How to entertain your GRANDCHILDREN on a Long Visit, Tips from a Florida Retiree.
Palm Trees and Lazy Days
As a Grandparent with visiting Kids
My wife and I had lived in Central Florida for about a year when one of our kids sent an email stating; "School is out for the summer and your Grandchildren miss you"..
Not very subtle, but an effective prod, regardless.
Luckily, we had learned a lot of things about; being a Florida resident, and being a "Vacation Land" grandparent.
It turns out there are certain things that you can expect during the Wonderful and Warm days when you live in Florida.
One of the things to prepare for, of course, is just how popular you are during the Winter season. That is the time when so many of your adult relatives and friends want to come down and visit.
And, let me stop right here and say. I am not complaining!
One of the key reasons we decided to live in Florida was because we hoped to have more visitors come and see us.
We like visitors, whether relatives or old friends.
Their stays with us are special times for us, and we get to see them for longer periods of time when they are with us as opposed to when we get to visit them. And we get to just relax and enjoy their company.
We like visitors.
But that's not what this article is really about.
It is about a situation that I realized when we had two of our granddaughters spend a few weeks with us over the past summer..
Entertaining Grand-children in Florida
One of the things that you have to really be prepared for when you plan for a long visit from one or more of your grandchildren is how to keep them entertained and still not waste a small fortune on the many glitzy resorts..
And, we had two girls visit us at one time, one is seven and one is nine, but they do live in different states and really don't see each other very much.
Anyway, we knew we would have them with us for three weeks and we planned accordingly.
First off, we live in a 55+ community and our community has lots of things, for us the seniors to do, without ever leaving the community.
We have several nice Swimming Pools, an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts, a boat ramp and docks, a very nice restaurant on site, a well stocked library and on and on and on.
The reason that I list these things, besides "bragging rights" I guess, is to let you know that we took advantage of these amenities a lot when we entertained our girls.
Rory's Story Cubes Game
The kids enjoyed this toy, so it was a good investment for us.
Use the Pool as Entertainment for Kids
And, the Pool?
Well, luckily, we had noticed one important point when we saw our neighbors grandchildren visit them.
It turns out that getting kids this age to go to the pool is not a problem.
The biggest problem you have with grandchildren is how to tear them away from the Pool. Kids want to go to the Pool every time you will let them.
So, we used the pool as a boredom breaker whenever we could, which meant that we made one or two visits to the pool almost every day.
Oh, we planned trips to local commercial amusements for them every two or three days and in between, we took to an assortment of other entertainments that I list later in this article.
Now, you will notice that I have mentioned two levels of entertainment that we used; Outside attractions, that can cost a lot of money by the way, and in-community things to do, which are all free.
We put together a broader plan that kept the kids interested and at the same time didn't break our bank account.
A well thought out plan of entertainment for visiting Grandchildren.
But, you do need to sit down and get into some actual scheduling of specific things that will make a visit to Florida something memorable for them.
And you are going to have to commit a lot of your own time to entertaining them. Which I assume every grandparent is anxious to do anyway.
You see, there is a giant hole in your grandchildren's time, while they are with you that you need to fill, and this list is a collection of great sources of entertainment for kids.
Their minds are so active, and as a grandparent you had better remember how active they are as you plan your days together.
Your own children were like this at this stage of their lives and it took a lot of work and planning to fill those open and growing minds of theirs, so your grandchildren will be no different.
So, be prepared to get off of your old butt and participate.
And we did.
We had a portfolio of things that we did, and here area few suggestions for the rest of you who are expecting a long visit from young grandchildren;
Headbanz Game for Kids
Again, the kids enjoyed this game so ti was a successful purchase for us.
Things to do near home to entertain Grandchildren
Ok, some parents don't like to have their kids to watch very much much television, but used judiciously it can be a good tool for a late evenings hour or so of entertainment.
If you have a decent selection of satellite or cable channels that provide interesting and educational shows, they will love watching a good children's show.
Our two visiting girls just happened to love playing cards so we spent a little time, in fact an hour or so almost every day, playing their favorite card games with them.
As you can tell from my writing, I love to tell a good story, so when they wanted to hear one, I would spend a few minutes telling little stories, which they generally loved. In fact, a two to five minute story could often generate ten to twenty minutes of questions.
Living in a gated community, it was easy, and safe, for us to take long walks in the late afternoon and evenings with the kids. At their age, everything they see is a wonder to them and the questions are numerous. They love to look at anything different.
Visit a Neighbor
A lot of grand parents don't do this, but I have found that if we call a neighbor and tell them that we want to visit for a few minutes and bring our grandchildren with us, we are readily accepted, and our neighbors really appreciate the attention and variety of conversation.
I'm not talking about a long visit, just call and ask if you can stop by while walking off dinner for example, and sit on their porch ( in Florida called a Lanai) for a few minutes for maybe a half an hour or so.
Our grand kids love meeting new people and after the first two or three minutes of shyness, they open up and by the time we leave, our neighbors are usually smiling ear to ear and hugging our grand kids goodbye.
Lots of Paper
Have lots of blank paper for them to write and color on. Kids can spend hours creating drawings and writing letters to each other.
When ours showed up, we handed them a kit that included a couple of cheap composition books as well as a pile of blank paper. And, of course, we gave them pencils, cheap pens, and a box of crayons to share.
On those days that we took the kids out to public attractions, we were frugal in our choices. Remember, we are retired, and we no longer have much money to just squander haphazardly on expensive entertainments.
For instance, Disney world and Busch Gardens and the other "top end" attractions are very expensive and we just honestly could not afford to spend hundreds of dollars several times a week on these places.
So, we explained to our kids before we set the trip up that such expensive attractions were their responsibility and that we would take them to other less expensive ones. We must have done OK, because the grandchildren never even asked if they could visit these big-dollar attractions.
Interesting Sites we found in the Tampa area.
But, our grand children got to see some very nice and not so expensive sites that they loved. We live near Tampa and we searched around and found such places as;
- A great and relatively cheap to take your kids is Dinosaur World on Interstate-4. We and the Kids spent a whole day walking around and looking a life-sized dinosaurs in a natural environment. The kids made us stay longer than we had planned, they were having so much fun.
- Aquariums are everywhere and in the Tampa area we found that the Clearwater Aquarium, the site of the filming of the "Winter" dolphin movie was a good deal. And also in Tampa is the Florida Aquarium, which has some very interesting attractions including a nice water slide area for kids and adults alike. Each one vies to be different and the best. Kids love Aquariums.
- Beaches are always popular, and living in Florida you are never very far from Beaches. A picnic lunch, some blankets and they will wear themselves out in a couple of just a couple of hours, and you from constantly just chasing them down.
- Public Parks with Playgrounds are always good for a couple of hours of running and playing, and if you find one with some kind of "Art Show" or "Craft Show" it is even better. they will love looking at all of the things on display. But, we always gave the kids a five dollar bill and told them that they could only purchase what they could buy with that.And we made it clear that they would get no more money, before we left the car. They turned into some pretty savvy shoppers after the first such shopping trip.
- Fishing is a great thing to do with grand children. Go to a sporting goods store and pick up a couple of those five to ten dollar fishing poles, if you don't already have one and take them down to a waters edge and let them have fun. I have found that the girls love fishing at this age better than the boys.
- Museums such as the MOSI Museum in North Tampa is a fantastic place to spend several days for a relatively low price.These museums provide an amazing variety of informative and interesting displays and tours for kids and adults alike. They are real treasure troves of information for inquiring minds and if you have one nearby, you should take them there for a day of fun.
- Let them Help! Both my wife and I have found that when the kids visit, we need to let them help us do things. With two girls, at one time, my wife quickly found that she had to schedule, ahead of time, which one got to help with cooking which one had to do the dishes, which one would help fold laundry, and on and on. I even had willing helping hands when I had to do a little repair on my Golf Cart.
- Take them Shopping. When the grand kids arrived we sat them down and went over what we would do together and we told them up front that we would take them shopping one day. We told them because we also told them that they could have x-number of outfits each and that would be the limit, No more that that would be spent. When we did take them shopping, they were, by then, used to our "that's the way it is" way of doing things so we got no arguments. In fact they became some very frugal shoppers making sure that they got what they wanted for the price we would pay.
- It really comes down to a two step process to a successful visit for your Grandchildren; A- Do your Research and prepare a long list of options that you can pull out and use selectively as you go through their visit. B- Listen! That's right, Listen! Sure they are going to whine a little and complain a little, but offer them options and by the way, only a couple of options at a time, and then enjoy their visit.
Qwirkle Board Game
We found that board games, especially this one, were great for that time after dinner and before bedtime.
It's All in the Preparation
As you can see there are so many great things that you can do with your Grandchildren, if you just plan things out ahead of time.
And, of course you need to be prepared to talk. And Talk! And Talk!
You may have become accustomed to your privacy and your quiet conversations together over an occasional glass of wine, but with the typical child, you will often need to put aside your TV remote, or that book special you were counting on reading, and be prepared to be drawn into conversations that bounce from subject to subject.
Kids do love to talk, and once you get them going, you will find that they are smarter than you remember your own children being.
So, everything being said, and after you do a little planning you can sit back and enjoy this special time that you have with them.
How to entertain Kids on a rainy day.
© 2012 Don Bobbitt