Grandmothers influence their grandkids’ lives in profound ways, usually by doing simple things. The first step to being the cool grandma is to realize two things about what “cool” really means: First, being cool isn’t a phony, surface-level attitude that is concerned about looking cool. Second, being cool emphasizes spending time over spending money. You don’t need to shower your grandkids with material gifts or do expensive things to be on their A-list. Whether you live across the street or half a continent away, the key to being cool is to spend time with them as often as you can. Doing so will build a great relationship with your grandkids now. And chances are they’ll still be boasting about your awesomeness when they grow up!
1. Teach a hobby or activity you love
Chances are you’ve developed a bunch of useful skills so far in your life. Why not share those skills with a new generation? A few ideas, among others, include crocheting, guitar, fishing, watercolor painting, playing board games, sewing, gardening, cooking, food preservation and even just collecting things. If you live far away, you can still teach a skill over several sessions of video chat, like FaceTime or Skype. Even if you don’t know how to use these services, chances are your kids or grandkids will. Just think of things you love to do and pass on your passion!
2. Make a time capsule together
Assemble a box filled with simple “treasures,” like written notes to each other. Bury the capsule in the yard or store it in a remote cabinet to be opened in 5 or 10 years. For more on the how-to of time capsule creation, go here.
3. Serve others in fun ways
Gather materials to make care packages and send them to people in need, or create a lemonade stand or bake sale and donate the proceeds to charity. Explore more fun service ideas here.
4. Go on “grandma dates”
As often as you can, take opportunities to go swimming, hiking, camping, on a picnic or mini road trip, to the movie theater, a museum, class or workshop. If you live far away, be pen pals or video chat online with each other regularly.
5. Teach them about your life
Share stories about your life and childhood while you’re together (this is great to do while driving!) Take your grandkids places you liked to go when you were their age, if possible. Drive by your childhood home. Show them family photos from your youth and tell them memories you have of your parents, siblings, grandparents, other relatives and friends.
6. Show interest in their lives
Attend concerts and sporting events in which your grandkids participate. Show them you care enough to show up and cheer them on in their endeavors. For long-distance grandmas, live video chat again comes in handy where electronic devices are permitted. Arrange for someone attending the event to FaceTime your phone during your grandchild’s performance so that you can smile with pride in real time!
7. Host sleepovers at your house
Remember those old school overnight bags flanked with the illustration of a smiling child, suitcase and teddy bear in-hand, bounding down the road beneath the words Going to Grandma’s? Those attest to the reality that sleepovers at Grandma’s are the pinnacle of fun in childhood! As circumstances allow, invite your grandkids to indulge in an over-nighter at your place.
8. Create or carry on a family tradition together
Throw a costume party each Halloween, submit gratitudes to a “thankful box” every Thanksgiving, make fondue on New Year’s Eve, host dress-up tea parties, celebrate half-birthdays or even put on your own annual “family olympics”. Find dozens more ideas for family traditions here.
9. Sing, read, and dance with them
Your grandkids will appreciate you for this, and the memories will last them a lifetime. In addition to the joy of bonding with them now, you may appreciate this later, too; they could be reading to you one day!
10. Invest time in them individually
Have candid, one-on-one conversations with each of your grandchildren about their lives and future. Ask them questions, learn their interests and ambitions. Teach them ways to prepare for their future and do what you can to help, like showing them how to open college savings accounts or how to set and write down goals.
As you can see, there’s no shortage of inexpensive ways to spend time with your grandchildren. They will not only grow up with fond memories of you, but they may pass along those activities and traditions to their own children and grandchildren, making you the first link in a long chain of family bonding.