Make homemade play dough or goop to use together.
• Play dough: Mix 1-1/2 cups of flour with 1/2 cup salt, 1/2 cup water and 1/4 cup of vegetable oil. Using a food processor makes it very easy. Otherwise, knead it by hand for a few minutes. Add a few drops of food coloring and various scents (almond extract, vanilla, or peppermint) if you like. It can be stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Objects made of this dough will harden if baked in a 225-degree oven for about two hours.
• Goop: Mix 1 cup cornstarch, 2 to 3 teaspoons of food coloring and 1 cup of water in a bowl. Pour onto trays or cookie sheets with rims and let the children muck about – it’s messy, but a very satisfying sensory experience for 2- to 5-year-olds.
Take a trip to a library or bookstore. Pick out books that interest your grandchild and new ones to read together.
Make simple puppets from paper lunch bags or paper plates attached to tongue depressors or craft sticks. Decorate the puppets with yarn and buttons, glitter, magic markers and scraps of cloth, wrapping paper or aluminum foil. Use your puppets to act out a favorite book or story together, or let your grandchild put on a show for you.
Decorated cakes are for birthdays and holidays, but any meal or snack can be made special if you make it together – especially if it involves decorating!
– Turn a mound of cottage cheese into a clown face with cereal, baby carrots, raisins and bits of fruit.
– Create a sundae by filling a cone with yogurt and adding cereal, dried fruit or sprinkles.
– Make homemade popsicles by freezing lemonade or juice, flavored yogurt or chocolate milk.
– Other fun things to decorate include salads, rice cakes spread with peanut butter or cream cheese, platters of cold cuts garnished with fruits or vegetables, brownies, puddings, homemade pizza, open-faced sandwiches and lasagna.
Collect rocks, shells, seedpods, spent flowers, odd-shaped leaves and other interesting objects that you find when you go for walks in the neighborhood, through the woods or along the beach. Bring bags with you to collect your finds. You can display your finds as a temporary collection, glue them onto simple picture frames or identify them with guidebooks and create a labeled collection or “museum.”
Get some tapes or CDs of children’s music to play in the car or at bedtime. Learn the songs together and sing along.
Start a collection that your grandchildren can add to each time they visit – a dollhouse, train set or model village, for example.
Build a simple “fort” or other “special place” in your living room or yard. It can be as simple as a sheet thrown over a small table, a large box with cutout door and windows, the space behind the couch or a “cave” hidden behind a large rock. It can be as elaborate as a tree house that you build together, a jungle gym or a specially furnished doll corner. Let your grandchild stock this “private” space and invite you in at his or her discretion.
Create some theme boxes filled with props and costumes for pretend play – a towel, some plastic foods and dishes, a small pad and pencil for “restaurant,” “shopping” or “picnic”; a collection of toy animals and blocks for “farm” or “circus”; scarves, old shoes, hats, and costume jewelry for “ballets,” “theater,” “weddings” or “magic shows.”