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Fun, Yet Inexpensive Activities Grandparents Can Do With Grandchildren

by Gary Foreman

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The memories you carry from your childhood often include activities that you did with your grandparents as a child. Naturally, you want to make some wonderful memories for your own grands to have, but kids seem different from when we were growing up. The world has changed. So what can grandparents do with their grandchildren today?

To help us answer that question, we interviewed Sara Schwartz, managing editor of is the website of the American Grandparents Association.

Q: Today's children learn to use electronic devices when they're still toddlers. Can grandparents still play old fashioned games with them?

Sara Schwartz: Absolutely! Kids have plenty of time to play electronic games on their own. Visiting with grandparents should be a treat, something other than what they do day in and day out. That's what makes the time so special. Share a board game like Monopoly or Operation, or a play a classic hand game (no additional parts required!) or card game. The best thing about old-fashioned games is that they rely on interaction between players, so you learn about each other while you're busy having fun.

Q: Many grandparents like activities that are educational. Are there activities that can teach grandchildren without boring them?

Sara Schwartz: Tons of fun educational activities are at your fingertips at home, and they are all very low-cost, if not free. Cooking is always a fun educational tool because it's a usable skill. It involves measuring and sometimes math, and it's messy. Kids like that! Treasure hunts are useful for teaching map-reading and orienteering. Simple science experiments using household goods are a great option. They teach kids about chemical reactions and density. Sometimes they involve explosions and cool colors. Take them to the garden! You can teach kids about how plants grow, photosynthesis, and how bugs and crawly things help the cycle of life.

Q: Teens typically don't want to be seen with their parents or grandparents. What can we do together that won't embarrass them?

Sara Schwartz: People of all ages like the bowling alley. Plus, kids can't be embarrassed by their grandparents when you're all doing the same silly sport! If teens have their learner's permit, offer to teach them how to drive. You'll likely be a more patient teacher than mom or dad and less likely to get under teens' skin when you offer advice. If teens are highly prone to embarrassment, try interacting with them via an app like Words With Friends. No one else will know who they're having such a good time with.

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Q: How can we introduce grandchildren to our hobbies?

Sara Schwartz: Invite them to a hobby-swap day, where they teach you about one of their favorite hobbies and you teach them one of yours. Kids will be more likely to listen and learn after you've shown them that you can listen and learn from them.

Q: Are there activities that provide an ongoing connection? Is there something that's more than a one-time outing?

Sara Schwartz: For older kids, the Words With Friends crossword app gives you an opportunity for ongoing interaction; games can last anywhere from a day to a week or more, depending on how often you play. For younger kids, pick a chapter book to read to each other and budget a few chapters a sitting. That way, kids will be excited to see you and pick up where they left off. Long-term projects that you can do in installments, like planting flowers in a garden or assembling a scrapbook, are also fun options.

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Q: What do grandparents often overlook when they're thinking of activities to share with their grandchildren?

Sara Schwartz: The first step to figuring out fun activities is to talk with your grandkids. Ask them what they're interested in and what they are doing in and outside of school. If you find out they are taking clarinet lessons, introduce them to some famous songs featuring the clarinet or take them to a music museum. Or if they are really into soccer, find a local league and take them to a game. They're usually free or very low-cost. If they like art of any kind, hit the art museums or host a crafternoon at home. Once you hear what they like straight from the horse's mouth, the sky's the limit.

So you sure can enjoy some fun, yet inexpensive activities with your grandchildren. Why not get started today?

Reviewed May 2017

Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, and Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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