Ask Dr. Gramma Karen: Get Ready for the Grandkids!

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Note: This is an unabridged version of a column I wrote for GRAND Magazine. With summer vacations on the horizon and grandchildren-grandparent visits being planned, here are some tips and suggestions that might be helpful.

My husband and I live in Fort Lauderdale November through May. The remainder of the year we live at the Jersey Shore near our daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons, now 15- and 12-years-old. Happily for us, from birth our grandsons have visited us as many as three times a year when we’re in Florida.

In preparing for their visits our goal has always been to get them from the plane to the beach with as little time as possible devoted to “settling in.” Through the years we’ve done several things to expedite this process.

Eliminate the Hassle of Luggage

For example, before their first visit of the season, our daughter packs a couple of boxes with the clothes they will need for their “fun in the sun” and ships them to us. We unpack them and put the clothes in their assigned drawers in “their armoire” and hang things in “their space” in a closet. (Because we have a washer and drier, they don’t need a whole lot of clothes.) After their final visit of the season we place all their clothes in boxes and ship them back to them.

This process eliminates the need for any luggage, not to mention it avoids the hassle of baggage claim. A backpack with their digital devices and snacks is all each of them needs. They don’t even need to pack a toothbrush!

Shop Ahead For the Food

Prior to their visit we request that our grandchildren and their parents give us a list of all the food and beverages they would like us to have on hand. This way we shop at our leisure instead of rushing around once they’ve arrived. Favorite foods are prepared in advance and put in the freezer, ready to go upon request, e.g., crusted tilapia for our older grandson and roasted chicken for the younger guy. Checking in with them prior to each visit addresses changes in their food preferences.

Plan Ahead For Activities

When the boys were younger we had a large plastic bin for each of them containing books, games, and crafts. We kept these bins in storage between visits and would retrieve them as needed. Each boy had his “activity corner” ready for action when he came through the door.

Before their arrival, my husband, “Peps” to our grandsons, gets their bikes out of storage, pumps the tires, and oils the chains. He also makes sure that their basketballs have air, the wheels on their skateboards are oiled, and their boogie boards are clean.

Be Prepared For Rainy Days

In addition to having the usual board games available that we can do as a family, e.g., Scrabble, Monopoly, Dominoes, we are ready for indoor activities. When the boys were younger, we would take them to a museum especially geared to young kids, a make-your-own pottery shop, or the library for story time. Now that they’re older, we have them signed up at the local trampoline park, the indoor basketball courts, and the local ninja lounge for rock and rope climbing and obstacles courses.

Regardless of their ages, a favorite indoor activity continues to be giving them some cash and taking them to a bookstore or toy store so they can browse and pick out what they would like to buy, within budget of course! Shopping, followed by lunch or dinner out and/or a trip to the ice cream store, is a sure winner on a rainy day.

What Do We Do All Day? is an excellent resource for a wide variety of indoor activities for kids of all ages, as it includes numerous books, games, and art projects.

Bring a Friend

When we were raising our daughter Heather, who is an only child, she often invited a friend to come with us when we traveled. One of her friends in particular, Bethany, one of six kids, loved joining us; she got a break from a noisy household filled with siblings, and her family got to take a bit of a break from her! We know of another family with two kids where the kids take turns inviting a friend. Adding an additional child to the mix won’t work for every family, but for others it makes for more enjoyable travels.

Are We Spoiling Our Grandchildren?

When we share with others the details of our preparations for our grandchildren and their parents’ visits, they often ask: “Aren’t you afraid of spoiling them by doing everything for them?”

Our answer is: “It is our joy to spoil them this way. We want to do whatever we can to help them get from the plane to the beach in short order.” We never feel taken for granted or unappreciated – our grandsons, our daughter, and our son-in-law make sure that we know how much they appreciate our efforts to make their visits as easy, hassle-free, and fun as possible.

Ask Dr. Gramma Karen is published every other Tuesday.
E-mail queries to [email protected]

Dr. Rancourt’s most recent book is,
Ask Dr. Gramma Karen, Volume II: Savvy Advice to Soothe Parent-Grandparent Conflicts


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