Ask Dr. Gramma Karen: Gift Ideas for the Grandchildren


As the holidays approach grandparents begin to think of gifts for the grandchildren, typically something material. All well and good, but giving events and experiences as gifts can be an incredibly enriching and valuable alternative. Think how excited a grandchild will be to learn that as a holiday gift Grandma and Grandpa are taking her to the circus, or to the latest Disney movie followed by pancakes at the local diner, or to see a Broadway production or a professional sports event. The possibilities are endless.

Other examples: for a holiday gift, some grandparents pay for a summer camp experience or lessons that focus on a grandchild’s special interests, e.g., technology, music, sports, the arts, or leadership. Other grandparents fund special school trips to places of interest, or they join their grandchildren and participate in community work projects that utilize children and teens, e.g., Parents, or Points of Light.

Although a more costly option for the holidays, many grandparents host their extended families for a cruise or a vacation in warm-weather resorts for swimming, snorkeling and beaching it, or at winter-weather resort areas for skiing, snowshoeing, toasting marshmallows together by the fireside. Rather than renting a large house where the entire extended family stays together, many grandparents lean towards cruises and resorts where separate rooms provide some natural boundaries and privacy.

Another option is to take advantage of the family adventures offered by Road Scholar. They take care of all the details for national and international trips. When grandparents are asked about the expense involved in deciding to treat the family to a cruise, resort, or family adventure, a typical response is that it gives them great pleasure to share some of their money hosting these special family gatherings.

One extended family I know – comprising three grandparents, six young parents, and ten cousins, ranging in age from 6 to 22 – is always together for Christmas Eve. Three years ago they started a tradition whereby all the kids open a gift at the same time and try to figure out what it means. The first year each of them received a T-shirt that said Brooklyn Nets. Their initial puzzlement turned to sheer delight when they were told they were all going to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, in a suite no less, for a Brooklyn Nets – Boston Celtics game. (FYI: Celtics 93; Nets 76.)

The next year at the annual Christmas Eve gathering, the ten cousins each received a T-shirt with a different letter on it. Donning their shirts, the kids scrambled around in different configurations trying to figure out what the shirts spelled. They finally figured out “Cooperstown” and were told they were all going to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, for an overnight in a hotel. Between the museum, the hotel pool, and taking over a diner for lunch, they had lots of laughs and fun. This year (shhh!) each cousin will receive a bottle of sunscreen and a pair of sunglasses: they are headed for a week together at a resort in the Caribbean.


In addition to these non-material gift ideas, for those looking for others, I highly recommend a delightful book that is chock full of over 500 suggestions for things parents and grandparents can do to: create memorable experiences; build family traditions and rituals; strengthen lasting inter-familial connections. Some of the ideas are helpful reminders, and others are innovative – but all are practical and easy to implement.

In addition to containing an entire holiday section, there are numerous ideas for traveling, sick days, weekends, and birthdays. The book is Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day, by social psychologist and author of over 15 parenting books, Susan Newman, Ph.D. A wonderful resource!

This holiday season and throughout the year, many grandparents may want to focus on doing, connecting, and creating lasting memories with their grandchildren, rather than on shopping. These are gifts a grandchild will always cherish and remember with love and fondness, and they can be gifts about which both budget-conscious and splurging grandparents can feel good.

Ask Dr. Gramma Karen is published every other Tuesday.
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November 11th is Veteran’s Day:

Thank you

You Are Remembered

You’re always remembered

For we can never forget –

Your courage and sacrifice

So that others can live –

With hope and without fear.

Know on this day

And all days,

You are remembered.

– Natasha Niemi

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