One of the greatest joys of my life has been being a grandmother. Being a single mother when my daughter was young could be such a struggle to find time to do the fun things after all the chores were done. Don’t get me wrong—we had loads of fun, but now that I have grandkids, I can really pour my extra time into doing things with them while their parents are busy. Being a hands-on grandmother has brought us much closer to each other, and it gives me such joy to know that they look forward to my visits. When I travel to see them, I usually think ahead to come up with some fun things we can go see together or stay at home and make with each other. Let me share some of the things we have done over the years at different ages to bring some joy to our visits.
Here are some examples of the outdoor things we’ve done in our yard:
- One summer we took some old two-by-fours and laid them around in the grass to make a Putt-Putt golf course. We would use the two-by-fours to create channels for the golf balls to travel through to a plastic cup at the end to catch the ball. We didn’t even have a golf club, so we made our own out of small tree limbs.
- Building an obstacle course in the yard kept us busy for days at a time, and it could get more and more elaborate every time we would make one. We usually scavenged around for lumber pieces for ramps or balancing boards, old hula-hoops to crawl through, buckets that they could use to jump from one to another, ropes to swing on, and so forth. I let them use their imagination to come up with ideas for the course.
- I’ve spent many days making lists of things to look for on a scavenger hunt. Locust shells, a leaf from an oak tree, a pink flower, mushrooms, bark from a pine tree, blackberries, and the list could go on. I usually took a walk and looked around to see what was blooming, what trees we had, or anything that caught my eye to write down on my scavenger list. This is a great educational tool to help them learn about the names and types of plants or trees in the yard.
- Sometimes, after we gathered up lots of these items, we put them in the middle of a table and would make a picture on a piece of paper just by laying the items on the paper. Flower petals turned into butterfly wings; sticks
- Driveway bowling is one of our favorites. We would take all the plastic cups we could find, stack them up at the end of the driveway, and then use a ball to roll down the driveway and knock them over.
On cold or wet days, we brought the fun indoors:
- I know pulling out the paint can be daunting and messy, but it makes for some special memories. We love to buy those kits found at the store that have an unfinished birdhouse or a pot with a set of paints so they could paint their own. You can use some old glass jars, rocks, or even pieces of wood that the kids can paint on.
- A few years ago, I sat the kids down and asked them to come up with a story about a rabbit and a fox (or you can let them pick characters). We wrote our story down in the form of a play. Then we cut the characters out of stiff paper and put them on straws, set up a light behind a large piece of paper, and put on a shadow puppet play for the family.
- Every year at Advent, the kids and I make an Advent calendar by hand. We cut paper into shapes like mittens or bells and then put the dates on one side of the paper and pick out Scriptures for the other side. Then we use clothespins to hang them in the window and read one each day.
- I would let them get out the marshmallows and skewers for a winter treat many nights, and we would have an indoor marshmallow roast by the fireplace.
- We’ve made fun suncatchers for the windows by taking paper plates, cutting out the middle of the plate, and then sandwiching flowers and leaves in-between clear contact paper and taping this into the opening. We then taped a string to it and hung it up.
As my grandkids have gotten older, one of the priorities I have is to travel with them so that I can introduce them to places outside of their normal environment. When each child turned twelve, I took him/her separately on a mission trip to El Salvador to help hand out Christmas shoeboxes. I wanted each one to experience another culture and meet children who live there to get a greater sense of other parts of the world and how other people live. I asked each of them to write out their testimony before we went on this trip, so each could share it with someone.
When they turned fifteen, I told both of the grandkids I would take them somewhere within the United States to get an appreciation of the great country we live in. Just this year I took my granddaughter on a two-week driving tour through four states to visit national and state parks out West. Each day my granddaughter and I would read a verse that drew our attention to whom God is in the place we were visiting. My parents took me on long road trips when I was a youngster, and it gave me such an appreciation for nature, so I just want to instill that in my grandkids.
In addition to all this, I started a savings account for each child when they were born, just putting twenty-five dollars per child a month into the account. When each child reaches eighteen, my goal will be to take them to a place of their choosing (with suggestions from me of course) overseas to get an even broader view of life.
If going on a road trip far from home is not
The ultimate goal for me is to enjoy every moment I have with these children, impart to them the passion that I have for the things that I love, like Scripture, my love for the Creator, creation, creativity, using the imagination, and hopefully leave them with memories that being with their grandparent is fun.
Leigh Ann Dans has been a graphic designer for Lifeway Women for the past ten years, and worked for Lifeway over twenty-five years. She can’t wait to see her two grandchildren Macayla and Kayden and uses as much of her vacation time as she can to spend with them. She loves to think of creative ways to engage them and take them on new adventures.