“The best baby-sitters, of course, are the baby’s grandparents. You feel completely comfortable entrusting your baby to them for long periods, which is why most grandparents flee to Florida.” – Dave Barry
Florida or Texas – Orlando or Austin – grandparents really, actually, of course, love to be with their grandchildren, and if yours is coming to stay a week this summer, well, I know you can hardly wait.
Unless … you can’t think of a thing in the world to do when they arrive.
Will they be bored? Will they love what you’ve found to do? Will you make lasting memories together while they’re here?
You don’t have to pull out all the stops, or spend a whole wad of cash to entertain the grandkids when they come to Austin to visit.
As long as they know you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world than right here, right now, with them, you’re in for a splendid time together.
Here are a few of my best ideas for entertaining your sweet grandchild in Austin. Accumulated over several years of our granddaughter’s visits to the Capital City, some are built around things we wanted to show her, and some things we wanted to experience ourselves, for the first time, with her. Don’t worry – if your pride and joy is a sweet little boy. These ideas will entertain him, too.
- FIRST, ESTABLISH A COMFORTABLE ROUTINE. Kids thrive when they have a good routine at home, and they’ll be more comfortable at your house if they have a good routine there, too. Up for breakfast at the same time every day, reading a chapter of a book together at the same time every night. Those can be your pillars, with lots of fun activities in between. Leave room in the schedule for spontaneity, but not too much. The more you keep them busy, the less time there is for them to get homesick for mom and dad. Older kids might enjoy a movie marathon, like a different John Wayne movie every night after they take their showers. Younger ones might like to hear Grammie read from Little House on the Prairie or Anne of Green Gables. In their fast-paced, high tech world, a week at your house with a low-key routine will give them a sure-footed safe haven to remember and emulate in the years to come.
- PLAY GAMES. Kids love card games, from Go Fish, for the younger ones, to Five Crowns, for the other kids. If you are entertaining more than one grandchild at a time, you might want to try Spinner. Add an element of fun by pairing up into teams and designating what the losers have to do for the winners when the game is over. In our case, this usually goes something like, “Grammie, if I win, you have to rub my feet with lotion.” Guess who always wins? (Other favorites: Apples to Apples Junior, Headbanz and Farkle) If the weather is nice, a few rounds of Bocce Ball at Zilker Park would be fun.
- SEE A MOVIE. Some of our grandkids come to visit from places where they don’t have eat-in, recliner-seat style movie theaters like Alamo Drafthouse, Moviehouse & Eatery or the Violet Crown. If you’re really lucky, maybe the Paramount will be showing an age-appropriate flick during their Summer Classic Film Series. Sharing a bag of popcorn in balcony seats at the Paramount is a true only-in-Austin experience.
- SWIM. Can kids ever get enough of the water? If you have a pool nearby, make plans, even every day, to get in the water. Maybe there will be some other kids to play with, but if not, you can always play catch with the boys, or Categories with the girls. (Game of Categories: You’re holding your grandchild, buoyant in the water, head across one arm, arms draped across the other. One of you names the category, i.e., Things You Like to Do in the Summer. You silently determine what will be the right answer, like eat watermelon. She takes a guess. Camping? Nope. She holds her nose while you lightly dip her like a teakettle into the water, her head being the kettle spout. When she guesses the right answer, you flip her into the water by swinging her legs over her head.) Girls especially love this game. Boys do, too, but you might want to get Granddad in on the action for a little more raucous version of flipping from his shoulders. Of course, use your best judgement, based on your grandchild’s comfort in the water.
- SEND THEM TO CAMP. Kids love kamp. They love all the songs, games, skits, new friends and snacks. They never mind getting hot and sweaty. If your grandkids can stay two weeks in Austin, maybe you could let them attend camp for the first half of their visit. We took our granddaughter to a traveling daytime version of Kanakuk Kamp at Life Austin church while she was here from the panhandle this summer. It was fun to plan her to-go lunches together, talk about what she would wear the next day, hear all about what she was learning, and participate in the closing ceremonies. I’ve also heard great things about camp at Pine Cove, but you could also consider a theater camp or something else that caters to the individual interests of your grandchild.
- GO SHOPPING. Oh, man, remember the August craziness, getting our own kids ready for the first day of the new school year? Take your grandson shopping at the Domain for a new shirt from Vineyard Vines, a pair of the most popular brand of jeans, or a pair of the latest, greatest shoes from H&M, and you’ll be the hero – for him and for his parents! Take this idea to another level by making it a yearly tradition, then taking a picture of you with your new-dud-wearing grandchild in front of the Capitol Building. Each year, you can see how much they grew and how much you……well, you get the idea.
- FILL A SHOEBOX. Take your grandchild to the Dollar Store and fill a shoe box for Operation Christmas Child. Summer is the perfect time to do this, because the boxes are usually collected just before Thanksgiving. If you don’t see your grandkids again until turkey day, the chance to fill a box together will have already gone by. Take your own grandchild’s interests into account and allow the the box items to reflect his or her personality. Is he sporty? Include some good sports socks. Does she love dolls? Make sure you shop where there’s a good selection of shoe-box sized dolls and doll clothes. Talk to your grandchild about how much that child in another country is going to love receiving this box you’re creating together, and look at pictures on the website to make it more real for her. What a great memory maker!
- TAKE PICTURES. You can make this a simple one, two, three event with just a few snaps saved on your phone, or you can take this idea to a whole other level with a professional photographer and some canvas covered memoirs. Use your imagination and get your grandkids in on the action. Perhaps let your grandson become a budding photographer, staging a few shots and getting behind the camera. Maybe get some of the photos printed so your granddaughter can create a book for you to treasure till next summer when she comes again. Or make an online book at Shutterfly or Montage. You might just want to go to Walgreens and get a special print commemorating your grandchild’s visit to Austin mounted canvas-style, or made into a keepsake ornament. The shutter is wide open, as they say. Kids are adept at all things technology, so don’t be surprised if they can even use an app on your phone to create a great keepsake video of your time together.
- MAKE A SPECIAL DINNER. My grandmother in Elk City, Oklahoma was the kind who showed her lovin’ with something from the oven. She made a very big deal out of cooking each grandchild’s favorite foods when they came to visit. I’m absolutely drooling, thinking about her Sunday roast and the Green Giant corn in a bag that boiled on the back burner of the stove. Each of us as grandparents should know what each of our grandchildren most love to eat. During her latest visit, I found out that my granddaughter loves coleslaw. What? Really? Ok, filed away for next summer is that important information! We’ll be making some coleslaw together, guaranteed. If your granddaughter likes to get in the kitchen with you, great. If your grandson would rather play dominoes with granddad while you magically whisk it all together, dressed in a frilly apron, do it. He’ll remember it forever. Just ask my brother, the pork chop lover.
- EAT ICE CREAM. Grandkids gotta enjoy ice cream with their grandparents. Just gotta. You can make root beer floats at home or go out for a scoop at Amy’s. You could try a different yogurt or custard spot every night after dinner while they’re here. You might want to crush cookies, chop nuts and put gummi bears out in a bowl for your own version of at-home banana splits. Do you have an old crank style or electric ice-cream freezer? Yummmmmm. Any way you want to plan it will work, but you just gotta eat ice cream together. It’s a grandparent thing.
- TEACH THEM SOMETHING YOU KNOW. Grandkids want to know what you know. But here’s the thing. They don’t want just information. They want to learn something from you that you’re passionate about. Are you a quilter, and are you passionate about passing on textile skills to your granddaughter? Make a quilt block together and talk about it as you sew and iron those perfectly pointed seams. Granddad, just when you think no one really cares about what you know anymore, God sends grandchildren! Have at it, Granddad! Just make sure your wealth of knowledge is coming across from the heart of your own passion for it, not spoken like an instruction manual for the Maytag. I remember when Kynzie was with us during the summer Olympics. We were all three on the couch watching when she asked Grumpie some good question. I can’t remember now what it was, but it was a very smart question (she gets her intelligence from her Grammie), and Grumpie’s answer led to several other questions on her part. I really liked that she saw him as a good teacher in that moment of relaxed learning.
- DO SOMETHING TOURISTY. It’s been my experience that grandkids are just as happy not doing all the touristy things in Austin, but sometimes you need a heavy-hitter activity to fill a long day. Here are some great ideas for fun that can last several hours: The Thinkery, Krause Springs, The MetroRail, Duck Boat, Capitol Tours, LBJ Library, Bullock Texas History Museum and IMAX and if you’re game for it – Ziplining at Lake Travis!
There are so many more fun things to do with the grandkids when they come for an Austin visit, but I hope these 12 ideas have helped jump start your own imagination as you plan an adventurous visit with the children you love so much.
The history of our grandparents is remembered not with rose petals but in the laughter and tears of their children and their children’s children. It is into us that the lives of grandparents have gone. It is in us that their history becomes a future. ~Charles and Ann Morse
Encouraging intentional adventure, and a grandchild visit filled with snuggles, hugs, and a whole lot of fun,
PS – I’d love to see pictures of you and your grandkids doing something fun together in Austin. Follow me on Instagram, and use the hashtag #austinoverfiftygetsaround to post your pictures.