Tips for spending quality time with your grandchildren

Monday, January 7, 2013

So you've got the grandkids for the day, but you can't get them to put down the iPhone or step away from the video game.

Today's kids are often so plugged into their technology, it takes extra effort to engage their attention. So, we've put together some ideas for making the most of your time with them:

Go outside

"Children usually love being outside and spending fun time taking a walk or going to the park would be a great way to spend an afternoon," says Shannon Anderson, licensed therapist and clinical director of Tender Hearts Child Therapy Center.

For a special treat, load the kids up in the car for a trip to a nearby state park or conservation area. Take a hike at Trail of Tears State Park or, when the weather's nicer, head to Bollinger County to splash around in the Castor River. Pick a day when the kids don't have soccer practice or a dance recital; that way you can make the most of your time and not feel rushed.

Moving at a slower pace than usual can give children a respite from their busy day-to-day activities.

Share interests

"Share hobbies or other interests that either the grandparent or grandchild enjoys," Anderson says. "This is a great way to feel connected and learn more about each other in a fun, engaging way."

You may be surprised by what interests your grandkids. Invite them to help you in the kitchen while you're cooking their favorite dish -- you'll be spending time together and they'll be learning something. If you're famous for your garden-grown vegetables, ask them to pitch in while you're weeding.

On the flip side, ask them questions about what they're interested in. When they get to talk about what they're passionate about, they may open up to you even more.

Game time

When the weather is too cold to play outside, break out some classic board games. "These are a great way to encourage open communication in a more casual way," Anderson says.

They're also a good opportunity to help your grandchild learn to be a good sport and play fairly.

History lesson

Dig out some family photo albums and tell your grandkids stories about their parents when they were the same age. "Children, even young children, often enjoy hearing stories about relatives and ancestors," Anderson says. "By sharing such stories with grandchildren, they are able to pass on family history to their own children in the future."

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The discipline issue

It can't always be fun and games. As a grandparent, you should reinforce their parents' rules and expectations.

"It is important to have clear, consistent expectations for the child no matter where he or she is at," Anderson says. "Also, I would urge grandparents to use whatever form of effective discipline (timeouts, loss of privileges) that parents are using so the child knows that consequences, as well as expectations, will be the same."

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