We really enjoy hosting my grandkids in my home. I enjoy the process of getting ready for them and planning and executing a memorable event. When they go home, my husband and I look at each other and enjoy the quiet moment of satisfaction with a job well done. The food tasted good. The house was inviting. Our grandkids had a good time. We’ve gotten the clean-up process started. Now, we can take a moment and reflect on a job well done. Over the years, we’ve discovered that preparation is the key to successfully entertaining grandkids.
Entertaining our grandkids sometimes leaves us exhausted. We do love spending time with our grandkids, especially when it goes smoothly. But sometimes things don’t go as smoothly as we hoped. Time and time, we’ve found that the key to successfully entertaining grandkids is preparation.
After we’ve spent several hours–or had a longer time with a sleepover or long weekend–with our grandkids, we are happy to send them back to their parents. But when they are gone, we look back on the high points of our time together and smile at some of the antics. We enjoy it when the time together went smoothly. We review everything that went right. Sometimes everything does not go as smoothly as we hoped, but when the grandkids have gone home, we can reflect on the event and make note of the things we want to repeat and the things we want to tweak.
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No one wants to do all the work to plan an event only to feel exhausted and disappointed with the outcome. Over the years, we’ve settled into a routine of how to prepare for time with our grandkids that doesn’t leave us exhausted (at least not too exhausted!) and yet leaves us all with fond memories of our time together.
Keep the big picture in mind
The process starts with keeping the big picture in mind. “Entertaining” may not be your end goal with your grandchild, so it is helpful to identify why you want to have your grandchild with you at all. For most of us, we want our grandchild to grow up to be a happy and productive person. We want them to find joy in life. We want them to enjoy us. And to be honest, we want to enjoy them. Your goal may be to deepen your relationship with your grandchild. But in order to do that, you need to recognize that your time together will need to be fun.
You can plan events for your grandchildren, but you can also plan events with your grandchildren. There is a benefit in doing both. When you plan events for them you have an opportunity to delight and surprise them with the care you took to plan and execute an event with them in mind. You can focus on their needs and match those with your resources. When you have nailed the felt need of your grandchild, and used your resources to best meet that need, you have successful knit their heart even closer to yours. Either way, it takes preparation to have a successful event.
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The second type of events grows out of brainstorming ideas with your grandchild about what you can do together. This type of event allows you to better understand what currently is intriguing your child. What are they interested in at the moment. What events have you done in the past that they want to do again.
Planning with your child also helps them understand the process of making a plan. During one of our brainstorming sessions with our Michigan grandsons, they both indicated that they had never played miniature golf, but thought it would be a fun thing to try. We put all of their ideas on the list, along with one of our ideas to inner tube down a river with them. Ezra added tennis to the list by saying he would like to learn to play. We also wanted to plan a group sleepover, as well as one-on-one sleepovers.
From this initial brainstorming list, we were able to schedule activities with them for the months we were going to be around. When we were getting ready to leave Michigan for our next destination, we reviewed the initial list and realized that we had accomplished all that we set out to do. It was a satisfying feeling. We want to make the time with us fun, so it is important that we plan things that our grandkids will enjoy.
Make concrete plans
The best events with a grandchild happen when you have made plans. Once you have a specific event in mind, it is time to identify the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of your event. Are you taking your four-year-old granddaughter to a park for a picnic on Thursday while her brothers are in school? It helps to decide what your primary goal is.
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When we are planning activities with our younger grandkids, we make sure that we are keeping the developmental principles of Erikson in mind. Four-year-olds are in the stage of learning to become purposeful and to initiate activities. We make plans that align our activities with that developmental stage. We also consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
- Assess for potential safety issues
- Prepare to satisfy hunger and thirst
- Anticipate the weather– will you need jackets and umbrellas, sunscreen, or a shade tent?
Satisfy the basics
- Who: We often try to do things one-on-one with our grandkids. We also do group activities with them. Both types of events take planning.
- What: Plan more activities than you think you will have time to do. Children have an interesting habit of getting distracted or tired of an activity before you thought they might!
- When: When you plan your time with your grandkids, you might consider spending time with them when it is also a help to their parents. You also don’t want your time with your grandchild to interfere with their time with their nuclear family.
- Where: It doesn’t really matter! You can make a memorable activity pretty much anywhere.
- Why: Keep in mind your big picture “why”. The goal is happy and productive grownups. Sometimes the obstacles to growing up are the way grandkids grow up better and more resilient. You your goal should be bigger than just entertaining them. You entertain them so that they will want to spend time with you so that you can influence and direct them. First you gain their trust. Then they learn to enjoy being with you. Then you gain their respect.
- How : Planning is essential. Paper and pencil work just fine. You can be as elaborate in your plans as suits your personality.
Use a template
We use a process page template to help us plan events. We are more detailed and formal with larger events, but even when we are picking up a grandchild for just a couple of hours, we jot the basic plan down on a 4×6 index card. The larger process plan looks at the following:
- Ask what is the biggest need your grandchild has right now
- Decide what will be your main objective
- Plan a variety of activities will achieve that objective
- Collect the supplies you will you need to support that objective
- Confirm with participants the timeline are you working with
After an event is concluded, we do a quick exit interview with our grandchild about what they enjoyed and what they would like to see happen the next time. We review our planning template to see if our objectives were met. We also make note of the things that worked particularly well, as well as noting those things that fell a bit flat.
You may be happy to hand them back off to their parents. Or you may be a bit sad that your fun day is over. Either way, when you have a well planned and well executed encounter with your grandchild, you will be content with the progress you are making to connect with your grandchild. Hopefully, your grandchild will have been entertained. Hopefully, you are not overly exhausted. And you just may find that you have done more than entertain your grandchild. You have deepened your relationship with them and helped move them on the journey to be a happy and productive adult.
In review, as you prepare to entertain your grandchild, follow these six steps:
- Brainstorm opportunities
- Identify the needs and objectives
- Find out what your grandchild would be interested in doing
- Plan your event on paper
- Use a timeline to execute your event
- Evaluate your results
Remember, it doesn’t matter how perfectly you execute your plan. What matters the most is that you use the opportunities you have to be with your grandchild to the best advantage. Over planning is better than being caught off guard. Unexpected outcomes from changed plans will make for a great story someday. Finally, the effort you put into spending time with your grandchild will reap longterm benefits in years to come.