December 13, 2010

END OF YEAR “SALES” (Not the store kind!)

Open any newspaper, any blog or any mail in November & December, and all you see is “SALE”, “SALE”.”SALE”. Don’t worry…we’re not going to try to sell you something, ask for a donation or offer you some crazy deal on something you don’t want or need. However, you WILL hear from SALE & SALE (that’s us) yakking about what we think great/grandparenting is all about.

As 2010 comes to a close, here are some our resolutions for the New Year:

• Build and foster positive relationships between the great/grandparents, the children and their parents.

• Have “Fun” and “Rewarding” become part of our plans for ourselves and our family.

• Cherish and remember some of the many accomplishments our great/grandchildren have made this year: learning to walk and talk, becoming toilet trained, transitioning to school, learning to read, riding a bike, learning to play an instrument, sleeping through the night, exploring their own independence, making new friends, sleepovers, etc.

• Acknowledge some of the many accomplishments WE have made this year: learning to keep our mouth “zipped” when necessary, helping our family without burdening ourselves, learning to put in and take out a car seat, revisiting and reading some of our favorite children’s picture & chapter books, trying to relax when everything around us is tense, trying new activities with the children without stressing perfection (so what if the cookies are like rocks), etc.

• Setting realistic boundaries for ourselves and our great/grandchildren and their parents. As much as we’d like it to, everything doesn’t have to be a “WOW”.

• Explore creative ways to help bridge the long-distance relationships.

• Try something new: tai chi, yoga, ballroom dancing, knitting, ElderHostel (now called Road Scholar, join a gym, swimming, mahjong, take a trip to some local place we’ve never been, etc.
We know many of these sound easier said than done, but that’s not going to stop us from trying.

And for YOU, we only ask that you become a “follower” on our blog, and let us know what issues are of concern to you. We’ll keep going, if you keep reading!

June & Laurie

November 21, 2010

A FEW OF OUR FAVORITE THINGS…(to do with little or no prep time)

Thinking up things to do and play with your great-grandchildren, can sometimes be a challenge, especially when you think you’ve run out of creative ideas to WOW them. Here are some tried and true activities that you can do at your home, their home, or when they come to visit you on a trip. These are things you can do with one child or many, and are good family get-together activities, whether it’s for the holidays or the weekend. It’s nice to have an assortment of activities, that can be done with a bit of pre-planning, and that won’t take up too much space in a closet or room, and won’t put you over your credit card limit. AND…they’re fun.                                                                        

There are hundreds of movies (in DVD, VHS, and movie theater format) available for kids of all ages. Decide what movie you all want to see, and then, pop some pop-corn (except for the very young kids – you can give them a sippy cup with milk, instead), and sit down together to watch it. When you’re finished, have a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” review. If the kids are young, you may want to “pause” when their attention demands a break. Write, or have them dictate, a review, and perhaps draw a picture. This review can be saved in a “Movie Review” folder, to be shared with the parents and/or sent to the long-distance great-grandparent. Ask them to send their reviews to add to your folder.

Everyone likes to dress up, and be “somebody else”. Find some old fun and interesting clothes (hats, gloves, junk jewelry, vests, shoes, boas, non-prescription plastic sunglasses, wigs, tiaras, job uniforms, cocktail dresses, shawls, old military duds, etc.) You can also find great dress up items at used and thrift stores, if you need to augment your collection. Find a fun large card-board box, and let the kids decorate it. Keep it anywhere that is accessible. Don’t be afraid to dress up, yourself, and join the fun. Take some photos of each other, and you can create an album that will be fun to show other family members.

Picnics don’t necessarily have to be outdoors or during the summer. Indoor picnics can be really fun AND there are no ants or flies. Some fun picnic areas around the house might be: a playroom, the dining room, the living room, the kitchen, the laundry room, the attic or basement, etc. All you need is a table cloth, and old sheet or a blanket, some picnic plates, cups and utensils, some yummy homemade finger foods, fruit and veggies, and of course, an appropriate drink. After EVERYONE has helped clean up, and recycled, how about a fun game of hide and seek?

Take a medium sized plastic container, with a top, and fill it full of all kinds of found objects and a couple of squeeze bottles of white glue (washable, of course). This treasure box will give your great-grandchildren hours of fun. The contents might include: feathers, colored pipe cleaners, old buttons, shells, small dried interestingly shaped colored pasta (macaroni, etc.), pieces of ribbon, twigs and leaves that have been collected around your home, stickers, plastic eyeballs, puffy colored balls, dried pods from trees, etc. Most of these items you can find at craft stores (Michael’s, JoAnn’s, etc.) or from collections around your home. Have some colored paper, sanded pieces of wood, mirrors, picture frames, etc. available to paste these items on and decorate. Kids of all ages love this kind of activity, and the more stuff in the box, the better!!!

While you may have cards for more adult games, a simple deck of cards can provide hours of interactive fun for kids of all ages. We’re not going to give you directions on how to play these games…that’s what Google is for, but we will give you some games, for you to play with your great-grandchildren. You may have to adapt some of these games, especially for the very young children. The names of some of these games are quite horrible, but the games are fun.
  • Concentration (Memory)
  • Go Fish
  • Crazy Eights
  • War
  • Old Maid
  • Snap, etc.
If you’re extra industrious, you and your great-grandchildren can MAKE a deck of cards (colors, numbers, family member photos, reptiles, etc.) that you can use to play concentration. .

Have fun!!!

October 6, 2010


Whether we realize it or not, our lives are full of routines and rituals. Some of these enrich our lives and others are, frankly, a pain in the neck! We often complain about how “routine” our lives are, but those routines help keep us and our families grounded. And the rituals we have, many passed down from generation to generation, can be pretty wonderful, if you think about it. So what does this have to do with our great/grandchildren? PLENTY!!!

Routines (defined as: the usual sequence for a set of activities) and rituals (defined as: established formal behaviors or the performance of formal acts) give children a sense of belonging: to their family, to their peers, their schools, their holidays, their country, their religion, etc. Having predictable routines and rituals is reassuring to young children and affirming for older kids. They help kids connect to the world around them. Children find comfort and joy in following the “way it has always been done” when to eat trick-or-treat candy, what time each week you’re going to talk to each other on the computer, etc. It’s akin to children asking to hear the same story read over and over and over or mixing certain ingredients in a specific order when making cookies. There’s a feeling of accomplishment and certainty, because they know what to expect. And we do too. Children take pride in “their” rituals and routines, and no one should “mess with them”.

Keeping Things in Perspective - Routines That Work
Time constraints can make following routines with your great/grandchildren challenging. When you care for the children, some schedules, like bedtime, bath-time, play-time, homework time, eating, etc. can become overwhelming, especially if the child is adamant about following “their” routine…no matter what! The best way to alter routines and expectations is to give as much advance notice to the great/grandchild as possible, allowing them to process the upcoming change…and make the transition from one thing to another smoother. “I know you were counting on spending the night Friday, but we have to go out of town to see a friend. Even though we’ll miss this week’s sleepover, we’ll see you next week, at the regular time.” With younger children, when you’re tired, you can say, “I know you usually choose three books before you go take your nap, but today we only have time to read one…because I need to take a nap also. Let’s pick out the one book now, so we’ll have plenty of time to read it before nap time”. Remember, if you’re the caregiver, for whatever amount of time, it’s important to take care of yourself. If you live far away, and have a usually scheduled time to talk on the phone, let the great/grandchild know in advance, that Saturday isn’t going to be possible, and that you will reschedule the call for Sunday afternoon. All of this helps our great/grandchildren learn about compromise.

Holiday Rituals
Many families are of mixed race/religion/culture. How can traditional rituals be maintained without having someone insulted or hurt? What is our role with our “mixed” families? Do we celebrate Christmas and/or Chanukah, or do we fast for Ramadan or eat too much for Rosh Hashanah? When and how do we celebrate the New Year: the Kwanzaa way, the Chinese way, the Vietnamese way, the Jewish way, the traditional American way? These are all important holidays with their unique rituals, for different groups, and are not necessarily conflicting. If the parents are open to sharing different cultural rituals, then our job is to sit back and enjoy with them. Although this may be extremely difficult for some, it really has to be the parent’s decision on how they decide to raise their children. If there’s a disagreement between the parents, and we’re asked for advice, our job is to reflect on all sides of the problem, and help to try to find a compromise. The bottom line is that the rituals and routines can be a time for families to come together. It’s also a way to demonstrate to children that it’s ok to live with differences.

Be Open to Change
Families inherit some rituals and create others. It’s amazing how quickly children “own” these rituals and routines and make them their own. In our family, for example, cupcakes have become the celebratory birthday dessert, much preferred over cake and the great/grandchildren now request cupcakes any time they think we should celebrate something. We, as caregivers, living near or far, have to learn to participate in those routines and rituals that are part of our great/grandchildren’s lives, and make them “ours”.

Routines and rituals help children feel a part of their families and community, and recognizing this will help make life a lot less “routine”.

September 23, 2010

We wanted to share an important and very thought provoking article that came to us via BANANAS, one of the preeminent Child Care Resource & Referral organizations in the country. They are located in Oakland, and have been doing exemplary and extraordinary work for children and their families for over 35 years. This article was part of their Fall, 2010 newsletter, BANANAS, and is reprinted with their permission, and although it focuses on Child Care programs, we believe it extends to all children. As parents, teachers, child care centers, great/grandparents, etc...we are ALL child care providers. Since we are entrusted with the oh, so important task, of raising and nurturing the children in our lives, we have to look at ourselves, our families and our environments to figure out what’s best for these kids, whether they be in pre-school or school age settings. With all the hoopla being raised now about teachers and testing, by the Los Angeles Times, and others, we felt that this article may help put some of these issues into perspective. And so, with much appreciation to BANANAS, for all the thought they put into this article, we’d like to share this with you and hope you can see why we felt this was so important.

June & Laurie

Thinking about child care is a necessary, crucial part of our job. We are passionate about keeping the family's point of view in the forefront of any debate. For over 37 years we have gathered powerful evidence of parents' strong instincts to nurture their children and to want the best for them. Just so, we have come to trust the inborn developmental processes of children. Compelling scientific evidence supports the notion that children are natural learners. They are born programmed to interact with their world and the people they meet each day so that they can develop the skills they need to grow into healthy adults. We don't teach children how to do this. Rather, our job as parents and providers is to surround them with the nurturing adults and environments they need to become healthy, happy and whole.

What do parents want for their children?
Most parents talk about two wishes: they want their children to be happy and to be good, contributing members of a community. How does that happen? What are the qualities that make up the "good life"? These are qualities that cannot be quantified or bureaucratized in any meaningful way. Our staff came up with the following responses:

We should try to help our children be
• responsible
• forgiving
• thoughtful
• empathetic
• helpful
• reliable
• giving and generous
• open-minded, non-judgmental
• and, "to do no harm."

What we want for our children
• success in whatever they choose to do in life, taking advantage of opportunities and following their interests.
• relationships with trusting and loving people as part of a community of family and friends
• life long learning, not just in the formal academic way, but through experiences in life that expand their minds
• respect for diversity and the knowledge that the world is made up of people of different cultures, life-styles, economic realities and perspectives
• safety, not sheltered, but the ability to judge risks and make good choices
• contentment, to have self respect and find inner peace
• independence, autonomy and self-reliance
• ability to communicate well with others
• acceptance by their peers
• respect and acceptance in American society (specifically mentioned by staff who are people of color and/or first or second generation immigrants,)

It was revealing that no one talked about achievement in the sense of earning a lot of money or credentials or status. All spoke of the attributes of being a person and a quality of life that cannot be quantified.

How do we help children get there?
As child care providers, parents and advocates, rather than being side-tracked by test scores and other artificial markings of "achievement," we need to keep what we know about children and what we know about parents in the forefront. Children will be successful in life not because they went to a child care program with a certain rating but because the adults who cared for them had the commitment and resources to give them the love and support necessary to help them become happy, caring adults.

Can a rating system really encompass these qualities, these issues? If we support parents and providers in their efforts to nurture children, then the quality of life for all children will most likely improve.

August 19, 2010


Starting the new “school” year impacts all kids…kids going to child care, pre-school, elementary, middle, high school and college. It also can affect us, as any kind of change in our family’s life can.

If your family lives locally, you’ll most likely see some of the behavioral manifestations up close. If you live far away, you may hear from the parents and/or the great/grandchildren about the transition. What, if anything should be our role in this potentially highly-charged family growth period?

With new expectations, there can be all kinds of emotions: elation, irritability, concern, etc. We need to be supportive of the parents and kids, and opine only when asked. The parents are probably a bit overwhelmed themselves, especially if they both work. With all the possible effects of change, think about the most helpful ways to keep things balanced. Try to remember that our expectations may not be theirs.

There can certainly be the urge to go out and buy new clothes, uniforms, school supplies, etc. but this is another chance for us to use your best communication skills, and buy ONLY what the parents have given us permission to buy. If the parents ask you to help with the shopping, ask them for guidelines about what to buy. For example, your great/grandchild may want to look like Beyonce or Justin Bieber, but the parents want a more conservative look. The time to make these decisions is not at the mall, when a “dream outfit” is seen on a mannequin. Talk about the items to be bought (pants, shoes, blouses, uniforms, etc.) - first with the parents and then with the great/grandchild in advance of the shopping trip. Some compromises can be ironed out ahead of time. With young children, it’s probably best to do the shopping on your own…who needs to drag a young child through the confusion or the congestion in a mall?

You can also offer to take care of the great/grandchildren, while the parents go to “school preparedness” meetings or shopping. They may take the older kids with them and leave the younger ones with you, or leave them all in your care. Either way, it’s a “gift” the parents will surely appreciate.

If you are not financially able to help, explain this to the parents, and perhaps you can “give” of your time…or just plain ole’ moral support. If you are lucky enough to be crafty (knitting, sewing, building a new desk or chair, etc.), perhaps you can make something that would be welcomed by the family.

If you are a “distance” great/grandparent, you could start a journal, send it off in a self-addressed stamped envelope, and ask the child to write or draw something about their experience, and send it back to you. This can be an ongoing “story” that can last a lifetime.

July 28, 2010


One of the best perks of being a great/grandparent, is being able to share the “brilliance” and humor that comes out of the mouths of the children. This can, however, be a double edged sword. What we consider being funny and precocious, or what a makes a good story for us to tell, can also be an embarrassing and potentially hurtful situation for your great/grandchildren.

We all want to share those incredible moments when our great/grandchildren say or do things that crack us up and/or make us proud. Sometimes, we wish we had written all these things down, because they are so endearing and clever, and really make us happy. There are also those very sad and touching moments that break our hearts. Both the sweet and the bitter are cause for us to want to share with our dear friends and family…for a mutual chuckle and for our own emotional support.

For example, when your 4 year old great/grandchild asks, “Who pays your celery?” you might go blog about it (see our blog from January, 2010). When your 10 year old great/granddaughter whispers that she just got her first “training” bra, you smile, feel proud, but decide NOT to talk about it for fear of embarrassing her and breaking the fragile trust. You find out that your 8 year old great/grandchild is a bully at school. You seek some sensitive support and openly discuss your concerns with your dear friend, but opt to not reveal this to your book club.

It’s really important to try to see things from child’s point of view…would what you’re saying make them laugh, cause them humiliation, and/or give them pause to distrust you? Although you won’t hit a home run every time, you can improve your average by thinking before talking.

Some things can be shared, but others should remain private. It’s another lesson in learning when to open your mouth, and when to keep it zipped.

July 14, 2010

Dawdling: How to Live With It

Every great/grandparent has proclaimed, at one time or another: “hurry up, we’ll be late” or “this is the last time I’m going to ask you”. Families always have one or more: slow eaters, slow walkers, slow dressers, and/or slow workers (completing homework and other tasks).

Dawdling can easily become a source of aggravation and frustration. It’s especially hard when timeliness is of the essence and patience is decreasing by the minute (or second).

Dawdling 101
Children aren’t the only ones who dawdle…we’re all guilty of this at some point. Try to think back as to why you may have or still tend to dawdle. If you begin to understand some of the reasons for this behavior, it will make it easier for you to deal with the dawdling child. For example, June was a third child, and at family meals wasn’t fully engaged in the lively conversation of her siblings. So, she dawdled: she pushed the food around her plate, ate very little, and took her time. This attracted the attention of her parents and changed the focus from family interaction to attention to June and her slow eating.

This issue of “control” and getting attention are two of the many reasons that explain why children dawdle. Also, many kids are easily distracted and spend a lot of time daydreaming. They focus on what’s in front of them, only, and have a hard time “thinking ahead”. Others know what’s ahead, and don’t want to do it, and so they dawdle. Some kids are just slower moving through their lives.

Do’s and Don’ts with Dawdlers
Dawdling can certainly test your patience and ability to not “lose it”. If you can remember to use some of these suggestions, you may be able to deal with your great/grandchildren in a more calm and satisfying way.

• Try to figure out the situations that cause the most tension: eating, getting dressed, changing diapers, getting into the car-seat, etc. Prepare the children ahead of time, giving them as much notice and as many details as possible, and tell them what your expectations are.
-- For example: “We’re going to Aunt Nancy’s house today for her birthday party. After lunch, and playtime, we’ll change your shoes and get ready to leave by 4:00. I’ll let you know when you have to stop playing so that you can get dressed. If you want to bring something along in the car/bus, maybe you can go get it now and we’ll put it by the door.” Don't wait until the last minute. Talk about the outing during the day as a reminder. Tie it to something that’s part of their routine (playtime). Give as many cues as you can leading up to the time you leave. “We’re going to leave in 10 minutes. You’ll have to stop playing in 5 minutes, so that we have time for you to change your shoes and put your jacket on”. Then point to the clock/watch, so that they know the time is getting closer.
--If you have to help with homework, you can set up a visual schedule that provides time for work, and time for play, etc. And again, give as many cues as possible to make the transition from one thing to another.

• Explain to the child that you and she/he have certain things that need to be done. You don’t want to nag them, but you do need to have their cooperation so that neither one of you gets stressed.
-- “We’re meeting Mommy at her office tonight. We want to be on time and since there is a lot of traffic, let’s leave a little bit earlier so that we don’t have to rush. How about bringing a favorite book to look at while we’re on our way to see her”. In some cases, you may need to leave much earlier in order to not have added anxiety.

• Hurrying a dawdler doesn’t work. It can cause additional stress and the child may “dig in” and slow everything down even more, especially if control is the issue. Try to anticipate the situation, and provide some alternatives so that you can respect the child but also redirect the focus.
-- Dressing is often difficult for children. It can be about not wanting to do something or go somewhere or it can be about wanting to have the control to make their own choices. If this is a dawdling issue for your great/grandchild, you can offer them a limited choice of 2 things to wear (“the blue pants or the red pants”) ahead of time to avoid last minute temper-tantrums, or allow them to make their own choice (again with limits), even if it’s a fashion faux pas.

Dawdling can be frustrating, especially if you’re a fast paced person. Consider whether your great/grandchild is just naturally a slow paced person, or is unconsciously trying to manipulate or control the situation. Knowing this will help you reduce conflict. Put yourself in their shoes, and take one step at a time.

June 14, 2010


(With apologies to Nancy Sinatra and her boots)

We recently read a terrific blog about walking for good health and exercise while using a pedometer . A pedometer is a device you wear on your belt or waist and it counts your steps.

Basically, you are encouraged to walk 10,000 steps daily. “Getting 10,000 steps in a day requires you to be creative in how you spend your day. Most people average 3,000-5,000 steps per day just in normal daily activities. So let's assume you are on the low end of that range, you need to find another 7,000 steps to meet your goal”.

When you are with or taking care of young great-grandchildren, the probability of reaching that goal can be greatly improved, and you won’t have to use the excuse, “I don’t have time to exercise with the kids around”. Whether you push a stroller, go for a walk with the kids, or do other energetic things with them, you can increase your “stepage”. Not only is this important for adults, it’s equally important for the children AND you are modeling a positive lifestyle.

Here are some things you can think about doing…just remember to know your own limits, so you don’t “over-do it”: walking and counting the squares on the sidewalk; musical “movement” games* (see below from some recommendations); hopscotch (just be careful); jumping rope; walking up and down stairs instead of using an elevator; hide & seek, walking the dog, pushing a cart in the market or store (with older kids walking – NOT in the cart), etc.

In our culture, children spend a great deal of time sitting: at their desks, their computers, TV, playing with their hand-held game devices, etc. Pre-schools and elementary schools provide limited physical activity, and few use a thought-out fitness program. The emphasis is on academics with little regard for the power of physical activity and exercise, even though the research says it’s an important way for children to focus and learn. Combine this lack of physical exercise with poor eating habits, and we have the national health problem of obesity.

So, when you get yourself a pedometer **, why not buy one for your great-grandchildren? You can turn your time with them into a counting challenge as well as a way to stay healthy…and you all will be winners!

**BABYSONGS by Hap Palmer – Great song called “Walking” which is perfect to do with young toddlers, and lots more.

GO WAGGALOO – Sara Lee Guthrie & Family – This is our new favorite recording…from the Guthrie Family (Woody’s granddaughter/ Arlo’s daughter), you can sing “Big Square Walkin’” as you go on those sidewalk strolls.

KIDS IN ACTION by Greg & Steve – Several wonderful movement/action songs including: “The Way We Do It” and “Goin’ on a Bear Hunt”, etc.

And don’t forget these other “Walking” sing-along songs:
I Walk the Line -- Johnny Cash
I'm Walkin'-- by Fats Domino (yes indeed, I'm talkin'...)
Footloose -- Kenny Loggins
These Boots Were Made for Walking -- Nancy Sinatra
Walking in a Winter Wonderland
On the Road Again -- Willie Nelson
You'll Never Walk Alone-- from "Carousel"
…and many, many more!!!

**PEDOMETERS (at sporting goods stores or online)--from very cheap to very expensive!
Less Expensive Style:

More Expensive Style:

May 5, 2010


We’ve all opened our email to find lists of things we should be doing, or not doing, and we open the paper to read about all the negative things that are occurring in the world today.

It’s time for us to turn these “should/shouldn’t” lists and negative things into something positive! So, as the older and wiser generation, maybe we can have an impact on our families and friends by putting this pretty darn good list to work!

It’s a simple recipe to follow. The ingredients are listed, and there’s no need to go to the market to prepare this. Serving instructions follow.


1. Alright!
2. Amazing effort!
3. Awesome!
4. Beautiful!
5. Bravo!
6. Clever!
7. Congratulations!
8. Cool!
9. Couldn’t have done it better myself!
10. Excellent!
11. Exceptional!
12. Extraordinary!
13. Fantastic!
14. Far out!
15. Fine!
16. First rate!
17. Good for you!
18. Good job!
19. Good remembering!
20. Good thinking!
21. Good try!
22. Good work!
23. Great answer!
24. Great!
25. Hooray for you!
26. I call that a fine job!
27. I knew you could do it!
28. I think you’ve got it now!
29. I’m proud of you!
30. Incredible!
31. Job well done!
32. Keep it up!
33. Keep up the good work!
34. Keep working on it, you’re getting better!
35. Look at you go!
36. Magnificent!
37. Marvelous!
38. My hat’s off to you!
39. Nice Going!
40. Niiiice!
41. Now you’ve got the hang of it!
42. Out of sight!
43. Outstanding!
44. Perfect!
45. Phenomenal!
46. Radical!
47. Remarkable!
48. Right on!
49. Sensational!
50. Stupendous!
51. Super job!
52. Superb!
53. Sweeeeet!
54. Take a bow!
55. Terrific!
56. Thanks for helping!
57. That’s better!
58. That’s coming along nicely!
59. That’s it!
60. That’s quite an improvement!
61. That’s really nice!
62. That’s RIGHT!
63. That’s the best you’ve ever done!
64. That’s the way to do it!
65. Tremendous!
66. Two thumbs up!
67. Unbelievable work!
68. Very courageous!
69. Way to go!
70. What a great idea!
71. Wonderful!
72. WOW!
73. You are very good at that!
74. You did that very well!
75. You figured that out!
76. You made it happen!
77. You made the difference!
78. You make it look easy!
79. You make me smile!
80. You outdid yourself!
81. You really make this fun!
82. You remembered!
83. You rock!
84. You should be proud!
85. You’re a good sport!
86. You’re a great example for others!
87. You’re a great kid! (person!)
88. You’re doing fine!
89. You’re doing much better today!
90. You’re learning a lot!
91. You’re on the right track!
92. You’re really going to town!
93. You’re really improving!
94. You’re really working hard today!
95. You’ve been practicing!
96. You’ve got it made!
97. You’ve just about got it!
98. Your help counts!

To make the most of this recipe, use these ingredients all the time, and be sure to sprinkle lovingly and liberally with that special verbal exclamation mark (!) …it’ll make a difference! There's enough here for you to serve to your great/grandchildren, kids, their partners and/or spouses, friends and still have leftovers! Feel free to pass it on!

And one more thought....
“All kids need is a little help, a little hope, and somebody who believes in them.” Ervin “Magic” Johnson

April 13, 2010


Let’s Have Some HOMEMADE FUN

Now that the weather is being cooperative and mild (we hope), we’ve been thinking about things we can do with our great/grandchildren, around, inside and outside of the house…things that are fun and provide creative recreation. All of these activities can be adjusted according to age and attention span….you be the judge! If your great/grandchildren don’t live close enough to do these things together, you can make a “kit”, with all of the things they’ll need, and send it to them as a surprise.

Plastic cookie/water jar with lid and/or plastic food container with lid
Wooden mixing spoon or chop sticks or other utensils that can be used as drum sticks
Cotton balls or bunched up tissue that you attach to the “sticks” with tape (if using chop sticks, cover the pointed ends)

Close the jar or container and beat away. Using different sized containers will give different sounds. You can also add varying amounts of water to the containers to get different sounds. Attach an old dog leash, soft rope or heavy string to make the drum “wearable” for a marching band.

Round cardboard oatmeal container and/or water bottle with lid and/or
plastic cylindrical container with lid, etc.
Dry beans and/or rice and/or course salt
Tape to seal the containers

Different sounds will be created by adding varying amounts of ingredients to the container. Shake It Up Baby!!!

Cardboard toilet paper roll or paper towel roll
Waxed paper
Rubber bands or tape

Cover one end of the “kazoo” with waxed paper, and affix with tape or a rubber band. Use a hole punch to make a small hole about ¼ in from the open end of the kazoo. Remember, blowing won’t work with kazoo’s…humming will! Hmmmmmmm!!!

Once you have the band assembled you can march around or sit and play along with your favorite song…one of ours is “76 Trombones” from The Music Man. We’ve listed a few of our favorite “rhythm band” recordings made especially for kids. NOW, let the music begin!!!*

We don’t all have those wonderful wooden unit blocks, Legos or Lincoln Logs around the house, but that shouldn’t deter you from building things. Gather up:
Cereal boxes, round oatmeal boxes with lids, gift boxes with lids, toilet and paper towel rolls, plastic food containers, shoe boxes, etc. They can be used as is, or YOU can cut them down to the shape and size desired…just be sure to close off ragged edges with tape. Violá…you have your own Home Depot. These “blocks” can be colored, painted or left au natural. Let the children design and build their own structures…and feel free to add things like people (dolls/action figures), landscaping (trees made from twigs with leaves or colored paper glued on, finely cut colored paper as grass, colored cotton ball bushes, etc.), an airport landing strip or train tracks (from construction paper), etc. Encourage the kids to look at the shapes of the “blocks” and decide which ones are best for sideways, or upright building, etc.

Nature is a wonderful thing, and there are ways to grow things inside and outside of your home. The simplest indoor plantings use a ripe avocado pit and/or black/pinto/lima beans.

Avocado: Take a clean avocado pit, from a ripe avocado, and soak it for at least 24 hours in warm water. Then stick 3 equidistance toothpicks around the thinner (or top) part of the pit. Put the pit with the picks into a jar or glass, so that the picks support the pit. (Then say this sentence three times very fast). Fill the jar or glass up to the point where the fattest (bottom) part of the pit is just touching the water. Place in a bright window and eventually the pit will produce roots and split so leaves will emerge. Then it can be planted in soil, either in a container or the ground. Be sure the water level stays correct. You may never see an avocado come from the planted tree, but your grandchildren’s children might!

Beans: Soak 4 lima beans or 4 pinto beans in warm water for several hours. Using a very well cleaned out jam/mayo or similar sized jar, add some warm water and swirl around to get the jar wet. Depending on the size of the jar, moisten multiple cotton balls and add them to the jar, so they lie as smooth as possible against the inside walls of the jar. Use as many cotton balls as you need to line the jar. Now, peel back the cotton just enough to insert one of the soaked beans, and press them (don’t crush them), a little more than halfway down the jar, between the cotton and the wall. You may need to add more cotton if the beans slip. Repeat with the other 3 beans. Fill the jar with water, and then pour out the excess. Put into a sunny window, and water to keep the cotton wet. The beans will swell, then split, and roots and stalk will grow. Try using different types of beans. The plants can eventually be put into the ground or a container outside.
Don’t be afraid to start tomato or flower seeds/small plants indoors and then transfer them to the garden or outdoor container. You can help your great/grandchildren grow things for themselves, or to give as gifts. Kids of all ages LOVE to see things grow.

Our great/grandchildren love to make lemonade from fresh lemons. Lemons seem readily available during the year, but making lemonade to sell, only works when the sun in out. There are millions of lemonade recipes available online, but we like to use the ones with the least amount of sugar. You can also make “orangeade” by squeezing fresh oranges and adding some club soda to make it fizzy. Anyhow, having a lemonade/orangeade stand is classic! BUT, it’s something to do ONLY if you have the time to sit and supervise. You can’t have young kids selling things, unsupervised. So, if you have the time and the space, go for it. You’ll need: lemon/orangeade with ice, in a pleasant, clean pouring container, small paper cups, a small table and chairs, a container or purse for the money, a decorated sign, a camera and some customers. It’s nice to turn this into a charitable event, with the proceeds going to a charity of the children’s choice. Help the kids find a comfortable selling price, and sell away. Take photos that can be shared with the charity. When the money, probably in the form of your check, is sent, ask the kids to draw or write something to that charity to bring the project full circle.

Here are some wonderful CD’s that you can use with your great/grandchildren when making a Homemade Family Band. We love these!

Rhythms on Parade(Ages 2-8) by Hap Palmer

Shake Rattle & Rock (Ages 2-8) by Greg & Steve

Diez Deditos/Ten Little Fingers (Ages 2-8) by José Luis Orozco

All For Freedom (Ages 3-10) Sweet Honey In The Rock

Music For Little People: 15th Anniversary Collection (Ages 2-8) by Various Artists

March 25, 2010

BE PREPARED: Safety First

Just because we’ve had children, doesn’t mean we remember what to do in emergencies...of many kinds. So, if you’re going to take care of your great/grandchildren, at any time, you’ll probably need to refresh your skills, either by taking a class and/or reading up on current emergency procedures, such as CPR and first aid. Check your local community resources for classes…stay up to date on this…for your great/grandchildren and the rest of your family.

This may all sound boring and useless, UNTIL it’s NOT! When emergencies occur, adrenaline kicks in, and sometimes our brains forget the obvious. So, as the Girl/BoyScouts, Bluebirds, Campfire Girls and Tom Leher say: “BE PREPARED”!!!

We always advocate for balance and communication with your
great/grandchildren. Without being preachy, when it comes to safety, might we suggest that you establish routines that maintain your sanity while modeling safe behavior for them. This includes: crossing the streets, getting out of cars, slamming/closing car doors, playground protocol and safety, kitchen and bathroom hazards, etc. This all sounds daunting, but in fact, it’s part of daily living. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

We’ve listed some of the most common emergencies that can affect you and your charges. Since we’re not doctors or EMT’s, we’ve given the basics, but it’s best to visit these or other websites that can give you more detailed information. It might be good to print and post these on your already overcrowded refrigerator or bulletin board, along with the emergency phone numbers you already have hanging there. Also, be sure to have a filled out EMERGENCY FORM from your children, in case you are the person who needs to make a medical emergency decision.

Aside from the normal emergency contact information page showing the pediatrician, dentist, etc. here is an example of a medical release form you should keep around. Printable at:

Consent for Medical and/or Emergency Treatment**

I, ______________, hereby voluntarily consent to the rendering of such care, including diagnostic procedures, surgical & medical treatment & blood transfusions, by medical doctors, hospitals or their authorized designees, as may in their professional judgement be necessary to provide for the medical, surgical or emergency care of my
(hereafter “dependent”) – Full Name

I further give my consent to ________________________________________
(hereafter “caregiver”) – Full Name

who will be caring for my dependent for the period ________________ through _________________, to arrange for routine or emergency medical and/or dental care and treatment necessary to preserve the health of my dependent. In the event that my dependent is injured or ill while under the care of the caregiver, I hereby give permission to the caregiver to provide first aid for said dependent and to take the appropriate measures, including contacting the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) system and arranging for transportation to the nearest emergency medical facility.

In making medical decisions on my behalf for the benefit of my dependent, I direct that the caregiver attempt to contact me. However, if medical care becomes essential, I give permission to the caregiver to make such decisions regarding such treatment as deemed appropriate by the medical doctor, hospital or their authorized designee. In furtherance of any treatment decisions to be made by the caregiver on my behalf for the benefit of my dependent, I authorize the caregiver to request, obtain, review and inspect any and all information bearing upon my dependent’s health and relevant to any such decisions to be made respecting such treatment.

I acknowledge that no guarantees have been made to me as to the effect of such examinations or treatment on the condition of my dependent and that I am responsible for all reasonable charges in connection with the care and treatment rendered to my dependent during this period.
Signature of Legal Guardian ____________________
Witness ____________________________
Name ________________________________
Address __________________Phone______________
Name of dependent __________________________
Phone _________________________________
Allergies ______________________________
Health Insurance Carrier __________________________
Health Insurance Policy # and Group # _______________
Personal Care Physician _________________
Address _________________Phone __________________
Medications dependent is taking _________________
Date of last tetanus booster __________________
Dentist ____________________________________
Address ________________Phone __________________
**This is only an example of a consent form. You should consult an attorney if you think such a legal document might be right for you. Family HealthSource(March, 1999)

We have all either experienced or read about these devastating occurrences. Check with your local city/county governments for safety and disaster procedures and discuss them with your family. Although these kinds of disasters will vary by where you live, here’s something you can take control of and do yourself, ahead of any type of emergency. When these disasters happen, families are desperate to know that everyone is safe. Creating a “communication tree” is an essential way to keep family members informed.

Identify one or two people, OUTSIDE of your immediate area, that will act as “command central”. It may be easier to call long distance, than to call your neighbor when these things happen. In our personal experience, with earthquakes in Los Angeles, the phones, land and cell, worked for at least a few moments after the event, and then either broke-down or got jammed by too many callers. In the first moments, we called a relative in Northern California who was our pre-planned contact person. Some of us lost phone connections shortly after we advised her that we were ok, but at least she was able to tell others that we were safe. This “communication tree” is simple, effective and can help your family stay in the know. For more information on Earthquakes, Fires, Floods, Hurricanes, etc. visit:

Keep this number handy. It operates 24/7/365 and they can tell you how to take action immediately 1-800-222-1222 and/or call 911
Below, we’ve listed the basic information supplied by the American Association of Poison Control. Be sure to visit their website and download the information they make available.
Poison Prevention Tips from the American Assoc. of Poison Control
Store Poisons Safely

• Store medicines and household products locked up, where children cannot see or reach them.
• Store poisons in their original containers.
• Use child-resistant packaging. But remember —nothing is child-proof!
Use Poisons Safely
• Read the label. Follow the directions on medicines and products.
• Are children around? Take the product or medicine with you to answer the door or the phone.
• Lock products and medicines up after using them.
• Is it medicine? Call it medicine, not candy.
• Children learn by imitation. Take your medicines where children can’t watch.
Teach Children to Ask First
• Poisons can look like food or drink. Teach children to ask an adult before eating or drinking anything.
First Aid for Poisoning - Call 1-800-222-1222 AND/OR 911

With all of the toys and toy recalls, mostly from products made outside of the U.S., the Consumer Product Safety Commission site offers ongoing, updated information about toy safety. It’s a great site to bookmark!

It also has a great list of how to choose suitable toys for kids, called
“Which Toys For Which Child Ages 0-5”
“Which Toys For Which Child Ages 6-12

Last, but certainly not least, everyone NEEDS to wash hands!!! This is the easiest and most essential way to prevent spreading illness, especially among children and their caregivers. Model it and insist and expect the children to do the same!!!

So, now that we’re all prepared, take a break and relax! Being PREPARED takes a lot of energy!

March 5, 2010


Are you tired of hearing all about “me, me, me”, in conversations with friends and family? In these times of economic stress, it’s understandable for everyone to be focused on themselves. BUT, we know from past experiences, that thinking and caring about others goes a long way in balancing gloomy feelings and helps us feel hopeful. Learning to care can start as early as infancy.

Empathy & Compassion
Empathy & compassion are poignant words. Compassion is the awareness of another’s situation and a wish to make it better. Empathy is understanding another’s feelings and what that person is going through. It’s literately like "walking in someone else’s shoes". Children often try “walking in our shoes”, literally, to experience what that feels like. This is a simple form of empathy….especially when they try on women’s spiked heels with pointed toes…OUCH!

How do kids begin to display empathy and compassion? Infants respond to faces and sounds, so if you are sad, the infant may respond accordingly and also might giggle in response to a caregiver’s laugh. Toddlers may show empathy by trying to comfort a sibling or friend, who is crying or frightened…”Emily looks sad”. Many show their compassion by trying to be soothing, even if the adult is just pretending to be hurt or sad. School-age children can pick up spoken and unspoken signals of distress or sorrow and may respond with empathy: trying to comfort and take care of the adult, etc. Developing empathy and compassion starts at a young age, and hopefully continues to expand throughout our entire lives.

You ask: “What has all of this got to do with great/grandparenting?” Great/grandparents can see that some kids have these sensibilities, and others don’t. We can help stimulate these qualities through modeling…NOT clothes, but ACTIONS.

Case In Point
We can all recall someone from decades ago whose kindness we still remember. Many situations allow us to model compassion and empathy.

• You are in the market with your great/grandchild, and see a shorter person trying to get something off the top shelf. You can offer to help that person get the item. It’s as simple as that!!!

• There’s a campaign to help others in need (New Orleans, Haiti, Chile, flood, fire and/or neighbors in need). Choose something of value to YOU and put it in a donation box. Then ask your great/grandchild to pick a toy or something of THEIRS (from YOUR home, of course) to add to the collection. You’re giving something of importance and asking the children to do the same. If you don’t live close to your great/grandchildren, you can talk about this on the phone, skype, in the mail, and then pool the items to be sent.

• For children who have a piggy bank and/or older children who get allowances, suggest putting aside some amount of money, on a regular basis, that can then be sent off to others, as a donation. You might want to contribute to the fund, as well. This can be an ongoing project that you can do together, even if you don’t live in the same city.

All of these situations offer an opportunity to talk about compassion and empathy. Ask your great/grandchild how they would feel if they were “walking in the shoes” of others, and how they would offer to help out. Talk to them about how caring can be both concrete and emotional and how helping others can make you and the other person/people feel better.

Empathetic and compassionate children are more likely to be tolerant, open-minded adults!

In case you’re looking for interesting places to donate money with your great/grandchildren, where you will get feedback about your donation, might we suggest the following:

HEIFER INTERNATIONAL - Hiefer helps children and families around the world receive training and animal gifts that help them become self-reliant. You can give small or large amounts (starting at $10). This is about giving the gift of self reliance to struggling people all over the world. Everyone deserves the dignity of providing for themselves and their families.

KIVA - KIVA links "micro-bankers" like you and me with screened "micro-preneurs" in the developing world (and now even in the U.S.). You can lend as little as $25 in capital to the Kiva applicant of your choice. When the money is paid back, you can withdraw your original investment, donate it to Kiva or lend it to another needy applicant. As of November 2009, Kiva has facilitated over $100 million in loans.

MOMSRISING.ORG Where moms and people who love them go to change our world. Working to build a nation where children, parents, and businesses thrive; and end discrimination against mothers. listens to members and focuses advocacy where they can most quickly improve family economic security. M.O.T.H.E.R.S stands for: Maternity & Paternity Leave; Open Flexible Work: TV & After School; Healthy Kids; Excellent Childcare: Realistic & Fair Wages; Sick Days, Paid.

SAVE THE CHILDREN – Creating lasting change for children in need in the United States and around the world. The priorities are to ensure that children in need grow up protected and safe, educated, healthy and well-nourished, and able to thrive in economically secure households. In 2009, the “Rewrite the Future” campaign reached more then 12 million children in conflict affected countries with access to improved education.

February 21, 2010

TAKING SOME GOOD (OLD) ADVICE…Yes Indeed, There Is Merit in Old Things!!!

While going through some old papers, we happened upon a piece we first read in the late 1980’s. It doesn’t seem that old to us, but then again, the only thing that seems old is the mirror!

Our children, parents of our great/grandchildren, have so much stress in their lives, especially as it relates to learning, performing, and just surviving. It’s a daunting task to raise children in this test-crazy, pressure to over-achieve world, we live in. What’s a family to do? What’s a great/grandparent to do?

We know from our parents, that whatever advice they gave us didn’t mean much until we got MUCH older. So these actions are passed down, generation to generation. BUT, what if we could show OUR children, who are “sound-byte”, technology driven, “above the fold only readers”, a few bullet points that might be useful to them. These tried and true ideas are especially poignant when they are feeling the stress of parenting. It doesn’t take long to read, and they can be posted on the refrigerator or their iPhones. It’s not an “app”…just good advice (and it WON’T be denied on SNOPES).

So, here again, in all its glory, is some really solid, good advice (and it’s aged beautifully)!!!


“Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do and how to be I learned in Kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school. These are the things I learned:
• Share everything
• Play fair
• Don't hit people
• Put things back where you found them
• Clean up your own mess
• Don't take things that aren't yours
• Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody
• Wash your hands before you eat
• Flush
• Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you
• Live a balanced life
• Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday some
• Take a nap every afternoon
• When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together
• Be aware of wonder - Remember the little seed in the plastic cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that
• Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the plastic cup - they all die. So do we
• And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first important word you learned-the biggest word of all-LOOK

Everything you need to know is there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and sane living. Take any of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or your government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if all-the whole world-had cookies and milk about 3 o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if we had a basic policy in our nation and other nations to always put things back where they found them and to cleaned up our own messes. And it is still true, no matter how old you are-when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”

** "ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN" by Robert Fulghum. © Robert Fulghum, 1990, Villard Books, NY

February 11, 2010

BRIDGING THE DISTANCE: Using New and Old Technologies

One of the hardest parts of great/grandparenting is not being able to physically see, hug, cuddle and/or be present for a school production…in other words, you don’t live near your family.

For some, this is an advantage, while for others, it’s sad and difficult. But, in order to make the best of it, we’ve put together a few ideas that might work for you. As has become our mantra, moderation is the key to success. You don’t want to alienate the parents with a deluge of things that THEY have to supervise or have to be available to make happen.

Even before there were computers and high tech gadgets, there was sky-writing for the rich and adventurous, and the United States Post Office, cassette tapes and telephones for the rest of us.

Write a Card or Letter
Tune in on what’s of interest and pertinent to the child. Make the correspondence short and fun. You can even paste in a photo, or picture from a magazine. Insert a “self addressed stamped envelope” and ask for a letter in return, if the child can write, or if not, ask them to draw you a picture, add some stickers and then take it to the postbox to send back to you.

Send Voice Recordings
Assuming there’s a computer or listening device in your great/grandchild’s home, make a recording (C.D., an audio file, cassette tape, etc.) telling a story or reading from a favorite book. Try to be animated and put on your best entertainment voice. Have others join you on the recording, if they’re not too shy. If the family doesn’t have a listening gadget, perhaps you can offer to buy one for the next important gift giving celebration. DON’T buy it without asking first!

Use the Phone
Phone calls are always fun for children to receive. The catch here is to make it convenient and realistic for all involved (ex. calling at dinner time is distracting). You and the parents can decide on a schedule and it’s up to all of you to be consistent and yet flexible, if need be. Children anticipate things like this and are disappointed if the commitment isn’t met.

If one of you doesn’t have a computer, you can purchase and send a "phone calling card”, so that the great/grandchild can call YOU free of charge to them.

Use the Computer
Skype uses technology to bring people together, eyeball to eyeball, at no online or phone cost to the users (you can call ANYWHERE in the world free). If you have a computer with a camera and/or microphone, and the parents have the same, you can download Skype ( and talk in real time. If you both have webcams, you can also see each other when talking. Webcams are not terribly expensive, and most come with microphones built in, so it’s not a huge investment to be able to talk “live” to your great/grandchildren. They’ll love seeing you and of course, you’ll love seeing them!

You can also make and send video files over the internet (if you know how to do it) or use a camera to make a video, copy it to a CD and send it in the mail.

Also, be sure to send photos via email that you think the children will enjoy seeing, and ask them to send some to you.

The possibilities are endless…all you need is some patience, some technical know how, and voila. If you’re not too sure of the technologies, you might ask one of your kids, one of your older great/grandchildren or a friend to show you the basics.

Make a Memory Book
We’re all delighted when our great/grandchildren give or send us drawings, photos, letters, etc. If you like doing this kind of thing, keep all of the goodies in a safe place and then create a “memory book” or “album” of things you’re received over the year. Give it to your great/grandchildren for a special birthday or each New Year. Add narratives to make it more personal.

Poetry Galore
We all have favorite poems. Unfortunately, most children don’t get to hear or read a lot of poetry today, for many reasons. There are some wonderful books of poetry that you can use to: make a book, add some lines to a letter or card, or record for the child to hear. Here are a couple of our favorite collections:

The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis - by Caroline Kennedy

20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury – Compiled by Jack Prelutsky

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices – by Paul Fleischman

Where the Sidewalk Ends – by Shel Silverstein

This is an ongoing process that will keep you connected to your family. The technologies will keep changing, so use the gadgets that you like, and STAY IN TOUCH!!!

February 4, 2010

YADA YADA YADA - Stories, Songs & More

Kids get restless when travelling. They are confined to a small space, whether in a car, train, plane or bus. Car manufacturers realized this was an issue, so many now provide video components for the children to watch while in the back seat. Airlines have provided this “perk” for years. We all know to bring along favorite “cuddlies”, toys, books, or perhaps hand held devices for travel with children, but what about just having a conversation? Or singing a song?

You don’t have to make up a story to tell all by yourself. You can have the child/ren join in.

Start off with a sentence: “Once upon a time there was a puppy dog who got lost…” or “I saw an elephant walking down my street….” or for older kids a more sophisticated beginning: “As I sat down at my school desk today, I realized something was different…” or “I heard about a boy who found a hundred dollar bill on the ground....”. Then ask the child/ren to make up the next sentence, and you follow with the subsequent one. This is great fun…no matter how many people are participating. The stories can be scary, serious, or just plain silly.

You can also tell a story about your great/grandchildren’s babyhood. Children are always interested in hearing about their early, early years. For example: "When you were a baby, I used to play on the floor with you, even before you could crawl. We used to gently bump heads together and that was enough to make you laugh and laugh”. For the older child, a more complicated story, such as: “I knew from the moment I met you, that I was the luckiest great/grandparent in the world. We made up words, songs and got silly together…”

“YOU SING A SONG, AND I’LL SING A SONG” (borrowed with love from Ella Jenkins’ famous song of the same title).
Just follow the famous children’s recording artist, Ella Jenkins', advice. Singing together, can be a truly rewarding experience. When you’re with your great/grandchildren, travelling or sitting in the living room, think about songs that are familiar to the children and invite participation. If you’re feeling particularly creative, you and/or the children can make up your own songs. You can also play a CD or watch Pete Seeger or Elmo on YouTube and sing along. We’ve listed some fun songs below***…check ‘em out.

Children love to explore, and an extension of that process invites some visual and observation games. I SPY is fun anytime, anywhere and for most any age. Look around for some object or color or word to identify. Then say “I spy someone with brown hair” or for the older child, “I spy the word ‘SALE’ on a sign”. Then it’s their turn to “spy”. How about a new version of that game? ”I spy an orange bus and who do you think is riding inside?”

Check out your environment. “How many taxis can you see along the road?”, or “How many pot holes can you find (probably too many)?”or “Let’s find all the red things in the living room”.

Don’t forget that you can YADA, SING and PLAY at home, because children get restless there, too.

You’ll Sing a Song, And I’ll Sing a Song by Ella Jenkins

We’re Goin’ on a Bear HuntKid's In Action by Greg & Steve

Willoughby Wallaby Woo - Singable Songs for the Very Young by Raffi

Juanito - Diez Deditos by José Luis Orozco

Abiyoyo - Stories & Songs for Little People by Pete Seeger

Blah Blah Blah: Stories About Clams, Swamp Monster, Pirates and DogBill Harley

If You’re Happy and You Know It
She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain When She Comes
Peanut Butter and Jelly
This Old Man
Miss Mary Mack
Do Your Ears Hang Low
On Top of Spaghetti

January 20, 2010


We recently were talking to our great/grandchildren about jobs and work, and had even read books about it. One day, as we were walking along the beach boardwalk, we saw some life guards. We talked about what lifeguards do, how fit they have to be, and how often they were at the beach, because not all days are sunny and nice. We were asked by the great/grandchildren about whether lifeguards work on rainy days. We explained that they probably get paid a salary (what people are paid for their work), but we weren’t sure who paid them and if they got paid for days they actually weren’t at the beach. The four year old asked if one of us would go with him to talk to the lifeguards, and so off we went.

We’ve all heard that “kids say the darndest things”, well, we’re here to testify that it’s true. We approached the lifeguards, and out came…”Who pays your celery?” After the lifeguards picked their jaws up off the sand, they gave a too thorough explanation. They figured an intense question deserved an intense answer, including the fact that they get paid by the County, the County collects taxes and where property taxes go, etc.

Children ask questions because they are trying to sort things out for themselves and make sense of their world, and they should be encouraged to do so. That age old question “where did I come from?” is the perfect example of a simple question being answered in a very complicated and sometimes confusing way.

The answers we give should be a good fit with where the child is in their development. Gauging the child’s real interest in the question is also another guide for your answer. Simple answers may lead to more complicated ones if the child pursues it farther

So what does this have to do with great/grandparenting? Children don’t have set times to ask questions…it happens all the time, day and night, and if we’re physically with the kids, on Skype, on email or the phone with them, we will be asked to answer a multitude of questions. Answer everyday questions truthfully, keeping in mind the age and development of your great/grandchild.

However, as we’ve stated before, it’s important to be respectful of the parent’s point of view. In preparation for some of those “tender topic” questions (birth, death, divorce, Santa, tooth fairy, religion, etc.), you might want to discuss these with the parents, and be prepared to answer in a way that’s truthful to you and respectful of the family. It may be useful to help children understand that answers to questions may result in disagreement as people believe in different things…and that’s OK