Here Comes Winter with Grandkids

Last week, seven-year-old Finley was home from school with a virus. It’s a piece of cake to look after him when he feels rotten, because we can cuddle and watch movies all day. A perfect day for his lazy grammie.  But last week, he wasn’t sick enough to do that and by afternoon was bouncing off the walls with boredom. We took out his Meccano set, a gift from his fall birthday and proceeded to construct a very complicated airplane. I told him Meccano has been around since I was a child. I think I was more impressed by the fact than he was. We finally had to abandon the project before it was a finished work of art because screwing tiny pieces together is not easy for arthritic hands or without a magnifying glass.  I would have appreciated a list of ideas to entertain the curious and creative mind of a seven-year-old that day.

Amy of Charlottetown is always ready for winter indoor days with her grandchildren. “I have a craft cupboard,” she explains. “It’s full of the usual construction paper, poster material, crayons and markers, ribbons, pins, glitter and glue, but I also have containers full of old buttons ,earrings, sequins and stuff most people would throw out. We’ve made simple things like paper snowflakes but for the holiday season, we often make ornaments out of Styrofoam the children can give as gifts and this year, we’re making dreidels out of Styrofoam cubes and then painting them with my grandkids and their little friends.”

Amy also suggests enlisting the children to collect pine cones from outside. “We smear them with peanut butter, hook them with a safety pin and a ribbon and hang them outside as bird feeders,” she explains.

Sandra and Neil of Brandon, Man., are both avid cooks and enjoy letting their four grandchildren create dishes in the kitchen. “We make cookies with the little ones, of course.” Sandra says. “But with the older children who are teens, we engage them in making one course of a big family dinner. In fact, this year, Neil is going to show our teenaged grandsons how to carve a turkey.”

Sandra and Neil use the opportunity to teach the grandchildren some of the more formal activities around special meals. “As soon as a grandchild can carry a tray without wobbling, we enlist her to serve appetizers to guests,” says Sandra. “And sometimes, we invite neighbors and family in for afternoon tea and the children help make crustless sandwiches and they get to serve little cakes. Our granddaughters especially love this special tea.”
All children love marshmallows. Homemade ones are so much better-tasting than the packaged kind and there’s a great recipe at www. If you have an outdoor fireplace, bundle the children up, light a fire and roast the marshmallows. It’s a perfect activity after ice skating or an afternoon building snow forts in the backyard.

At this time of year, we tend to increase our commitment to charity and grandchildren enjoy knowing they have a hand in helping. They can make crafts, greeting cards and small gifts for people in retirement homes or in the hospital. If possible, letting them deliver their projects in person will make them feel they have made a difference and will definitely add cheer to someone who is shut in for the winter.

I plan to get out the board games this winter. We often play Junior Trivial Pursuit at the cottage in the summer and it’s educational for the kids. Actually, some of the questions can be challenging for adults too. There are equally fun junior versions of other games like Scrabble as well.

With the holiday season, lots of movies are available on television, such as How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Polar Express. A particularly special movie for the season is Arthur’s Perfect Christmas because the story involves Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah.

For special holiday outings that involve children in the arts, The Nutcracker is a wonderful introduction to the ballet. And there will be lots of chorale groups and concerts to appeal to little musical personalities. Check out what the churches and community groups are planning in your city or town this

– Bonnie Baker Cowan