Jan’s Favorite Activities To Do With Her Grandkids

Note from Casey: I know you love to hear from my mom, Jan. She is a phenomenal writer and always has good insight and a fresh perspective around here. Today, she is taking over the blog to talk about her favorite thing…activities to do with your grandchildren! Many of you ask how we keep the kids entertained and this post has lots of great ideas. Or, if you’re visiting Chicago, there are also some tips for fun activities to do with your family. Take it away, Jan.

Activities To Do With Your Grandchildren

When Rory was about 16 months old, I wrote a “Day in the Life of Rory and Grama” post. I took you through a typical day of Grama and Rory and it was easy to put together. As you parents and grandparents know, when you have one child, it’s not too hard to plan and keep to a routine.

July 2022 Ellis

This year, I was planning on giving you another glimpse of a typical Day in the Life of Grama – this time with Ellis, but whoa!!! I found that there has hardly ever been a “typical” day since Ellis was born, almost eleven months ago. Instead of planning and sticking to a schedule, I have found that it’s been all about adapting to whatever circumstances Grama and the Finn family are dealing with on that particular day!

My Babysitting Days

Rory going to school

My babysitting days with Ellis are usually Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Rory goes to daycare on those days and those are Casey’s work and project days. That sounds easy enough for planning, but insert COVID closures at daycare, colds, coughs, and ear infections for Rory and Ellis, COVID for Grama and later for Casey and Finn, and then an amazing array of travel opportunities for Grama in 2022 and whoosh…all that routine planning goes out the window!

So, instead of a true “Day in the Life” post, this one will be more about the things I enjoy doing with my grandkids and my philosophy for getting through the day, with everyone feeling happy by bedtime!

jan and Rory at the beach

The good news about this crazy year is that I have been able to spend a lot of time with Rory. I was afraid that I wouldn’t see much of her with her daycare schedule, but with all the unusual circumstances this year, I have been with her often and that makes me happy.

Our Favorite Activities

Ellis napping

As a mom, a grandma, and even a babysitter, I have always felt that the key to success in keeping everyone sane and happy is to be super busy! I think of the day in terms of chunks of time, revolving around naps, meals, and bedtime. The goal is to fill up the “awake hours” with activities so there isn’t much time for the kids (or adults) to get bored and whiney.

Getting Out of the House

Our double stroller

Activities don’t have to be anything expensive or complicated. The whole idea is to get out of the house and have a change of scenery and some different stimulation. That means that a trip to Starbucks for egg bites or a donut can be our perfect morning activity. Casey has a great double stroller, so I can take both kids out for a walk and head to a coffee shop and then to the park and I’ve used up an hour or two of awake time.

Another favorite is a trip to Target or Costco! There is so much to look at and the carts are fun to hang on to when Grama pushes!  We spend lots of time slowly perusing the toy and book aisles. Toys and books go in and out of our cart as the kids’ interests wax and wane. Often, they’ll carry something around all during our time in the store and then have no interest in it when it’s time to pay! Lucky me!

We Love a Good Park

Rory at the park

Two blocks from my condo is a beautiful Chicago park with a great playground for little ones and an outdoor swimming pool. My grandkids love the playground, and the best part is that there are always a bunch of other kids enjoying it, so we have lots of opportunities to make friends. I take a blanket and snacks with us, and we set up under one of the shady trees. We bring sidewalk chalk and water toys, and we are set for hours.

The pool is another fun diversion for us, but because of the lack of lifeguards, the hours are limited this year. Still, we have found a few opportunities to enjoy both the big pool and the kiddie pool and there’s nothing like fun in the water to tire out the little ones!

Classes & The Library

Ellis at Big City Readers

Casey signed Ellis up for his first little class and it’s been so much fun for both of us. We go to a class at Big City Readers on Friday morning. It’s within walking distance of my condo, so it is super convenient. Ellis loves the interaction with the other little ones, and I enjoy some adult conversation with the moms, dads, nannies, and grandparents.

My local library is a stroller walk from my condo and it’s another good place to spend time in a different setting. They have a large section of books for children, with reading tables and pillows on the carpet. Ellis likes crawling around and exploring the cute reading room, while Rory is more interested in all the books on the shelves. Usually, there are other children there and we can leave with lots of new books to entertain us at home.

Our Free Local Zoo

A couple of years ago, I became a member of the Lincoln Park Zoo which is a place that we sometimes frequent. They offer free admission every day, but without a membership, you’ll have to pay for parking. I have taken the kids here a few times and it’s the perfect place to encounter all those animals that we learn about in our books. Plus, it’s shady and beautiful – just right for a walk in the stroller.

The Children’s Museum

The children's museum is a great idea for activities to do with your grandchildren

Chicago has a wonderful Children’s Museum at Navy Pier. This is the ultimate fun spot for children of all ages and the Finn family has a membership. All four of my grandkids enjoy this space because of the diverse activities and opportunities for play. And afterward, we often eat lunch in the food court, and we all know there is nothing more exciting than a food court!

Chicago Beaches

Ideas for activities to do with your grandchildren

We also have some lovely beaches, here in the city, so on beautiful summer days, that’s a fun spot for us. We don’t do this too often, because there are so many important things that have to be packed, unpacked, and lugged around, like towels, sunscreen, sand toys, snacks, dry clothes, etc., but when we do make the effort, it’s so worth it! We like to go early and park at North Avenue beach so it’s very convenient.

When We’re Stuck Inside

Baking cookies: activities to do with your grandchildren

Many of the activities that I’ve talked about are summer or good weather activities, but we also need some things to keep us busy on cold or rainy days. One thing I always like to keep around are those ready-to-bake cookies and a jar or two of sprinkles. Making cookies from scratch can be a lot of fun and that takes up plenty of awake time, but I don’t always like the clean-up afterward, so the ready-to-bake option works well for us. We end up with delicious masterpieces that taste even better because “We made them ourselves!”

Rory eating outside at Grama's house

When I am at my condo, just a change of setting helps make our time together more fun. When it’s nice out, I often have my grandkids outside on my little balcony. We paint, color, dance, eat, water the flowers… it’s a lot more fun to eat out there than at my kitchen island.

Ideas for activities you can do with your grandchildren

So, in the end, I haven’t told you anything that you parents and grandparents don’t already know. Busy kids are happy kids! And happy kids make their caregivers happy!  Bring on all the activities!


More Posts from Jan

The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

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