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  • Writer's pictureM.Winston Egan

Some of the Best Things You Can Do Right Now with Your Grandchildren

Grandchildren of all ages benefit from experiences and connections that are engaging and fun. These experiences and connections are made more meaningful when accompanied by appropriate conversations that help grandchildren make sense of their lives and the challenges they experience.

Ideas for Young Grandchildren

Young children love to make stuff. This might include cookies, butter, peanut butter, and other simple treats. Check out Weelicious, Making Butter in a Jar with Kids, and other related websites.

If your young grandchildren live some distance from your home, use your cell phone to achieve the same end. Schedule a face-to-face butter-making session. Of course, this will require additional planning and collaboration, but your grandchildren will love it. If you’re tech savvy, use the Zoom app. It will be your own version of “Cooking with Grandma!” or “Cooking with Grandpa!”

As you invite your young grandchildren to join you in creating these food items, there can and should be a lot of interactive talk. The talk can take many forms. Here are some conversation prompts for butter-making:

  • Have you ever wondered how butter is made?

  • How would you like to make some butter today? I have just what we need.

  • Maybe we could use our homemade butter for lunch as we make our sandwiches.

  • What do we need to make butter?

    • Do you know where butter comes from?

  • By the way, do you know what makes butter yellow?

    • Does it come yellow, or does something make it yellow?

  • Where do you mostly use your butter?

    • On toast

    • On baked potatoes

    • On something else

  • Where is butter used that you cannot see it?

  • Does salt make butter taste better?

  • Now that we have made the butter, see if you can tell me all the steps we took.

    • What did we do first?

    • What did we do next?

    • And how did we know the butter was ready for our toast or sandwiches?

  • In what ways was making butter really fun?

  • Did we make any mistakes?

  • Was our butter as good as the butter we buy in the grocery store?

  • Did we forget anything in making butter?

  • Is there anything else you want to tell me about our butter making?

As you know, at the heart of Grandparenting on Purpose is the formation of caring and enduring relationships with grandchildren. Conversations and experiences associated with butter "churning" give rise to these relationships. They also create enduring memories for young grandchildren.

Ideas for Slightly Older Grandchildren

Although I am not much of a board-game player, I know how engaging they can be for my grandchildren. One such game is Chickenfoot. Our grandchildren love this game! But what they enjoy the most is the banter that accompanies each game.

Games like Chickenfoot are ideal for exposing grandchildren, in meaningful and measured ways, to winning, losing, and succeeding.

If your grandchildren live far away, use the ideas in this section for an upcoming visit or shared vacation experience. The point here is that games, wherever and whenever played, are a valuable means for spawning natural conversations. If you’re alert during these games, you will learn a great deal about your grandchildren and what they’re experiencing—even what they might need from you.

Games provide excellent vehicles for the conversations children need to have to make sense of what is happening in their lives. I love the laughter and chatter I hear when my grandchildren play games with their cousins, aunts, uncles—and sometimes me.

Ideas for Older Grandchildren

We recently had one of our families join us for Sunday dinner. The menu was simple—a baked-potato bar with some fruit, followed by donut making. Like games, mealtimes can give rise to informal conversations. During this potato-bar dinner, we had a great time talking about what was happening in their family—who was looking for jobs, how school was going, and what they did over the weekend.

As we concluded the dinner, I took the opportunity to see if our grandson would allow me to ask him some questions about his current high school experiences. He indulged me.

I asked, “What are the hot topics among your schoolmates? What are they talking and thinking about? He immediately said, “BLM." At first, I thought he was talking about the Bureau of Land Management, but then I connected the acronym with Black Lives Matter.

What then ensued was a vibrant discussion about racism and his views about the movement. He also talked about his friends’ perspectives on BLM.

I loved hearing what he had to say, as did his parents and sisters. He was totally engaged. His sisters and parents also became immersed in the discussion.

I think this grandson thoroughly enjoyed sharing his perspective about what was taking place at his high school. Our experience affirmed the value of regular dinner times and their immense power in positively impacting our grandchildren and their families. We can learn so much about what they need and what they are experiencing.

If you are genuinely interested in your grandchildren, you can actively seek their perspectives by asking the right questions, especially during meals. If you listen, they will tell you a lot about what they are experiencing and what they need. Also, they will enjoy the interest you are taking in their lives.

Here are some prompts for inviting conversations with older grandchildren:

· Would you be willing to share some of your thoughts and perspectives about the hot topics at school?

· What are your friends and fellow students really concerned about?

o Besides the usual issues, what things really bother them or attract their attention?

· I think I understand what you have said.

o Would you mind diving a little more deeply?

o What’s at the heart of their concerns?

o Do you share these same concerns, or do you have other concerns?

· I can’t tell how much I’ve enjoyed our discussion and your insights. Your friends and classmates are dealing with many issues, and it’s nice to know how you’re processing and responding to these challenging issues. Thanks so much! I loved learning from you and hearing your perspective.

As we cleared the table and began the donut making, our conversations switched to lighter topics and engendered much laughter. Grandchildren of all ages love making things, like donuts, cookies, and other treats. But what they enjoy and profit from most are the conversations that accompany these events. Informal discussions give rise to enduring and positive relationships among families, grandchildren, aunts and uncles, and grandparents.

For those of you whose grandchildren live some distance from your home, have a regular call-in time for your grandchildren. If it can be live, face-to-face, that’s even better. Use the suggested conversation prompts to see what they’re doing and feeling. The call might begin with something like this: “I was thinking about you and thought I would call to see how you are doing.” Do not let distance get in the way. There are so many avenues for connecting with them. You just need to regularly connect so they feel comfortable talking with you and sharing their experiences. Once you have their confidence, you will learn a lot about what they love and need from you—even if it’s just a listening ear.

Now, make some butter, bake some cookies for neighbors and friends, play some games, or enjoy a few meals together! Make some calls and use the technologies available to you. Be creative! And most of all, enjoy the conversations and loving relationships that develop because you are connected!

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