Share memorable grandparent/preschooler activities and traditions
June 27, 2016 2:24 AM   Subscribe

What creative, offbeat fun do your preschoolers enjoy when they stay with their grandparents?

Very soon we will be entertaining our faraway preschool grandchildren (ages 4-6) for separate weeks, one at a time, for the first time. We're well stocked with books, games, and toys. We live in an area with tons to do. We'd like to start some silly traditions our little ones only get to do at our house along the lines of all-day pajama day, nighttime starry walks, dessert before dinner. What special rituals do your children share with their grandparents or did you share with your own grandparents when you stayed with them during your childhood?
posted by Elsie to Human Relations (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
This is what my nieces enjoyed at that age at their Granny's:

- Making simple recipes like Jell-O or pudding (lots of stirring!)
- Sitting in a room/on the patio with tiny lights -- fairy lights, candles (with supervision), flashlights -- and telling stories that started out spooky and ended up being funny
- Decorate-your-own pancakes (a selection of fruits, nuts, and chocolate chips)
- Indoor camping in a pop-up tent set up inside the house, with lots of pillows and blankets inside -- they are older now and still love sleeping in the tent!
- Nature walks! They'd have to find a red rock, or a leaf shaped like a heart, etc., so it was a bit of a hunt.

For me, one grandmother would always take me out to the country to pick up a watermelon or go berry picking. The other grandmother was a big fan of after-dinner walks, and she'd tell stories about her childhood or funny stories about my dad.
posted by mochapickle at 3:26 AM on June 27, 2016

Oh, and the dress-up box was a big hit! They'd put on little plays or sing songs they knew from school.
posted by mochapickle at 3:31 AM on June 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Cooking. My son has special cornbread that he "invented" at my mom's; both of my daughters have special Rice Krispie treat and chocolate chip recipes that they perfected.

Classic movie festivals. My mom shared musicals like "Singin' in the Rain" and "Guys and Dolls" when the kids were little; then she moved into Hitchcock festivals and classics like The Manchurian Candidate.

Also at Grandma's the kids used to be able to order everything they wanted at my mom's favorite greasy Chinese restaurant; lo mein for days.

And my kids will never play Scrabble with me; that's a special game they only play with Grandma. They would have Scrabble tournaments lasting for a week.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:44 AM on June 27, 2016

My mother used to do one backwards day when my kids visited. That would mainly consist of reversing the order of meals. Dinner type food would be when they woke up and breakfast at dinner time. The real practical affect was that milkshakes (dessert for dinner) would come first. My kids, now all around 20 still talk about having milkshakes for breakfast at Gran's house. Generally, house rules at home were waived or overlooked at Gran's house. Bedtime went from 7:30 to 8:00, the TV was conveniently forgotten to be turned off after one show, etc. It certainly endeared my kids to their grandparents and we were also acknowledged as being ok with them "getting away with things" (never bad behaviour) at Gran's house. My kid's memories of those days are more the feeling of "fun" at gran's house than the many terrific events such as going to the playground or to the amusement park or the beach. It was a vacation from us parents, from their everyday rules and from their routine.

The other thing they loved about gran's house was at bedtime, instead of reading many books, she would tell them stories about when their father (me) was their age. I am not even sure that the stories were real and not made up, but the kids loved hearing about the silly things their dad did. Then she would read one book and off to bed they wentl
posted by AugustWest at 5:35 AM on June 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

My grandma would stock certain things -- miniature pineapple juices in particular that we would never get at home. It was consistent, so I still associate little cans of pineapple juice with her.
posted by typecloud at 5:45 AM on June 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

My mom is good at this kinds of stuff but won with whiteboard paint so you can literally draw on her walls.
posted by whitewall at 6:00 AM on June 27, 2016

Tell them stories

Ans of they're old enough, tell them about your childhood
posted by Kwadeng at 6:35 AM on June 27, 2016

Seconding the special snack that you only get at Grandma's. To this day, a bottle of Kissan grape concentrate makes me bawl because it reminds me of my grandparents.
posted by Tamanna at 8:27 AM on June 27, 2016

I think that anything they don't typically get at home that they enjoy becomes a "grandparent treat" even if it's not too out-there. For me with my grandparents, it was bringing baby food jars of applesauce on picnics. For my kid, it's those non-perishable containers of chocolate milk. I think that sort of thing just ends up happening because of the ways our brains make patterns.

Other things: Berry picking. Feeding birds. Cooking unusual desserts (my son's other grandparents saved a gingerbread house kit for their summertime visit because we did one with them twice and now it's A Thing for him.) Playing with toys that their parents played with. Playing with your cheaper jewelry or other collections.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:53 AM on June 27, 2016

Playing board games is something my son loves to do with grandma.
Also, cooking with grandma, special foods I never would take the time to make.
He loves it when she reads to him, just for fun, not at bed time as we do as parents.

Another thing she does is play with his Playmobile figures with him, sometimes literally for hours. She has a room dedicated to craft work and an old craft table with a nearly ruined surface and on that they make landscapes out of sand and water, with leaves for trees, and bury treasure (eg plastic "jewels" or real small denomiation coins and "find" that. It makes a huge mess, he could never do that at home in our flat caue of parquet floors, but as this is her messy craft room with a working floor it does not bother her if there is sand on the floor or water or both. They trade and bargain, using just regular small coins, and construct forrests form twigs, lakes full of tiny fish made from clay. It is lovely to watch and special / unique to grandma's house.

Also she does crafts with him, as she is a professional marbler, and she has taught him how to marble on paper and other surfaces and he is real good at it now.
posted by 15L06 at 12:06 PM on June 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is a very sweet question. I think some of these activities evolve based on the child's typical life and what's different at the grandparents' house. For instance, my mom is an excellent quilter and seamstress. One of the things my daughter loves to do is "help grandma sew" where she directs my mom in what stitches to use on her machine and they make little hair bands and bracelets or doll blankets. They also do a lot of baking, which is something I don't do a lot of, but my mom enjoys. And the grandparents have more room so their rec room is a place where the kids can build big forts or play in big boxes - right now there's a pretty great train of a few boxes attached in a row, which my kids wouldn't have room to make at their own house. They also love star gazing with their grandparents, which is something they usually don't get to stay up late enough to do at home (and we can't see as many stars at our house).
When I was a child, I liked picking flowers and vegetables from my grandmother's garden. My other grandmother lived in a city and it was exciting to ride the bus with her or walk to the neighborhood convenience store and buy candy.
posted by areaperson at 7:21 PM on June 27, 2016

We also liked the "How to babysit a grandma/grandpa" books. Oh, and I recently discovered one way to blow my preschooler's mind is to go to a park and play and then leave and go directly to another park. That was really fun! This also works with dogs and dog parks :)
posted by areaperson at 7:32 PM on June 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just remembered that my Great Grandmother used to do jigsaw puzzles with us. They started as those huge ones with about 10 pieces and as we got older, before she died, they would be the 500 piece pictures of flowers that were nigh near impossible to do. She had this big magnifying glass she would examine the pieces under.

She would also give us $2 when we went to the store with her which in those days was a lot of candy. When my mother complained, Great grandmother would simply smile and say that at 92, she sometimes forgets. Sorry.

I think what I remember most is the events or things that brought out my grandparent's personalities. They didn't have to be big and exciting things, just things that I could always associate with them that were, in my life, unique to them.
posted by AugustWest at 10:57 PM on June 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

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