is swim in a pool or lake together. (Grandma usually takes a raft and a good book!) Grandma not only spent her time reading but was also the judge of all the diving board tricks.

One day the kids had finished their tricks, and Grandma said, "Okay. One of you come over here and get on the raft." All seven grandchildren looked at one another quizzically. "What is she doing?" asked Elyse.

"I don't know," said Mae.

"I'll get on the raft," said Leslie, who quickly swam to the raft and swapped places with Grandma.

"Ok," Grandma said. "I'm ready with my trick." Grandma swam about a third of the length of the pool then disappeared into a full front flip. She came up with both arms out of the air, and all the grandchildren gave her a splashing ovation.

"Bravo, Grandma."


Grandma smiled at the recognition of her new trick. Since then, the grandkids never leave the pool without asking Grandma to do her trick!

Every holiday presents the opportunity to do something spontaneous.

One Halloween, the church was having a "trunk or treat." The grandchildren had gone on, and I was to help them with their trunk as soon as possible. Since they went on ahead, I pulled out my grandmother's wig, cane, and shawl and drew a few new lines on my face. When I was ready, I went to church and parked. As soon as I got out, I said to the parking lot attendant, "I'm a looking for me cute little grandees. Have you seen them? There are seven of the cutest little things you ever saw."

"No, ma'am. I'm sorry, but I haven't seen them."

The pastor came out, and I repeated my whole spiel. "No, ma'am," he said. "Would you like me to help you find them?"

"No, no, young man. I know they are around here somewhere."

I walked around the parking lot and ran into one of my grandchildren. "Oh, little girl," I said. "You sure are a cutie. I'm looking for me grandees. Have you seen them?"

"No, M'am. But I'll be glad to help you find them." Mae reached out and grabbed my hand, and walked with me around the parking lot.

Finally, I ran into my daughter. She recognized me immediately. She started laughing. Her children came over to see what was so funny.

"Oh, my goodness. It's Rose." (My Grandma name.) The children immediately ran off to get their friends to come see what Rose had done!

Farm life. Living on a farm presents all kinds of opportunities to surprise grandchildren with some kind of spontaneity. Their favorite thing to do is to ride with Grandpa in the Gator. They ride around the property and cut new paths to all kinds of fun places.

Usually, they eat lunch with us on Sunday, and for the afternoon, we typically play games, or Grandpa takes them for a ride in the Gator. All their moms and dad were standing in the front yard, thinking it must be close to the time for them to come home from their ride. Finally, we heard laughter, and they came around the corner of the house. Grandpa had changed seats, and our youngest granddaughter was behind the wheel. "Oh, no," her mama said. "When did she learn to drive the Gator?"

"Oh, I taught her how to be safe," Grandpa said. "Isn't she a good driver?"

"Well," her mother said, "It was certainly a surprise to see her come around the corner behind the wheel. I think she needs to be a little older to drive one of those things."

Spontaneity isn't always necessary. But it adds a little frivolity and a lot of fun to your grandparenting time. And when it is unexpected, even better. So next time you are with your grandchildren, think of a great surprise for them. They will love it, and it will add laughter to your day.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/PeopleImages

Linda Gilden is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, certified writing and speaking coach, and personality consultant. Her passion is helping others discover the joy of writing and learn to use their writing to make a difference. Linda recently released Articles, Articles, Articles! and is the author of over a thousand magazine articles and 19 books including the new Quick Guides for Personalities. She loves every opportunity to share her testimony, especially through her writing. Linda’s favorite activity (other than eating folded potato chips) is floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing grandchildren—a great source of writing material!

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