Senior Living Q & A: Entertaining grandkids on the cheap

Q. My grandchildren are coming for a week and I am concerned about how to entertain them. My budget has been hit hard lately and I can’t afford Disneyland and the other theme parks. What do you suggest?

How about a week of “Grandma Camp”? Think of all the things you did when you were their age.

If you have any granddaughters, let them play dress-up. If you don’t have anything at home, hit the local thrift shop. Old wedding dresses can always be found there, along with myriad other treasures.

Here are some other suggestions to prod your memory. If it’s too hot to go outside, they can play cards — “Old Maid,” “Go Fish” or “Rummy” are easy ones. With just paper and pencil, they can play “Hangman” or the “Dots and Lines” game, where you draw a grid of dots and then take turns connecting the dots to make squares. You can write a long word on a piece of paper and they can see how many shorter words they can make out of the letters. You can get a large jigsaw puzzle and set it up on a card table so it can be worked on by everyone all week.

If it’s not too hot, you can bake cookies from scratch. Most kids think of baking cookies as the refrigerated dough you buy and scoop onto the cookie sheet. Make their pancakes with a happy face (just dribble some batter in the pan in the shape of two eyes and a smile, let cook a minute and then put the rest of the batter for the pancake on the top, let cook, turn it over and voila’, a happy face.)

You can use Popsicle sticks to make picture frames. They can make greeting cards from odds and ends you have around the house. Go to Michael’s to stock up on craft supplies. Anything you don’t use, you can return at the end of the week. Sometimes they have free or low-cost craft classes for kids. Check craft books for more ideas. You can get them at the library.

There are also the simple games like Simon Says; Follow the Leader; Rock, Paper, Scissors; and Red Light, Green Light. A piece of string or yarn is all you need for Cat’s Cradle.

Take them for a walk; even just around the neighborhood is good. It gives you a time to talk without any distractions. The beach and the local parks are good destinations, too.

When you drive somewhere, have them play the License Plate Game, where they look for the letters of the alphabet, in order, on license plates. Or use the alphabet for “My name is Ann and I am an alligator,” and so on.

I fondly remember quiet meditative time as a child — lying under a tree looking at the sun and sky through the leaves, or lying on the grass figuring out what animals the clouds looked like.

They might call you “old-fashioned,” but they will remember this week for years to come.

NANCY TURNEY received a bachelor's degree in social work and a certificate in gerontology. If you have a specific question you would like answered in this column, email it to or call Turney at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, (818) 790-0123, ext. 225.

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