I was sitting in the optometrist’s office waiting for my glasses to be repaired, when I realized I was singing the theme tune to “Thomas the Tank Engine.” Fortunately, I wasn’t too loud but I did feel somewhat embarrassed, so I attempted to explain.
“I have grandchildren,” I began, “and I just spent half an hour watching Thomas with the 16 month old.”
The lady helping me laughed, as did the optician fixing my glasses. “I know what you mean,” he said. “I have two girls, aged 5 & 6. They just love Thomas.”
That led to a conversation on keeping our children (and grandchildren) entertained.
Adding to the challenge is having to do it on a limited budget.
The following day it was cold and raining, so I felt it best not to take Aubren and his brother for their daily walk. Aubren still wanted to do something with Grandpa, so I sat him next to me, opened up my laptop and did a search on “youtube” for nursery rhymes and old cartoon theme tunes. He just loved it when I sang the lyrics to about a dozen nursery rhymes, “The Flintstones,” “Top Cat” and “Gummi Bears.”
The latter was his favorite, so, naturally, I had to play it half a dozen times. I even played it in French, Swedish and Hungarian, all of which are on “YouTube.” It kept him occupied for an hour.
It cost nothing, except maybe a few cents for electricity.
His favorite pastime on my lap is playing with my watch. He reaches out and pulls it off my wrist, then plays with it for almost an hour. My cell phone will only keep him busy for five minutes, so old technology works best!
When the weather is fine, I take him to the park. He loves the swings but isn’t too keen on the slides yet. All of this is free.
If the weather is not too good, I will walk him to the store, which gives him fresh air for a while, but then some warmth indoors. Again, it’s all free.
There are so many things you can do with grandchildren that cost next to nothing.
Once a week, I take the older grandchildren to the library. The library hosts all kinds of activities for young children. They can play, listen to stories, sing along, make things – all with other children in the same age group.
I also allow both girls to check out a free movie and a couple of books to read at home.
Once a month I take them into the basement at the library, where the “Friends of the Library” sell used books for a dollar or less. I let them choose one they can keep.
The park also appeals to the older children and they are always happy to have their younger cousins come along. When the four grandchildren in Indianapolis are here, they can all join us. We have four parks close by, each one with its own unique attractions.
Occasionally, I take the older girls to see a movie in a neighboring town, which charges only $2 for admission. There’s a new MacDonald’s near the theatre with a shiny big red sports car in the children’s play area. Although you don’t have to buy food there, I always treat the girls to something, even if it’s only an ice cream from the dollar menu. There’s plenty of options to a “Happy Meal,” which will save you money and end the accumulation of trashy “free gifts” that are inside every “Happy Meal”!
When the weather improves (if?), I intend to take them down to the River Walk, which should tire them out (me, too!). We already have a one-year pass to the zoo, $50 for two adults and unlimited children. It’s a good deal. They even give a 10% discount on all sales, including ice cream. The zoo pass also gives discounts at other area zoos.
The museum is also free and educates the children on Michigan, its history, topography, flora and fauna.
I intend to take them to the City Market one of these days, another freebie.
Every summer, I take the older girls to the county fair. I usually budget $50 for the day. They have one weekday with unlimited rides for $12 each child for the day, so that’s the day we go. By going early, we can take advantage of free admission and can see the farm animals without the crowds. Grandparents should be warned – some of those rides can soon make you dizzy and feel sick! It’s best to ask a parent to join you later to take the children on those.
Every single one of these activities is bonding time with your grandchildren, helping to build relationships that will last the rest of your lifetime – and the rest of theirs. I can still remember a day trip I took with my grandfather back in 1968. I’m thankful he took the time to take me somewhere, especially as he died not long afterwards.
There are so many things to do with grandchildren, even on a limited budget.
Love, attention and time are the three greatest gifts you can give to your grandchildren. Thankfully, not one of them costs money!