Music is a magical way to build strong bonds with your grandchildren–and have fun while you are at it!
Before he could walk, my grandson could dance. Whenever he heard a lively song, he began to move his body to the beat. When his muscles and coordination caught up to his desire to move, he became a dancing machine. Naturally, we all provided lots of lively music to encourage him, and we were rewarded with performance after performance.
We are wired to recognize rhythm from the earliest age, and nearly every culture has songs that are meant to soothe babies and entertain young children. Whether you are a music lover or not, music is an incredible way to connect with your grandchildren. Here are five ways to use music when you are playing with your grandchildren.
1. Singing and reciting
Even those among us who were not blessed with vocal talent can sing a lullaby or The Itsy Bitsy Spider. Hearing these songs over and over teaches important elements of speech and communication, like tempo, pitch, and rhythm. The call and response of songs like Down by the Bay mimic conversation and improve listening skills. What’s more, sharing the songs and rhymes that our parents and grandparents taught us connects the generations. Plus it’s fun!
2. Rhythm instruments
Hand a baby a spoon, and they will bang it on whatever they can reach. Making music is really just a refined version of making noise. As babies learn they can make noise, they will delight in every opportunity to do so. Providing them with ways to make noise helps develop their ability to make music. Simple rhythm instruments like shakers, tambourines, and small drums are a wonderful way to introduce musical instruments. Homemade versions are easy to create and just as effective. Provide different size cans and containers and a wooden spoon or two, and sit down with your grandchild and tap out rhythms together.
3. Parent-child music classes
Many communities offer parent-child music classes designed for very young children. These make a thoughtful gift for young parents, provided their schedule allows for it. If you are a local grandparent, you might even be able to tag along or fill in for the parents. To find a class, try Music Together, Kindermusik, or Google “Parent child music classes” plus their zip code.
4. Sharing favorites
Music is a great way to share parts of yourself with your grandchildren, no matter their age. What are your favorite songs? Your favorite artists? Your favorite genres? Share them! Play classical music during breakfast, or Garth Brooks while you build with blocks. Not only are you exposing them to things you love, you are creating powerful musical memories. Play Purple Rain often enough, and some day they will hear it somewhere and think of you.
5. Live performances
Children often don’t realize that the songs they hear at home are made by real people playing real instruments. Taking them to a live performance can inspire and delight them, and sharing live music can help connect them with their community. Look for local performances aimed at children, or summer concerts in the park. As they get older, attending concerts and recitals can broaden their horizons and bond you through a shared love of music.
Encouraging babies and small children to sing and move to music is a lot of fun—and has the added benefit of helping their cognitive and social development. As grandparents, it’s an ideal activity for the time we spend with them, even from a distance.
More ways to connect:
5 Ways to Be More Present with Your Grandkids
Connecting with Grandchildren Through Reading
Being Silly Keeps You Young
“Play enriches our grandchildren’s lives and our own.” Judith Van Hoorn
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Are you an energetic grandparent who loves to get in on your grandchildren’s games, or one who prefers to observe them as they play? In either case, you’ll find The Gift of Play both fascinating and helpful. Van Hoorn’s book explores and explains the importance of play for children, and how grandparents can foster and participate in their games and interests.
I consider myself more of an observer than a playmate, yet The Gift of Play expanded my understanding of play and made me realize I participate quite often. Reading stories, exploring math and nature, and enjoying art and music are all forms of play for children, and I love those activities. Judith Van Hoorn provides background on how a child’s mind develops and how play fosters that development, plus activity tips and charming stories of grandparents and grandchildren playing together.
Van Hoorn tackles each area of play separately, providing evidence for their importance and examples of how children engage in them. While most of the book focuses on early childhood, when play is the all-encompassing center of a child’s life, she includes a chapter on the play of older children. She recognizes that grandparents may not live near enough to play with their grandkids in person, and includes ideas for playing from a distance. She also provides a useful list of resources for grandparents who want to learn more about how they can enter into their grandchildren’s world and support their development.
Van Hoorn is an expert on play, having studied, taught and written about children’s play for decades. She has, quite literally, written the textbook on play. This book, however, is not a textbook. It’s an engaging resource for grandparents who want to help support their grandchildren’s learning and development while creating memories and deeper bonds. I highly recommend it for any grandparent who wants to make their time with their grandchildren richer and more meaningful.
Purchase a copy now from Amazon.
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A convenient way to help new parents when they visit grandparents
It’s almost that time: summer vacation and the beginning of the grandchildren visiting season. What do grandparents need to do to get ready for these precious visitors? One of the best ways is to help new parents by minimizing the amount of stuff they need to bring with them when they visit.
I’ve written before about how helpful it is to have baby gear on hand for when your grandchildren visit. Traveling with small people is hard enough without having to lug a portable crib, car seat and baby toys along. But what if you don’t have the room to store a highchair between visits, or it doesn’t make sense to invest in a really good car seat? There’s an answer: renting baby equipment for the duration of their stay.
What Baby Equipment Do Grandparents Need?
Whether your grandchildren come to your house every day or just 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 probably the most important. If your grandchild and her parents are arriving by plane, having a car seat 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 both the car seat directions and your car’s owner’s manual carefully to ensure you install it correctly.)
Those three things are the most vital, but there are lots of other things that will make the visit more relaxing for everyone. Depending on the baby’s age, you may want to have safety gates or an infant bathtub. You’ll want things to keep your grandchild occupied with toys, books, an activity gym or a swing. You can make bedtime easier with a blackout curtain, noise machine or toddler night light.
If your grandchildren will visit often, it may be worth it to buy the most basic items like a portable crib and foldable high chair. But it doesn’t make sense if they only visit once a year! Luckily, you can now rent baby equipment in many places.
Books with grandmothers that your grandchildren will love
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Is there any doubt that grandmothers are important? Not according to research, and not according to the authors of these eight picture books about grandmothers. We are constantly on the lookout for stories that feature grandmothers, and these are our current favorites.
Each of these books features a grandmother with a special relationship with her grandchild. Which one will you get to celebrate your relationship with your grandchild? (Click any title or photo to shop on Amazon!)
I Really Want to See You, Grandma
by Taro Gomi
Originally published in Japan, this delightful story tells the tale of Yumi and her grandmother’s frustrating attempts to visit one another. Its simple words and expressive pictures will appeal to the youngest grandchildren.
When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree
by Jamie L. B. Deenihan
This was a favorite of the grands, especially the six year-old. The grandmother in this book plays a small but key role in the story. The humor and colorful pictures share more than one important message, all wrapped up in an engaging plot.
Nana in the City
by Lauren Castillo
A Caldecott Honor book, Castillo’s wonderful images fill a book about perspective and the influence a grandparent can have on a child’s experience. Nana’s love for her grandson and his love for her come shining through the simple story.
by Arthur Dorros
The colorful, intricate illustrations take the reader on a magical trip through New York City with Rosalba and her abuela. With lots of Spanish words, a focus on family and references to immigration, this book can be a springboard for meaningful conversations with children.
Last Stop on Market Street
by Matt De La Pena
The relationship between CJ and his nana is an integral part of this award-winning story, and their bus trip across town is long enough to show how important Nana is to molding CJ’s experience of the world. The lyrical text is fun to read out loud to your grands.
The Hello, Goodbye Window
by Norton Juster
Nanna and Poppy's Window is the lens through which we see a delightful relationship between grandparent and grandchild. It stands up to repeated readings--even three in a row! Each time we read it, we have a different conversation inspired by the book.
How to Babysit a Grandma
by Jean Reagan
Perfect for reading with Grandma! Babysitting a grandma requires doing all the things she loves to do with her grandchildren. The silly premise and playful illustrations will make your grandchildren giggle.
A Grandma’s Magic
by Charlotte Offsay
This one is a perfect gift for grandmothers. The story is lovely: the sentiment is sweet without being cloying and the words flow beautifully for reading aloud. The charming illustrations by Asa Gilland depict modern grandmothers of all sorts.
Looking for books about grandfathers? You can see some of our picks here!
Today’s blog post is written by one of DeeDee’s oldest friends, Mimi Sherry.
As this grandparenting journey continues, I am always seeking ways to be intentional with my family. A few years ago, I began giving experience-type gifts to my children's families. A typical gift has been a yearly membership to their local zoo or a museum the whole family might enjoy. When my husband and I visited, we could go along and get to see them enjoy the gift. I usually asked for suggestions since I didn't live in their areas.
This year, my husband and I live near some of our grandchildren. As we were thinking about Christmas gifts, I came up with the idea of giving my three oldest grands, who are siblings and range in age from 10 to 6, an Adventure Box. My husband and I came up with about 7-10 ideas for day trips in our area. Some of the outings were trips to a few local parks with playgrounds, a military museum, and indoor playground, a trip to the movie theater, and an air and space museum. My husband is a veteran, and we wanted to share that aspect of our lives with them. We also included some fun restaurants and dessert shops.
We wrote them on strips of card stock and placed them in a little tin box. The plan is that once a month, one of the children will draw an adventure from the box, and we will plan the outing. We tried to keep the ideas simple ones that would take about half of the day including lunch. Our goal is to get to share these days with them and build memories together. We didn't want them to be costly or too elaborate, especially since we aren't able to include all our grands in these trips; two are too young, and two live in another state. These grands are homeschooled, so Fridays are usually good days to plan an adventure.
It has been harder to coordinate our schedules than I anticipated, but it's worth the time. An added benefit is that our daughter gets a few hours of free time on these adventure days! It’s always fun to get to help your adult child too.
We ate lunch at McDonald's on our first outing, which started us off with many laughs. We headed to the 45th Infantry Museum here in Oklahoma City and made quick progress through the exhibits. As we looked at the static exhibits outside, we noticed a driving range across the fence, and many golf balls were discovered on the ground. The kids started having a golf ball hunt, and we all enjoyed filling our pockets with balls. Their mom could decide if the balls would be kept (or not).
We stopped for a cookie and then a short stop at the local university where my husband and I met. The kids wanted to hear how and where we met and how Papa John proposed. It was fun sharing this part of their family history with them. The day wasn't all planned. We went with the flow as the adventure progressed. Some of the most fun was in the moments that weren't in the original plan. I think the point is to be flexible and know that the plan for the day is just a starting point. The kids probably enjoyed the spontaneous moments the most. We sang and danced in McDonald's, sat out in the sun eating our cookies and relived our courtship story for them.
Whether you live near your grandchildren and can go on these adventures with them or live in another area, you can make this idea fit your situation.
Mimi Sherry and Papa John live in Edmond, Oklahoma and love getting to spend time with their seven grands. We hope this fun idea might be helpful to you as you invest in your family.
What if there were an app that let you spend true quality time with your grandchildren who live far away? A way to engage during video calls with grandchildren that you enjoyed as much as they did, that let you watch them learn and play, and allowed you to deepen your long-distance relationship with your grandchildren? Would you believe me if I told you there is?
I’ve tried a lot of apps designed to connect long distance grandparents with their grandchildren. If you look, however, you won’t see much about them on this blog. That’s because the apps with long distance activities for grandparents and grandchildren that I’ve tested have fallen short for me, and I won’t recommend something that isn’t going to add value to video chats with the grandkids.
Recently, I was invited to test out Kinoo, a new twist on games during video calls with grandchildren ages 3-7. Their website promises that “Kinoo takes video chat to the next level with engaging activities designed for grandparents and grandkids.” I agreed to try it, and they kindly sent my grandchildren a Kinoo Controller wand (more about that in a minute) so we could take advantage of all the activities that are offered.
Kinoo’s Technology is Seamless
The wand arrived just a day before the other grandparents did, so it took a couple of weeks before we had a chance to try it out. I wasn’t in a big hurry, because I expected an experience much like the other ones I’ve had: the kids get frustrated by the technology and I get bored by the activities.
I was wrong about the technology. The set-up was simple and streamlined. The look of the platform is cheerful and friendly, and the characters that guide you through activities are cute without being annoying. It’s easy to navigate for both grandparent and grandchild. Kinoo worked flawlessly from start to finish each time we played. (To download the Kinoo app, you need a US-based Apple App Store account. Use of Kinoo requires an iPhone or iPad, 2017 or newer, running iOS 13 or later.)
Kinoo’s Activities: Video Chat Games for Grandkids That You’ll Enjoy
I was wrong about the activities, too. They were fun! Some are versions of well-known games, like matching and memory games. Most have different levels of difficulty and layers of depth. For example, I played a sock matching game with my four-year-old granddaughter. After taking turns to successfully match all the colorful pairs of socks, two laundry baskets appeared and we had to sort them into stripes and dots. It extended the fun—and the learning. Other activities, like a trip to the moon, are developed just for the app by Kinoo's team of experts in social-emotional learning.
Throughout the games, you can see your grandchild’s face well (even on my tiny iPhone Mini screen!). The best part of the sock matching game was seeing her lean back, smile and say “Your turn!” each time she put two socks together. Was it as good as being there? Of course not. Was it almost as good? Yes.
The games we’ve played have all been collaborative rather than competitive, something else Kinoo gets right. Working towards a common goal is a powerful relationship builder, even if that goal is just matching animated snowmen or making a digital pizza. Pops and the grandson decorated a cake together, and they made each other laugh as they tried to one-up each other with lavish and outlandish additions to the cake. “I had a lot of fun playing,” Pops reported. Jim Marggraff, founder of Kinoo, told me that this is one of the things they are finding: Kinoo is drawing grandfathers into new relationships.
So, What’s the Kinoo Controller Wand?
The Kinoo Controller wand is a clever addition to the video chat experience. Depending on the game, it can be a fishing pole, a chisel for sculpting, or a spoon for stirring cookie dough. It adds a physical dimension to the games, which helps young children stay engaged—and uses some motor skills, too! While it’s possible to play most of the games without it right now, it definitely raises the fun factor and I recommend making the investment (read on for a discount for my readers!).
Spring is in the air! It’s a wonderful time to read about nature, and here are eight picture books that will help you share the wonders of this glorious season with your grandchildren. (Click on any image or title to order from Amazon today!)
As an Amazon affiliate, I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you. Thank you for helping to keep this site ad-free.
Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray
While the robin sits quietly on her nest, a pair of children listen to all the other birds as they walk around the neighborhood. With lilting rhymes and lively illustrations, this book will captivate young listeners while teaching them about the variety of birds and their calls.
At the end of the book is an “interview with a bird” that shares even more information for budding birdwatchers!
Getting this book for your grands? Make it a care package! Add an inexpensive pair of binoculars and a kids’ book on birdwatching.
Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring by Kenard Pak
As a boy and his dog take a walk through the countryside, they welcome all the signs of spring that they encounter. They say goodbye to winter along the way in conversations with the birds, the brook and more. The gentle, sweet story and lovely illustrations make Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring a perfect book to read to a child nestled on your lap on an early spring day.
Over in a River: Flowing Out to the Sea by Marianne Berkes
As children meet the animals that live on the rivers of North America, they’ll want to slither like the snakes and slide like the otters. They’ll love the rhythm of the text, based on the classic “Over in the Meadow”, and the bright, detailed pictures. They won’t even realize they are learning about geography and habitats in this delightful counting book.
In the back of the book there is additional information about the rivers and animals featured, as well as the music and lyrics to “Over in the River”.
Secrets of the Vegetable Garden by Carron Brown
Children will learn all about how a garden grows in this book in the Shine-A-Light series. Each page about the inner world of a vegetable garden includes a hidden image that only appears when a light shines through it. Your grandkids will love it!
Make sure to add a flashlight to your cart if you order this book from Amazon.
Have You Ever Seen a Flower? by Shawn Harris
The bright, beautiful illustrations that earned this book a Caldecott Honor award show how a single flower can be experienced in many ways. The child in the story uses all five senses to appreciate the flower and all that it evokes. It’s a reminder to readers young and old to appreciate the beauty of the world! It makes a perfect read-aloud book with its thought-provoking questions, and the gorgeous pictures show up well on video chats.
The Tree in Me by Corinna Luyken
This beautiful book is another excellent conversation starter! The poetic text and exquisite illustrations of children enjoying the natural world show how much each of us is like a tree.
"The tree in me is strong. It bends in the wind, and has roots that go deep . . . to where other roots reach up toward their own trunk-branch-crown and sky."
Read this inspirational book to your grandchildren and then talk about your own strengths, gifts, and communities.
The Tree That Bear Climbed by Marianne Berkes
The repetitive rhythm of The Tree That Bear Climbed is perfect for young children. Young listeners will learn about the many parts of a tree in this twist on “The House that Jack Built”. Make sure to start by asking your grandchildren why they think the bear is climbing the tree and what they think will happen when he gets to the top!
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner
Another beautiful book about the garden! In this one, a young girl and her grandmother share the cycle of the year in the garden: planning, planting and finally harvesting. The book’s clever illustrations share what is happening under the soil as well, giving children a worm’s eye view of the life underground. A glossary at the end of the book tells more about the animals you might encounter in your garden. Send some seeds with this one!
Jambo Books: A New Source for Gifts For Grandchildren
I love getting asked to review children’s books. Recently, I was asked if I would be interested in taking a look at a sample box from a subscription service called Jambo Books, and naturally I said yes!
Jambo Books started when the founders were searching for high-quality books starring children of color in situations where children’s literature rarely places them — making friends, raising pets, loving grandparents and fighting dragons. The stories show that people of color can star in stories that aren’t historical or cultural in focus. They focus on finding books that give our children a vision of the world we all want to live in — diverse, vibrant and kind.
Of special interest to grandparents looking for books for your grandchildren, they offer the opportunity to create a customized bundle around the specific interests of your grandchild. Do you have a history buff? A lover of pets, trucks, unicorns or fairies? You can email them with information about your readers and they’ll respond with selections just for you.
They offer book bundles and individual books, sorted by age, ethnicity and other themes. It’s a great place to look for diverse books, because each one is carefully chosen by people who understand that the stories we tell our children matter.
And then there's the Jambo Book Club. For $34.99 your grandchild will receive two gorgeous, high-quality books each month that star a child of color in a key role. I received a selection of three books aimed at the youngest children. They came in a beautiful box, and would have delighted any child who received a special package in the mail.
What I liked
I was immediately impressed with the quality of the books. These were not the cheaply produced subscription book club editions I got when my children were young. There were two very sturdy board books, Love is a Truck and Nerdy Babies: Ocean, and one simple picture book, Let’s Dance.
The books were thoughtfully chosen for babies and toddlers. The pictures were bright and engaging, and the non-fiction subjects were appropriate for babies, who can’t yet grasp abstract concepts or follow story lines.
The diversity went beyond the characters. For example, Let’s Dance included pictures of more than just the standards: hula, hip hop, and square dancing were among the styles of dance shown.
What I didn’t like
My only quibble is with the “Nerdy Babies” label on the book about the ocean. I wish it had been called “curious babies”, instead of trying to equate curiosity with being a nerd. I imagine the author of the series is trying to celebrate nerdiness, but for me it feels wrong to apply any label to a child, especially one that is often used as a slur by schoolchildren.
Jambo books is an excellent resource for grandparents who want to ensure their grandchild is exposed to books that celebrate the diversity of children. For more information, visit their website.
I received a selection of books in exchange for my honest, unbiased review of Jambo Books.