Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fun for All

We took our week-end visitors to the local children's museum – that is, my daughter and I took her two children plus our two week-end visitors.
What fun it is for cousins to spend time together! We walked the local walking trail for four blocks in a misty rain, which required umbrellas, which required twirling, poking, and getting just a little bit wet to see if we still needed umbrellas.
Anticipation was running high, and the museum did not disappoint! There was a water table to splash in, a painting wall to paint on, and a special “Agmazing” exhibit, which really was agmazing – a tractor and a combine to drive, an auger to turn, cows to “milk,” and a table to set with farm produce. Various video screens offered a real-life glimpse into the world of farming, and rows of wooden corn were fun to walk around.
The current exhibit about Japan also caught the six-year old's interest as he practiced fishing, then checked out the areas highlighting each season in Japan.
The littler ones enjoyed bicycling with a skeleton, investigating the dentist's chair, and driving the truck to go to the Main Street exhibit.
Everywhere we turned there was something intriguing, exciting, and fun.
I wish someone would invent a “children's museum” where adults could go and play!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Week-end Visitors

My grandma ironed her sheets, and her towels were always fluffy and warm.
When my little sister and I went to visit overnight, she would give us a bath before bed, then brush our hair and tuck us into crisp sheets. She would read us a story – Peter Rabbit was a favorite – help us say our prayers, then turn out the light, assuring us she and grandpa would be in the next room.
The next morning we'd have a big breakfast: cantaloupe, bacon, eggs, toast, orange juice, milk, cinnamon rolls, maybe even some fried potatoes, and if we were lucky, a sip of coffee laced with milk. Later on we might make a trip uptown for shopping; grandma might bake bread or “dust up” the living room. She usually had some little bit of work for us to do, but looking back I think it was “busy work” in the truest sense of those words.
When I got to be a little older my overnight visits became a time to do some detective work: what was my dad like when he was a little boy? Did he always whistle when he worked? Did he get in trouble a lot?
Or I'd ask my other grandmother about my mom: was she a good help? Did she complain when she had chores? Did she do her homework cheerfully?
Sometimes I got answers, or even a peek at a photograph; sometimes I got the runaround. Grown-ups often stick together, and my grandparents never said or did anything to undermine my parents' mystique and authority.
Two of our grandchildren will spend this week-end with us.
The sheets won't be ironed, and the towels might not be quite as fluffy as my grandmother's, but probably there will be baths before bed, stories and prayers. Probably there will be chores for me and busy work for them, with maybe a trip uptown to the children's museum. And there will definitely be a good breakfast – probably some of grandpa's famous buttermilk pancakes with some real maple syrup or blueberries.
Visiting grandparents, spending the night with them, is like time traveling. A child gets a glimpse of what it might have been like for her parent to grow up in a particular house. It helps to shake away the illusion that a parent has always been an adult, and sometimes reveals the fact that a grandparent hasn't always been “old.”
And for grandparents, it's a bit of time traveling, too, back to the time when they were young parents themselves, or even back to the time when they visited their own grandparents for an overnight stay.
You don't have to be Einstein to figure out the value – or the fun - of that!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Summer Fun with your Grandkids

Summer offers lots of opportunities for us to connect with our grandchildren. Here are ten ideas for summer fun:

*Visit a zoo, a children's museum, or some other place where the educational component is hidden in the fun.
*Pack a picnic and head to the beach, the park, or the backyard.
*Go to a U-Pick Berries place together, then clean the berries and serve them with ice cream on the porch. For extra fun, make the ice cream yourselves.
*Pick a sports team to root for together. Get matching t-shirts or baseball caps with “your” team's name on them.
*Have a “lazing on the porch” day. Fix a thermos of iced tea, pick out a good book or two, and spend the day reading, talking, and playing board games on the porch or deck.
*Go to the county or state fair together, or find a local festival to take in. Indulge in "fair food." Ride some rides together, and try winning a stuffed animal or two.
*Get your picture taken together, even if it's just in a photo booth at the mall. Frame one for you and one for your grandchild.
*Go to church together. Teach your grandchild your favorite hymn.
*Go on a scavenger hunt together in your neighborhood. Make a list of things you want to find, identify, and photograph together: five different types of trees, for instance.
*If you live far away from your grandchildren, find a local delicacy that will ship well, and send it to them. Or send them a throw-away camera, ask them to fill it with shots of what they are doing this summer, then send it back to you for developing.