Grandparents are some of the luckiest people I know. They get to play with their grandchildren and when they are tired they can go home and leave putting the kids to bed to the parents.
One of the most playful people in my life was my maternal grandmother. We kids called her Granny and the adults called her Mamma. Granny loved to play, and she passed that on to me. When we played together we would relax and enjoy our time together. I suggest you put yourself in your grandchild’s shoes. If the grandchild is younger than six years of age, keep the playing simple and fun. Move on to another activity if they have had enough of the game you just played. As kids get older, activities and games can become more sophisticated. Time spent playing a game can go on for hours and sometimes be paused and continued later.
Here are other helpful suggestions for playing with grandchildren:
Go outside to play
Consider taking your grandchild to a park or playground that is within walking distance. You may want to bring along sandbox toys for the younger kids, a soccer ball, a frisbee, and/or sidewalk chalk. Active play is critical for kids’ physical development. It helps children hone their coordination, balance, gross motor skills (large movements like crawling and walking) and fine-motor skills (smaller movements like picking objects up). For grandparents who can bike ride, hike, hula-hoop, play basketball, tennis, and other physical activities invite your grandchildren to join you. Additionally, an outing to the beach, lake or pool can be a special experience between you and one they will likely cherish as they get older. Modeling physical activities and striving to make them fun for everyone is one of the best ways you can instill the importance of being physically active in your grandkids.
Check out free play options
Some of the best options for play are FREE. When my children were young I regularly took them to story time at our local library. You may want to decide beforehand how many books you allow your kids to take out. I allowed the kids to take out 10 books because that was an easy number to remember and not too many to collect to return the next week. Reading books that give enjoyment, help kids (and grandparents) use their imaginations, and ignite conversations are a great way to play. In addition, find out if there are free magazines in your area that list other free play options in your community.
Modeling physical activities and striving to make them fun for everyone is one of the best ways you can instill the importance of being physically active in your grandkids.
Share what you played as a child
Did you play jacks? Maybe you played hopscotch, hula-hooped, made mud pies, built a tree house, played board games, hide-and-go-seek, tag, and other activities and games that your grandchildren would enjoy. Make a list of what you played as a child before the grandkids come to visit. Purchase a hula-hoop or two, a couple of board games, and any supplies needed to introduce the grandkids to the games you played years ago.
Let your grandkids choose what you play with them
Do you want the grandkids to play with you? Let them choose what you play. In our tech-savvy world, most kids are exposed to technology at a young age, and tech time is ok in moderation. If you Skype with your grandchildren and know they are coming for a visit, ask them to list activities they would like to play outside, board games if it rains, and any activities they would like to try for the first time. Depending on the age of your grandchildren, their ideas should reflect their age. A three-year-old may say they want to go to a playground, whereas a teenager may not give you an answer at all. Suggest the teenager Google fun outside activities for them in your town. The more you let the grandkids share their ideas the higher chance they will want to play with you and be receptive to what you suggest.
Let your grandkids win every now and then
Long ago, when I was somewhere between the age of four to six, Granny taught me how to play a couple of Italian card games: Briscola and Scopa. I might be imagining this, but I believe Granny let me win some in my early years and when Granny was in her 80s I know I let her win some. The highest level of playing is when you are considerate to everyone that is playing. Of course, it is nice to win, but if you are playing with family, friends, and especially your grandchildren, let them win every once in a while. I recommend not making it obvious.
Most importantly, have fun with your grandkids! They grow up fast and will remember the times you played with them. When your grandchildren become grandparents, they will pass it on.