Excerpted from

The Really Useful Grandparents' Book

By ,

If you're reading this book, you've perhaps already spent hours cutting and sticking bits of paper together: you've sat through desperate cartoons in dingy cine mas; you've persuaded yourself that it's fun being at the swimming pool on a Saturday morning. In short, you've spent a lot of time entertaining your grandchildren. And possibly the thought has crossed your mind that your grandparents didn't do half as much with you.

We know the economic reasons for this: there are huge numbers of single parent families these days, and even traditional two-parent families are stretched. Grandparents are increasingly being enlisted for child care.

But something else has happened too, some change in the emotional relationship. Much though we may have loved our grandparents, for many of us they were remote, perhaps even forbidding figures. Old people seemed... well, older, then and the houses they lived in stuffy and old-fashioned. You don't have to buy fully into the idea of the groovy granny or granddad to get the feeling that something important has changed.

Whether through economic necessity or some wider cultural shift, grandparents and grandchildren seem closer today than ever before. You read about it frequently in the press: a journalist writes about taking her granddaughter to see a famous painting at a gallery: a diplomat says he's pleased he's not going to Afghanistan because he can spend more time with his grandchildren: an actress likes watching the DVD of Babe with her grandchildren. But you also see it on the streets all the time: bright-eyed kids hand in hand with bright -eyed grandparents! Let's be blunt: another reason why grandparents are able to get closer to their grandchildren today is that they're living longer and staying vigorous longer - they've got the time, and the years, to be good grandparents.

What, though, is a "good" grandparent? It's tempting to answer: "Someone who keeps them entertained and sends them home exhausted so they go to bed early." That's an understandable ambition, no doubt enthusiastically endorsed by many parents, but it's not an easy one to achieve. We've all had to confront that cry of the seven-year-old, half challenging, half desperate. "I'm bored!"

But most of us probably aim for something else some of the time at least. It would be sad to feel that all you are doing with them is filling in the hours before the parents come back on board. You have the time, but you also have a great opportunity. To put it pompously, to be a grandparent today gives you the scope to be far more than just a childminder you can be a mentor to your grandchildren too. With parents leading busy, often frantic lives, it's the grandparents who can spend precious time with the children, listening to them, talking to them, helping them to find what they like and what they are good at.

In this book we've suggested many practical things you can do with your grandchildren: cooking, camping, sewing, carpentry, making music and so on. You may start off feeling pretty inexpert at some of these things yourself, but we hope the book will allow you to explore them together. And we've provided lots of follow-up suggestions (website addresses, telephone numbers, etc.) If you discover an enthusiasm for the subject between you. Now's your chance to practice your "silver surfer" skills!

There's another thread through the book too. It's our belief that children respond best to narrative: there's nothing like a great story to capture their attention and liberate their imaginations. So we've provided a series of stories as a backbone to the book from Famous Explorers to Ancient Egypt, from the Deadliest Animals in the World to the Wild West - in the belief that these can be shared too. We hope that you will read and enjoy them together, and no doubt, you will be able to expand 011 the stories yourself.

To be a grandparent is a wonderful privilege. But there's no point in pretending that it isn't also a responsibility, and a very demanding one at that too. With a bit of luck, this book might just help. We hope that you will find The Really Useful Grandparents' Book exactly that - really useful!

Outings

There will be times when you all need to get out of the house and go somewhere local, or you may decide to make it a special event and go oil an outing. Here are ideas, some round the corner, others more ambitious.

Preschool Children

Every town has something von can join or attend from time to time. Bookshops have reading time, and libraries have song and rhythm groups who welcome anyone, however young the child. See what activities go on at your local library by simply looking up the library on the Internet. Playgroups gather in church halls and other places and yon can find out about them from libraries, the PTA. the children's health center and by generally asking around. These playgroups range from those you pay for to others that are almost free. Although you will often have to stay while the child is there, it comes as a welcome relief that she is using up that energy under someone else's supervision.

Play

One of the best places to take a small child (under five) is one of the many children's activity or play clubs. They are usually open throughout the week and staff are on hand to help and supervise, though the child cannot ho dropped off an adult must stay with her. The children can use the indoor and outdoor toys and take part in learning activities. Our (Elco's) local one was full of grandparents chatting and having a cup of coffee while the little ones pottered around.

You are probably fairly close to a playground. The dismal ones of the past have gone. Most now have wood chippings or the new rubberized surface making them much safer and, oil the whole, the equipment is colorful and modern. Small children have surprisingly simple tastes and positively love regular trips back to that same old slide or set of swings. Somewhat older, they can go to adventure playgrounds where they can really stretch themselves, have a thrill and even take risks under supervision. If you have a garden with a bit of room in it, a climbing frame with ladders, slides and all sorts of places to hang upside down and contemplate the world is a wonderful investment.

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Tags: Parenting and Families


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