Being an intentional grandparent requires effort. Yet connecting with your grandchildren and making memories together doesn’t have to be costly or extravagant. In this article. Susan Macias shares 5 simple traditions to start with grandchildren today to help foster your relationship and build memories for years to come.
Being an intentional grandparent requires effort. When the next generation of our family began to arrive, I wondered what traditions I should start with my grandchildren. I wanted to build lifelong memories with them so they would remember my love and care long after I was gone.
If you too take your grandparent duties seriously, you might be asking the same questions. What are the best activities to start with your grandchildren? Should you concentrate on big family traditions or maybe search for fun simple activities? While times have changed and electronic entertainment dominates our grandchildren’s options, I have good news for you. Often, the easiest solutions are the best.
I learned this wisdom from my own family. I have precious memories of traditions with my grandparents. My parents and my husband’s parents also make purposeful decisions in their own grandparent roles. Many of my suggestions come from what I learned from them. The most important factor I observed is that activities with our grandchildren don’t require money or extravagance. Rather, consistency and one-on-one attention are the most important ingredients because it is these things that build strong relationships. And strong relationships are fertile ground for lifelong memories to flourish.
GRANDPARENT TRADITIONS TO BEGIN
Influential grandparents are also intentional grandparents. Making consistent decisions to invest the time and effort into building close relationships takes planning. Here are five ideas for building lifelong traditions and memories with your grandchildren.
1. Make Your Home Welcoming
Making your home welcoming might not sound like a tradition in itself, but in reality it’s the foundation upon which all other traditions rest. Traditions build memories, and I want my grandchildren’s memories to be saturated with how wonderful I think they are.
Now, I must confess that when my own kids were little, I dreamed of the ‘someday’ when I could own a white couch and display lovely art on the coffee table. However, after the grandchildren arrived, I realized it would be hard to welcome them if I filled my home with breakable objects that made me cringe every time little hands entered the room. If I wanted my grandchildren to feel comfortable in my home, I needed to not worry about my stuff.
I hope their memories will always contain pictures of me throwing open the door with my arms outstretched because I’m thrilled they have arrived. Don’t we all cherish feeling welcomed? I want them to know I treasure and value them more than anything I own. So I still own dark furniture and a coffee table with nothing valuable on it.
My own mom established a playroom in her home, to which my children ran every time we visited. And my mother-in-law had toys stored where my kids knew to find them. I’ve repeated this kid-friendly attitude in my own home. While I don’t have space for a separate playroom, I have boxes of toys and coloring books easily accessible in the hall closet. The grandkids get them out every time they arrive.
Grandparents must make peace with the fact that having grandchildren equals spilled juice, dribbled crumbs, fingerprints on windows, and scattered toys. I find little animals and cars under my furniture for days after the grandkids visit. I step on crayons and throw away scraps of paper. But the mess feels worth it considering the long-term gain of my grandchildren remembering my home as welcoming, inviting, warm, and enjoyable.
What could you do to make your home even more welcoming to your grandchildren?
2. Visit and Revisit a Favorite Restaurant
Repetitiveness establishes traditions. A simple, repeated event often builds stronger memories than one large, expensive one. Having a special spot where you and your grandchild enjoy eating is an easy way to build memories. Besides, it is also a fun thing to do!
My mother-in-law taught me the value of this tradition. If you stayed with Grandma, a trip to Jim’s, a small local cafe, almost always occurred. Because it was close to her home, inexpensive, and served pancakes at any time of day, it was the perfect restaurant for her to take the grandkids. The most kid-friendly thing about this restaurant was that the waitress would hand the children a box of crayons and a sheet of paper. There was no playground to send kids to while you waited for food; no animated animals bellowed from the wall. But the quiet restaurant meant grandparent and grandchild could chat away. And there were enough crayons that she could play Tic Tac Toe with them while they awaited their pancakes.
When my mother-in-law passed away in early 2020, all her grandchildren went to Jim’s together in her honor. They ordered pancakes and shared memories of her. They still think of her every time they frequent the restaurant. We now live close to the same restaurant, and when we took our granddaughters for pancakes, I felt like we were both honoring her memory and continuing the family tradition she started.
To implement this tradition, I suggest you choose a local, inexpensive restaurant that serves food your grandchild will enjoy. And then go often. Make it your unique spot. Take this opportunity to look in their eyes without the distractions of life and electronics.
What local restaurant could be your special spot with your grandchildren?
3. Establish a Signature Recipe
You don’t have to be an amazing cook to establish a signature dish that your grandkids will remember you for. The secret is the same as the restaurant tradition above: repetition. Memories build over time and solidify with regularity.
My parents implemented this tradition well. I know exactly what my parents’ recipes are for my kids. “Pawpaw’s Chicken” is a simple grilled chicken recipe my Dad makes. I’m not sure when the recipe took on his name, but that is the only title my kids use. Now, when they make “Pawpaw’s Chicken” for their own families, special memories of their granddad accompany the meal.
My mom has several signature dishes, but she is most famous for her coffee cake. We all make the recipe, though we have not perfected it the way she has. Christmas morning is incomplete without Grammy’s coffee cake. And we would never dream of making any recipe but hers.
Think of one special thing you could make for your grandkids. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It can even come from a box. Just make it for the grandkids often enough that when they think of that dish, they think of you.
What would you choose as your signature recipe?
4. Teach Them Your Favorite Game
My fondest memories of my own Pawpaw always involve a cribbage board. He taught me this card game when I was young, and I’m convinced my ability to add quickly in my head came from the math required for this game.
I love continuing the tradition of a family game. With my oldest granddaughter only 6, I’ve not yet attempted to teach her cribbage, though I plan on teaching her next summer, at the same age my Pawpaw taught me. For now, we play Candyland and Chutes and Ladders, and I usually let her win.
Maybe you don’t have a family game. No problem! Just choose a game and play it as often as is enjoyable for both of you. Checkers is a simple place to start and can be played for many years. Even “Go Fish” would work. The point is not to find the perfect game, but to find something you can play one-on-one with your grandchild. While playing, conversations can flow naturally and you can enjoy the set-aside time to interact.
What is a game you enjoy that you could teach your grandkids?
5. Share Your Own Passion or Hobby
My grandfather taught me to hike in the mountains. Both my grandmothers taught me to cook. My father took my kids up in his airplane. My mom taught some of the kids to sew.
What will I teach my grandchildren? I’m a history nerd. I adore museums and historic sites, and I can’t wait to share these with my grandkids. I will read them good books, explore old battlefields or historic homes, and take them to a museum or two.
Think of the privilege of passing on your knowledge and experience. Our grandchildren come to know us deeply by experiencing our passions with us. Even if this tradition doesn’t occur as often as others, the recurrence through the years will build lifelong memories.
What passion or hobby could share with the next generation?
MAINTAINING REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
The biggest secret to building lifelong memories with your grandchildren is to keep doing the activities even if the grandchildren occasionally resist. My job as the grandma is to smile, invest the time, make the effort, and keep showing up. Those are the things I can control. I cannot control my grandchildren’s response.
I will purposefully continue to take my grandparent role seriously and make peace with the fact that I might not see the fruit of my efforts until many years from now. I’m not sure my kids ever told my mother-in-law how much they enjoyed going to Jim’s with her, but lifelong memories strengthened with each plate of pancakes.
A NOTE OF ENCOURAGEMENT
One of the best pieces of wisdom I received as a young mom came at a time when I was feeling discouraged by the lack of enthusiasm demonstrated by my own kids as I attempted to enrich their lives with museums and historic sites. I love this sort of thing; but they always seemed bored.
While visiting my friend, her husband began discussing his childhood and all the wonderful trips they took and sites they visited. I sighed, feeling like a failure. Then, his mother, who was visiting, emitted a big laugh and said, “You do remember that everywhere I took you, you complained, rolled your eyes, and asked when we could leave? Don’t you?”
He denied it, but she just smiled and winked at me. That’s when I realized that the kids don’t have to appear to be enjoying themselves at the time in order for them to have wonderful memories—eventually.
So, I kept dragging my kids to educational spots, smiling in the face of their sighs and complaints. And you know what? They now enthusiastically recall all the places we visited. They seem to have forgotten their poor attitudes ever happened.
I tell you that story to encourage you. Don’t let a bad attitude, long faces, sighs, or complaints dissuade you. Investing time with your grandchildren in fun, repeatable activities will build memories you cannot buy. The time you invest and the smiles you return for their eye rolls will build a repository of rich traditions that someday they will treasure and maybe even repeat with their own grandchildren.
Making lifelong memories with our grandchildren doesn’t need to cost a great deal of money; it only requires an investment of time. The long-term return will more than repay your investment. Your time, consistency, and reliability will not only establish memories, it will also grow a fantastic relationship with your grandchildren. And what could be better than that?
Which of Susan’s ideas are you most excited to implement with your own grandchildren? Share your own traditions and memories with your grandchildren or grandparents in the comments below!
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Great tips and SO encouraging! We
Do have an important role as grandmothers!
Yes we do Michele! What a gift that we can continue to influence the generations.
This will sound crazy, I know, but we see it as our Love of Life, repeated. 53 grandkids, 8 of them are greats, 4 are adopted AND, the kids, of all ages, visit our home energetically❤️ Toys are ready!! I make their bday cards, they know I love arting, and we share art together. Gpa loves cooking, they love his cooking! Board Games and card games❣️ LaughterHUGS They all know that we ‘have an oil (essential) for any needs’. We thank our Creator, always. He is beyond generous….Jesus’ love has been the cover for our 33 years of grandparenting. Married 53❤️ with 11 children of our own. Our story. We’re stickin’ to it
What an impact you have on so many! Thanks for sharing your story of hope and intentionality!
I do not live near my grandaughters so I spend the money and make a trip every other month to visit for a week. When Audrey was born 4 years ago, I had a really nice personalized wooden box made and began writing her notes every month. (I ordered personalized note cards as well) I, of course, include a few bucks for the piggy bank I bought for her as well. Shortly after she was born, I was diagnosed with cancer. At that time, I was concerned that Audj would not remember me. The box of notes from me, seems appropriate and a way for her to remember me after I’m gone. So, with great intention, I made an even greater effort to spend as much time as possible with her and my daughter as possible. I made it my mission for her to know me. God healed me and has allowed me to continue the trek from IL to AZ every other month. I have 2 granddaughters now, Thea is 1. I did the same for her with the box and notes. While I’m visiting, I spend most of my days playing, tea parties, crafting, and scavenger hunts. I love cooking for them. Evening baths and reading books is my favorite time. I suppose these are all the usual for most grandmas. But for me, because I wasn’t sure if I would be around, I have found that this is one of my greatest purposes. I do want to be remembered but it blesses my heart. So even though I do not get to see them every week like some grandparents, I get to spend a week with them often. This time is precious.
What a wonderful way to build your impact on your granddaughters! My parents were far away from my kids for the first twenty years of our marriage, but they still built strong relationships because, like you they took the time. Thanks for sharing!
I love this idea! We are expecting our first grandchild and we live in Texas. They live in Nashville. I’ve been a little bit anxious about figuring out how to stay close to my first grandson. I love the box idea but I have a question. Did you keep the box for a certain amount of time and then give it to your grandchild all at once or did you mail the letters in the piggy bank prize?
Perfect timing! We found out a week ago that we are first-time grandparents!
Congratulations! It is an amazing relationship.
Such great practical and easy ideas! I just spent time with my 2 year old grandson so you have given me great thoughts for the future. Thank you!
So glad you find these suggestions helpful!
Susan, this is a delightful article. Our grandbabies are ages 4, 1.5, and 1. As far as a “signature dish” goes, right now, those babies count on GrandMom providing tater tots and corn-on-the-cob when they visit! 🙂 The four-year-old always asks for me to mix him up a trail mix snack every time he comes.
Recently, I gave the baby who turned one this week, an interactive, musical tea set. Prepping her to share one of my hobbies with me. 🙂 I look forward to sharing my interests in American history with all of them as they grow older. For now, they share my love of wonderful picture books.