Need ideas for toys to keep for grandchildren, or games and activities to do at home with grandchildren? Read on for lots of ideas for entertaining your grandchildren when they visit!
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Some grandparents can fully enter into the world of a child and play with their grandchildren for hours. I’m not one of them, I fear. I need to have a variety of toys and activities to keep my grandchildren busy when they are at my house, but I also want to minimize the mess! This means carefully considering what I keep to entertain them.
Whether the grandchildren are coming for a visit, or you are caring for your grands regularly in your home, you may also be faced with this question: How do I entertain my grandchild when they come to my house? We’ve come up with some sure-fire ways to make Grandma and Grandpa's house a special place to be.
Activities to entertain grandchildren at Grandma’s house
You’ll be surprised by how many things a child-free home has that will entertain your grandchild. Here are some ideas to get you started:
The latest car seat guidelines to keep your grandchild safe in the car
Do you remember baby car seats from the 1970’s? They weren’t so much designed to keep children safe as to keep them from roaming around the car. By the eighties, safety became the main focus, and by 1986 they were mandatory in all fifty US states and Australia. Canada and the UK did not have universal car seat laws until 2006/7!
Car seats, and the advice about the best way to use them, have definitely evolved since our children were young. For example, it is now recommended that babies be placed in a rear-facing car seat for the first two to four years of life. This provides maximum protection for the head, neck and spine during the years that their developing bodies are the most vulnerable to injury.
If you will ever be driving your grandchild, it’s important to know what the latest recommendations are. Here are some tips that will get you started on the path to safety.
If you want to buy a car seat for your own car, there are safe options available at all price points. Make sure you’ve checked with the parents to confirm you get the right kind for your grandchild’s age and size. Also, not all seats fit safely in all vehicles, so try to test a seat out before you buy it.
Never borrow or buy a used car seat unless you know its history. It may be unsafe if it’s old or has been in an accident. Always check Recalls.gov when buying or borrowing car seats, and check the seat itself for the expiration date. (Did you know they have expiration dates? As they age, parts can become brittle or worn, making them less effective. If you can’t find the date on the car seat, you can call the manufacturer.)
A frightening 59% of car seats are not installed correctly. Proper installation can mean the difference between life and death in an accident. Make sure you read and follow both your vehicle’s owner’s manual and the car seat manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Proper installation is crucial to protecting your grandbaby.
Pay special attention to these four common mistakes:
Install the seat when you are unhurried—not when you first need to get your grandbaby somewhere. It’s not unusual for it to take 30-45 minutes to properly install a new car seat for the first time. Make the effort to search for a YouTube video or guide for your specific seat and car. Websites like The Car Seat Lady and Car Seats for the Littles are great resources. When properly installed, the car seat should move no more than one inch from side to side.
If possible, get a car seat inspection from a certified technician. Find one at nhtsa.gov.
When your grandchild is in the seat, make sure the chest clip is properly aligned: about even with your grandchild’s armpits. If it’s too low, they can be ejected in a crash; too high, and a neck injury can occur. The harness straps should be at or above the child’s shoulders in a forward-facing seat and at or below the shoulders in a rear-facing seat. The harness should be tight enough so that you can’t pinch the strap together at all. Don’t buckle the straps over bulky clothing, coats or blankets.
Don’t let your grandchild eat or drink while they are in their car seat, and avoid toys that could cause an injury if they were to go flying in a crash.
And finally, use the seat every single time. No exceptions.
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Grandparents should know baby walker pros and cons before using one.
Raise your hand if you think baby walkers are safe as long as they aren’t used around stairs.
Unfortunately, stairs are not the only hazard to a child in a tray walker. Although stairs are involved in 75% of injuries involving walkers, there are other hazards as well. The second most common cause of injury is babies falling out of the walker itself. And because walkers give a baby mobility and reach they would not have otherwise, there are numerous injuries from burns and poisons. Between 1990 and 2014, over 230,000 children under the age of 15 months went to the ER for baby walker-related injuries.
There is a reason that baby walkers are banned in Canada, and safety is only one issue. Another is that walkers can delay motor and mental development.
From the New York Times review of a study by Dr. A. Carol Siegel:
On average, infants who did not use walkers sat at 5 months, crawled at 8 months and began to walk in their 10th month, while babies who used walkers that blocked their views of their feet first sat near the end of their 6th month, crawled at 9 months and walked at almost 12 months. Babies whose walkers permitted them to see their feet sat and crawled at an age midway between the other two groups.
It's important to note that this study was far from definitive, and subsequent small studies have had mixed results. But when it comes to our grandchildren, we certainly want to avoid all the risks we can!
A third issue is the effect of walkers on a baby’s developing body. The seats in walkers (and jumpers and exersaucers) put the baby’s hips in a position that can lead to hip dysplasia or dislocation when they are older. If their feet don’t rest fully on the floor, they can develop tightness in their heel cords, which can lead to toe-walking.
According to The Children’s Rehabilitation Institute TeletonUSA:
Research shows using these kinds of toys does not help your child achieve independent skills sooner, because they are able to “walk”, “sit”, “jump” in a seated, supported, and poorly aligned position. This means they are not able to fully practice the muscle control and balance reactions necessary for moving outside of the device.
CRIT goes on to point out that the ill-effects of these toys are unlikely if a child is in an exersaucer for a short period each day. It’s when a walker is used for hours to keep the baby occupied while the caregivers are busy that both safety and development become an issue.
What should you, as a grandparent, do with this information?
Like all information on this website, our purpose is to educate you so you can better understand the choices your adult children are making as parents. If they are using a baby walker and you are worried about it, send them this blog post and ask if they have seen studies like these. Don’t, however, try to dictate what they do with the information.
On the other hand, if you are using a baby walker when your grandchild is at your house, you might want to find a new way to entertain the baby. Hopefully, now that you’ve seen the pros and cons of using a baby walker, you can make an informed decision.
Going anywhere with young children requires patience and, in the words of Mad Eye Moody, constant vigilance. It also helps to have a few tricks in your bag. Though my grandchildren live in another state, if they are visiting me or I am visiting them, I make sure to add a few things to my purse:
What do you keep in your bag for your grandchildren?
When my son was 8 months old, we drove across the country on our way to my husband’s new job. We stayed with various friends and relations all along the way, setting up a portable crib in one guest room after another. When it was mealtime, we had a plastic milkcrate that we plopped the baby into, a strange but effective substitute for a highchair. Since we were traveling by car, it wasn’t hard to carry along all the things we needed. But it’s not always that easy.
Whether your grandchildren come to visit every day or but once a year, there are things you’ll want to have at your house to simplify visits for everyone. For babies and toddlers, a safe place to sleep and somewhere to sit during meals are both worth the investment. Portable cribs are relatively inexpensive when new, and can often be found at consignment stores specializing in children’s clothes and equipment.* Fold-up highchairs are easy to stash in a closet or basement when they aren’t needed, and invaluable when they are. (We've been really happy with the uber cheap Cosco Simple Fold High Chair.)
If your grandchild and her parents are arriving by plane, having a carseat already installed when you pick them up at the airport will earn you gold stars. Just make sure you’ve checked with the parents to confirm you get the right kind, and read the directions carefully to ensure you install it correctly. If you want to buy one, there are safe options available at all price points. If you don’t think the investment makes sense, ask around to see if a neighbor or friend has one you can borrow for the duration of the visit. I posted a request to my small circle on Facebook before my grandchildren’s first visit and had three offers within an hour!
Want to see our other suggestions? Download our free guide, 7 Things New Grandparents Need!
*Whenever you buy something used, be sure to check for recalls on the manufacturer’s website or with the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It is not recommended that you buy used car seats, as there is no way of knowing whether they’ve been compromised in a previous accident.