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It’s almost time to welcome happy campers back to Camp Grandma

Nothing warms the heart of a grandparent so much as giving their undivided attention to, pampering, doting on, and even spoiling their grandchildren face-to-face. Not only is the quality time spent with grandchildren gratifying, but it’s also a great way to bond and really connect the generations.

You don’t have to be an expert in anything to leave your mark on the next generation. From cuddles and kisses and baking cookies and reading books together to singing lullabies or telling jokes and teaching them how to whistle, there are a multitude of little things you can teach your grandchildren. And they’ll remember you for it forever.

According to ChildTrends, a research center that studies children, 47% of grandparents with young grandchildren living nearby provide some child care assistance to their adult children. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 30% of preschoolers receive childcare care from a grandparent while their mothers work.

Whether it’s because today’s grand-boomers want to play an active role in their grandchildren’s lives, parents often feel grandma’s house is a trustworthy, safe, and loving environment, or for economic reasons (an affordable, usually free, childcare option), the reality is that Camp Grandma is a win-win option: a respite for parents, a special treat for grandchildren, and a positively blessed experience for grandparents. Even if you’re not a grandchild’s regular care provider, or if you live out of town, summertime’s the perfect time for sleepovers or sleep-aways.

When grandchildren come to visit for a day or a weekend or even a week or longer, keeping them occupied, happy, and safe is often easier said than done. It’s not the same as when you were raising your own brood. It can be more fun and more rewarding – because it’s short-term, but it can also be more tiring.

The trick to a successful Camp Grandma experience is to be prepared and plan ahead. Consider the kids, their ages, their preferences and interests, and special dietary needs, if any, and plan accordingly. You needn’t spend a fortune, either, to entertain your sweeties. There are many local places that are free and tons of activities, crafts, and projects you can do together for free or little cost to keep the kids happy and active and safe. It’s the joint experience that is most meaningful and creates the lasting bond and beautiful shared memories.

PLANNING AHEAD and SAFETY

CRAFT PROJECTS AND INDOOR ACTIVITIES

Craft activities are always fun. Keep their ages and interests in mind when selecting projects to make together. You can find many sources online and once you’ve selected the ones you like, make a list of supplies you’ll need to have on hand so that you will be ready at the drop of a hat, or precipitation, to occupy your grandchildren. Here’s a list of some kid-friendly craft sites: Makestuff.com - offers easy projects and fun activities for kids of all ages. Kaboose - an index of craft projects submitted by parents, teachers, and kids. Crayola Creativity Central - lots of easy, kid-friendly crafts.

And here’s a list of some favorites:

COOKING FUN

PLACES TO GO

Make a list of local hot-spots and one-tank trips in your area, starting with these kinds of activities, and head for the ones that are of most interest to your grandchildren:

  • Museums: Children’s Museums, Natural History Museums, Botanical Gardens, Science Centers
  • The Zoo
  • Hiking trails and parks
  • Local landmarks and exhibits
  • Theme parks and amusement parks (these may be a bit pricey, but may be used as a treat or reward to “bribe” the kids and planned for the end of their stay.
  • Take advantage of local transportation with a destination in mind, like a toy store, ice cream parlor, park, etc.—train ride, bus ride, boat ride, subway, transit system – there are so many ways to make “getting there” half the fun.

DOWNTIME and READING FUN

Everyone needs a little quiet time, and kids are no exception. Don’t over plan their stay. Allow them some “just me” time to just play on their own and make believe and use their imaginations.

Put away the iPads, iPods, Notebooks and digital and video games and share some meaningful interaction.Whether it’s reading to or being read to, the spoken word is soothing and the adventures found and shared in books are priceless. The beauty of reading together is that you do it in the comfort of your own home, wrapped in the luxury of hugs. Here are some favorite selections, something for everyone:

EXPLORING THE GREAT OUTDOORS

  • Grandchild-friendly leaf-print nature craft project ...
  • Making blades of grass whistle – yet another magic trick, placing a long reed-like blade of grass or leaf between your hands and blowing to create a whistling effect elicits sheer glee from the little ones.
  • Bird and/or leaf identification – this is an easy one, especially if you have a camera handy. Take a walk in the woods with your grandchildren and take pictures of all the birds you see and/or collect different leaves. Get books with photos and identify each one and put them in a scrapbook and label them. The kids will think you’re a genius and remember this project forever – they may even save the book for their own kids! (I did.) The book also makes a great show-and-tell prop.
  • Find the North star and the Big and Little Dippers – these can be just the beginning. The night sky offers a wealth of opportunities for sharing your knowledge and locating different constellations. To this day, every time I find Orion’s Belt, I think of my grandpa, who first showed me how to find it.
  • Outdoor scavenger hunt – create a list of objects, give them a bag, and let them be on their way. Of course, you’ll want to set guidelines and boundaries, and if they’re little, you’ll want to accompany them. Try to create a list that not only suits their age and interests, but with which you can create something after, like a mobile or a painted rocks or “collection” glued inside an egg box.

ENDING CEREMONIES

For the last day or two, plan something fun that can be used as a reward as well. Things like a backyard carnival or a play or puppet show or talent show are things the kids can not only plan, but take part in. It’s especially fun if it’s held and presented to an audience, including their parents, family, and friends. And whatever you do, don’t forget the prizes – create blue ribbon awards for each of the kids, touting their greatest achievement or accomplishment.

Bottom line: be prepared and you’ll find that spending quality time with your grandchildren at Camp Grandma is one of the all time best times of your life.

Let the festivities begin and wishing you happy trails, happy trials, and happy campers!

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