Welcome to the Holidays
The rewards of making holidays grandchild-oriented are personal and rich — for both grandchildren and their grandparents. In the rush to get things done, however, relaxed and simple opportunities for memory-making can be missed. If this sounds like a portrait of your family, you might try to change to simpler, more heartfelt rituals. Trust us. Taking the time during the holidays to get on all fours with your grandbaby or to get as frosting-covered as the gingerbread with your preschooler grandchild will give you the warmest, most meaningful memories of all.
This holiday issue features gentle tips from families worldwide and stockings full of terrific holiday activity ideas.
> Click on the topics below that interest you! (The first one is already open, so click on the title to close it, or scroll down for more.)
Sometimes in the hubbub of family get-togethers, the littlest grandchildren can feel left out. One cure for this is to add a grandchild-oriented twist to whatever you do. M. Knaflewska told us that "in Poland the big Christmas Eve dinner can't begin until the youngest child in the family sees the first star in the sky." E. and J. Donzey from Munich, Germany, related, "If a young family doesn't have glass tree balls, the grandparents might help the grandchildren wrap chestnuts in aluminum foil or make stars out of straw to hang on the tree." And if your family doesn't yet follow the tradition of allowing grandchildren to open a small gift each night during Hanukkah, you can design your own variation of this lovely ritual.
Hosting family during the holidays is a lot of work, and children will feel needed and rewarded if they can help, too. With a dishtowel apron to catch spills, your preschool-age grandchild can wash the veggies, oil and flour a pan, or knead bread dough. One way to make cooking even more meaningful — and distinguish the contributions of each grandchild — is to designate a special serving dish for each grandchild that holds a food they helped to make.
Grandchildren love to decorate their world, and holidays are a time when their imaginations are in high gear. You can harness their creative energies by enlisting their help to decorate your home, too. Have them make homemade decorations to display, help put up sturdy decorations with your assistance, or design bows for a pet to wear for the celebration. We're sure any hesitation you might have now about the results will wash away when you see the enthusiasm of your grandchild and everyone's pride in your little one's efforts.
Perhaps by now you have a bedtime ritual with your grandchild that is unique to the two of you. Now is your chance to add a little holiday fun to that routine. Check some books out of the library about your holiday. (If you're really ambitious, you can record one of your readings and the conversation you have about it with your grandchild to bring out and enjoy next year.) Leave a little love note under your little one's pillow in a holiday shape. Or sing your grandchild's favorite holiday songs in a whisper-soft, sleepy voice as a lullaby.
Perhaps your children have moved far from home, or maybe this year other commitments make it hard for some of your loved ones to come. We've had our share of these holiday experiences, too, and know that some of the energy and love you feel is refocused toward sending packages and waiting for holiday messages — especially from your grandchildren.
You can still wrap up some of that extra holiday love, however. Take the time to be creative, even with your packing materials. Cushion your box with things that can become art in the right little hands. Enclose instructions with your package about how to transform your crumpled tissue paper into a mosaic or tissue flowers; how to turn your packing bubbles into an easy-to-do "bubble print"; or how to reshape your crumpled newspaper into a papier-mache form. And you can always sprinkle in among the packing some love notes from you to your little one.
Another sure way to keep your grandchildren in mind and heart, even if they're not able to come, is to do as N. and J. of Alexandria, Virginia, have done. N. wrote: "I needleworked stockings for every member of the family this year. The stockings will stay at our house to be discovered whenever they visit during the holidays. No matter where they are, their stocking will be hung at our house so that they are in our minds during the holidays." These days, when jobs and schooling can scatter families thousands of miles apart, little gestures like this can make a world of difference to your family.
Holidays are about sharing — and good food, gifts, time, and attention are just a few of the ways we share ourselves. But it can be tricky to keep in mind as well how other family members are giving of their precious time and resources. Many young families have not one, but two sets of long-distance grandparents, and they spend much of their energy during the holidays traveling.
When you were a child, holidays probably meant enormous family gatherings on the exact day, because the extended family lived nearby. Now, however, smaller groups gather because families seem to have scattered — and the celebration with family can occur many days before or after the actual holiday. Try to avoid thinking of Thanksgiving dinner as something that has to happen on Thanksgiving Day; instead, allow it to happen when the family can gather, even if that means you're having dinner the Sunday afterward at 10 P.M. (We've done this!)
If you keep family as the focus, your time with your grandchildren and grown children will be as relaxed as you had hoped it would be — no matter when it occurs.
It's just not fair. You've spent days getting ready. You've spent weeks planning meals and stocking the freezer. Your closets are filled to the top with brightly wrapped gifts. And your family is now home, just as you dreamed, but after two days of catching up, the grandkids are climbing the walls (via the couch and end table); your children, now adults, are passive blobs glued to the television set; and you're working your derriere off to just keep some semblance of order in the house. Or maybe you're blessed with go-getter children who love to help, but in the process rearrange your cupboards and create an impenetrable offensive line in front of the stove.
Perhaps it's time to resurrect the Job Chart, that dreaded chore list that your children had thought was safely buried somewhere in the basement. But this time it doesn't have to carry the weight that it did when your children were young — just take up the old idea and instead give it a new, lighter approach.
Make a list of everything that needs to be done so that the grandparents can share fully in the quality family time. Call a family meeting of your couch potatoes — or a huddle of your offensive line — and let them know that you need each and everyone's help. You can even help the young grandchildren choose from among the manageable jobs and leave the rest for the adults to either assign or just remember and do as needed. You'll be amazed at how easy it can be, and how proud your little ones are to help, especially when you tell them how "grown up" they are to be able to do so many important things for Grandma and Grandpa.
As J. W. from Ramsey, New Jersey, wrote, it's "important to tell stories about family history--particularly about people granchildren will never know." Think back to what made your family holidays special. The smells of gingerbread and the jingle of bells on stockings at Christmas; the warm glow of candlelight and happy songs of Hanukkah; Uncle Ed's incredible appetite at Thanksgiving and the clink of dishes being washed afterward; the light giggles of bewitching little merrymakers at Halloween.
It's the camaraderie of good friends and family and the reassuring familiarity of common rituals that make a holiday special, and these are elements that you can help recreate for your grandchildren as well.
Grandloving Activity Idea: Bubble Wrap Prints
When you send those packages, be sure to include some bubble wrap with these instructions for an easy project your little artists will love!
Ages: Eighteen months to four years
* Tempera or washable fingerpaints
* Smocks or Grandpa's old shirt as a coverup
* Newspapers to protect the table
* Plastic bubble wrap
* Paint the bubble wrap.
* Place a piece of paper over it, and remove.
* The result is a gorgeous "modern art" design.
Grandloving Activity Idea: Create a Winter Wonderland
Save the chiseling for the pros--your grandchildren will create ice sculptures unlike any you've seen.
Ages: Three to five years
* Freezing weather
* A variety of containers: plastic food containers in all sizes and shapes work well
* Fill the containers with water.
* Set outside to freeze in the cold.
* Unmold and with the help of a small cup of water as "cement" stack one shape onto another until the masterpiece is complete.
* Hold a family ice sculpture contest to see who can make the smallest, the funniest, the scariest, etc.
Grandloving Activity Idea: The Gift Wrap Rap
Don't be surprised if your grandchildren want to make this a holiday tradition!
Ages: Two to five years
* Your family seated around the dinner table
* A gift appropriate for any age such as homemade cookies, a simple game, or puzzle
* To wrap the one gift in at least as many layers of different paper as there are people at the table.
* Send the gift around the table, having each person in turn remove one layer of paper.
* The person who removes the last wrapping can open the gift for the family to share.
Special Babyproofing Concerns for the Holidays
Your home will certainly be warm and inviting during the holidays for both adults and children, and you'll want to make sure that everything within reach of your grandchildren is safe. The most poisonous holiday decorations are mistletoe and jerusalem cherry, which are highly toxic; but other plants such as holly, poinsettia, evergreen trees (if your grandchild has an allergy), and stray pine needles can also cause problems if eaten. Be careful not to use a tree preservative that contains nitrates, which if ingested can cause a blood disorder.
See to it that tree lights are the new coolburning kind and are never near your grandchild's mouth — esp. the small blinking ones, which contain a chemical that is dangerous to consume. Also beware of common decorations such as angel hair, tinsel, glass or small plastic ornaments, which are choking hazards and can wreak havoc with your child's stomach if eaten.
Be conscientious during the busy gift-giving season about batteries, colognes, ribbons, and wrappings, which pose special dangers to babies. And watch any alcoholic drinks so that they aren't accidentally consumed by your grandchildren. As a special precaution, post your local poison control center's number near your phone and be sure that you or someone in your family is familiar with first aid and CPR techniques for children.
Compiled and adapted from: What to Expect the First Year, 2d ed., by Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi E. Murkoff, and Sandee E. Hathaway.
(One of our kids, Nick, gets in the act with a special dot-to-dot puzzle for grandchildren and grandparents to print and share!)
Hi! I'm Nick, and I have two Grandmas and two Grandpas who live far away, and I like to send them fun things to do. You can print and send copies of my ideas, or try your own. I love to get e-mail, too. If you want, you can send me your ideas or questions by clicking on my name.
I'm just getting started, but you can try the dot-to-dot heart this time! I'll add more soon.
(Click here to open Nick's dot-to-dot puzzle. You can save it to your computer and later attach it to an e-mail if you'd like to send it to someone.)
Just in time for the holidays — some new print and send activities to keep the generations close! Just click on the title of the activity that interests you and print the document that appears.
Grandloving Print and Send Idea: A Hands-On Favorite Turkey
Remember tracing your hand in elementary school to make Thanksgiving turkeys? Trace your own or use ours to have some holiday fun!
Age: Three to five years
Your Grandchild Will Need:
* A tracing of your hand, or our model (click on hotlink in activity title, and print in the color you wish).
* Send a copy of your handprint to your grandchild, along with an invitation to decorate your hand tracing like a turkey and to make one to send to you!
* If your grandchild really enjoys this activity, you might have her make enough to decorate placemats (or to make name cards) for Thanksgiving dinner!
Grandloving Print and Send Idea: Coupons of Caring (Back by Popular Demand!)
We're sure you've seen something like this in stores, but these you can personalize with a special photo of yourself!
Age: Two to six years
* The coupon (click on hotlink in activity title)
* A small photo of yourself
*Attach a photo of yourself, or one of yourself and your grandchild, to the coupon, and fill in the "good for" line. Perhaps the coupon could be redeemable for a special do-together activity during your next visit. * Send the coupon to your grandchild, and enjoy hearing your delighted little one talk about it during your next call!
Grandloving Print and Send Idea: A Festive Stocking Maze
A Christmas activity that's sure to be a hit!
Age: Four to six years
Your Grandchild Will Need:
* The stocking maze (click on hotlink in activity title, and print in the color you wish). Try red for a holiday mood!
* Send a copy of the maze to your grandchild.
* Enjoy talking about how fun it was during your next call. You might even challenge an older grandchild to make a maze for you!
Click here to print or save our Coupons of Love. They're back by popular demand!
Looking for a super catalog for children's clothing? Searching for a great resource for new moms? On the lookout for some super classic toys for little ones? Our Web Resources section provides some links to other resources that might interest you. Let us know your favorites, too!
The 5th edition of our book can help you learn to support and become closer to a young and growing family, even if you're a first-time grandparent.
Visit our home page for more details and how to order a copy.