Activities to do with your grandchildren

Melody Rousseau

Former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis knows a thing or two about keeping kids occupied. Here are her top tips for super days with the grandchildren.

Top tips for spending a rainy day with...

A) a restless, energetic grandchild

Suggest that they create their own music video – dancing is sure to wear them out! Or if they prefer, they can create their own play based on their favourite book. If you want to get involved as well write out ten cryptic clues and plant a treasure hunt around the house for them. The prizes needn’t be big or expensive. Write out vouchers for things such as "Cash in this voucher and go to bed 30 minutes later" or "cash in this voucher to sit in the front seat of the car for one journey".

B) two or more grandchildren

If you have a couple of energetic grandchildren on your hands encourage them to play boardgames together or allow them to play dressing up with your wardrobe – making sure you keep anything valuable out of reach!

Alternatively, if you have some old newspapers, flour and water in the house, they can have some fun with papier mache.

Towards the end of the day, the perfect way to calm fractious children is a little game of Sleeping Lions – do everything you can to make them move without actually touching them – you’ll never see them so determined to be still and quiet!

C) a homesick grandchild

If you have an upset little one on your hands who’s missing mummy and daddy suggest that they write a letter to their parents telling them what they’ve been up to that day so they don’t feel like they’ve missed out on time with them.

Alternatively you can sit and write a family tree with them on a large sheet of paper. Get out old photos and letters so they can really imagine older family members and they’ll be fascinated.

D) a 'girly' girl

If you have some heavy books on the shelves at home show her how to flower-press using flowers from the garden. Or, if you have the ingredients in the cupboard, bake some pretty cupcakes – the perfect treat for a rainy afternoon when you’re stuck indoors. And a good tip for little girls is to finish off the baked creations with some sparkly glitter icing – they’ll look too pretty to eat!

E) a video game/TV addict

If you can manage it, take them out of the house away from temptation. Many museums are free and lots are geared towards kids with hands-on exhibitions. If you can’t get them to leave the house though, suggest that they make their own super-hero costume. They can use old sheets and clothes that were going to charity – it’ll take them a good couple of hours and be a lot of fun!

Indoor activities to do with kids

2. What are the easiest - and most fun - things to cook with the grandkids

There are so many recipes that are 'kid friendly' in the kitchen – bake muffins, oatmeal cookies or crush meringue over strawberries and add ice-cream. Or, create your own banana splits with ice cream and chocolate sauce. For the healthy option make smoothies by blending together lots of different fruits – a good alternative to milkshakes. For a main meal it’s always fun to get the kids to create their own pizza toppings. Buy the pizza bases and then let them spread on their own tomato puree, chopped peppers, pineapple chunks, ham, or absolutely whatever they like!

Visit our 'baking with kids' section for lots of delicious ideas

3. Persuading today's kids to make things out of cardboard and sticky-back plastic

These ideas are timeless and all kids love getting a little bit messy and creative given the right inspiration.

When you’re keeping the kids entertained one of the most important things to remember is that they don’t have the same appreciation of time as adults do. You have to throw your watch away for the day because they aren’t programmed to stick to a timetable and the day will just be stressful if you try to make them fit in with your timetable!

4. What should a resourceful grandparent keep in their 'making things' cupboard?

Old magazines, glue, water-based paints and paint brushes – they’re all kiddy essentials! As well as aprons and a big plastic table cloth of course – children are messy!

Also, if you have the space, keep a stash of your own children’s old toys. Their children will more than likely love them too!

5. What are the cheapest and most enjoyable ways of spending sunny days outside with kids?

There are so many things you can do to keep the kids entertained and active on a sunny day. Take them on nature trails (sticking to the marked paths), or take them swimming to the local lido. Alternatively, put together a little picnic of cucumber sandwiches and flapjacks and go on a cycling trip for the day.

Remember to always stick to parental rules when you take the grandchildren out for the day as well. Minor details that you don’t think are important can upset mums and dads if they have their rules – so always check how they like things to be done. If that means re-applying sunscreen every hour on the hour etc, then make sure you do it!

Outdoor activities to do with kids

6. How can a grandparent, particularly one with many grandchildren, afford to buys gifts for all the grandchildren without over-stretching themselves?

Well this goes back to the age-old theory that you give a child an expensive gift and they end up playing with the box! Presents needn’t be expensive for kids to enjoy them. Bake them tasty treats or make them chocolates or buy them the cheap throw-away presents from the local market that their mums and dads won’t buy because they know they’ll only be of interest for five minutes! Grandparents are here to spoil their little ones and although these titbits may not be value for money, they’ll be fun for the day.

Or create a scrapbook brimming with copies of family photos, a family tree and funny family anecdotes. This may be a present that the older ones appreciate more but when the younger ones grow up it’ll be an invaluable insight into their family history which they’ll be forever grateful for.

7. In the same light, on days out, how can a grandparent save money on food, drink and treats?

Kids love to be hands-on so it’s always a great idea to involve them in the preparation for days out. If you’re well prepared have some fun in the kitchen and bake muffins, make sandwiches and some home-made lemonade – your tasty snacks will be the perfect picnic which is far more fun than sitting in a stuffy restaurant.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.