Spending Quality Time with Grandkids

Try these wonderful ways for grandparents to spend terrific time with grandkids.

"What do you wanna do? I dunno -- what do you wanna do?" These words are all too familiar between grandparents and grandkids looking to spend time together. The goal is to really spend time together: talking, relating, sharing unique life adventures. After all, grandparents have so much wisdom to offer. And kids, well, grandparents never experienced being a kid in this millennium, so the youger generation has something to share, too. If you're in San Diego or Southern California, try these fun ideas. If you're somewhere else, look for similar opportunities in your town (or come visit San Diego).

Bring your walking shoes

There are many parks in and near Southern California. Balboa Park in San Diego has a variety of things to do, from carousels to museums to picnic areas to a space theater, and is a great example of a place to spend some meaningful time with kids. Fun stuff for kids of all ages includes:

  • Hall of Champions Sports Museums (local heroes)
  • Museum of Man
  • Natural History Museum
  • Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater
  • San Diego Air & Space Museum (formerly the SD Aerospace Museum)
  • San Diego Model Railroad Museum Balboa Park

619-239-0512, http://www.balboapark.org/just-for-kids

Old Town — San Diego State Historic Park is the first permanent European settlement in what became the United States. There is lots to see here, and it's a great place to explore the "old days" with kids. Be sure to check out the Whaley House — it's haunted!
619-291-4903, http://www.oldtownsandiego.org

USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum— San Diego is one of the few cities in the country with a floating WWII history museum. Share your memories from a different time with kids.
619-544-9600, http://www.midway.org

Birch Aquarium — Explore many salt- and fresh-water tanks and exhibits of underwater life and ways to preserve it. More than 5,000 specimens representing more than 380 species of fishes and invertebrates are displayed.
858-534-FISH, http://aquarium.ucsd.edu

Harbor Excursion — If you've got your sea legs, there are various tours offered in and around San Diego bay, including whale watching expeditions from December through March.
619-234-4111, http://www.sdhe.com

Legoland — More for the younger ones (12 and under), Legoland offers 50 plus rides, shows, and attractions.
760-918-5346, http://www.legoland.com

Sea World — Of course, this is home to Shamu and many other animals, birds, and sea life. Oh yes, and there are also several rides where you will get wet.
800-257-4268), http://www.seaworld.com

The World Famous San Diego Zoo and Safari Park — These magnificent homes to thousands of animals are run by the not-for-profit Zoological Society of San Diego. Each offers close looks at many species in natural habitats.
619-231-1515, http://www.sandiegozoo.org

Quail Botanical Gardens — In north coastal San Diego County, the Gardens include nearly 4,000 kinds of plants. The children's garden, "Seeds of Wonder," encourages conservation education.
760-436-3036, http://www.qbgardens.org


Arts and Crafts

Build a Bear Workshop — Just like it sounds, kids pick the animal, and the stuffed creation is built right before their eyes. Then you select clothes, a name, and other accessories to go with it.
877-789-2327, http://www.buildabear.com

Daydreams Ceramics Café — A paint-your-own ceramic art place. Make a keepsake gift with handprints, names, dates, and other unique designs.
619-421-4631, http://www.daydreamsceramiccafe.com

Color Me Mine — Another paint-your-own ceramic workshop. They have many locations throughout Southern California.
888-265-6764, http://www.colormemine.com

Scrapbooking — Take a stack of pictures and turn them into a scrapbook photo album with captions and other fun stuff. Local craft stores have aisles of scrapbooking supplies. Sharing pictures with grandkids is a great way to open up the channels of communication.


Fun FREE (almost) stuff

Feed the ducks — various locations around town. Where there's water, there are usually ducks and other birds. Kids love to feed them.

Make a picnic lunch and find a playground to enjoy afterward. There are some very cool playgrounds at Mission Bay, and all over San Diego and in most Southern California cities there are neighborhood parks.
http://www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation (check your local park and recreation web site for more info)

Find a YMCA pool in your area and go during the free swim times (YMCA) http://www.ymca.org

Take the trolley (any location works, it's the riding that's fun for kids), or the coaster (well, up the coast). It's a beautiful ride from San Diego to San Clemente with a great view of the ocean.
http://www.sdcommute.com


Weekend trips, for those with stamina

Big Bear Lake — fishing, camping, and horseback riding in the summer, skiing, tubing, and snowboarding in the winter.
http://www.citybigbearlake.com

Disneyland — What kid doesn't want to go to Disneyland? If the grandparents aren't up for making this trip on their own with the grandkids, bring them along with you when you go. My mom joined me and my kids on one such trip and she had a blast revisiting a place she had taken me as a child. And now, Disneyland's next door neighbor, long-ignored Disney's California Adventure, is revamped with attractions for both kids and adults.
http://disneyland.disney.go.com

Palm Springs — This is a great quiet get-away location. You might not expect there's much for kids to do there, but swimming in the hotel pool, visiting the local waterpark and arcade, and checking out the Palm Springs Air Museum is enough to keep any kid occupied for a weekend.
http://www.palm-springs.org

Universal Studios — There's something for everyone here, attractions from days past and old-time movie making along with the latest thrill rides of today.
http://www.universalstudios.com


These are the Good Old Days

You've heard it a million times. All too soon, kids grow up and opportunities to spend time with them greatly decrease. If your parents are able and interested in spending time with your kids, everyone benefits from the result. To make the time they spend together really great, suggest one or more of the following.

  • Share a hobby with your grandkids. My mom loves to paint oils and watercolors and has shared this with my daughter. The two of them can spend hours creating masterpieces. Kids should always sign and date their work — it's a great keepsake of a fun time together.
  • If you golf, take them to your local pitch and putt coarse. Kids feel so grown up to play a level up from miniature golf.
  • Plan an outing with a friend who has a grandchild the same age as yours. The kids make friends (sometimes from distant places if they're visiting) and you get to spend time with a friend while getting to know her grandchild. My son ended up with a pen pal from another state when his grandmother arranged one of these. So fun!
  • Find a museum related to your grandchild's interests. Some kids would rather go to a natural history museum, while others are more into air and space travel. If there's a museum close to you that relates to your own life, share your personal stories as you lived through a historical time period. Sharing your own memories will bring history alive for kids in a special way.
  • If your grandkids are crafty, take them to a ceramics-making spot. Here you can customize a cup or plate and have a great time doing it. Quiet activities like this lend themselves to conversation and let grandparents and grandkids really learn about each other.
  • Communicate

    Take the time to talk to kids whenever you're going somewhere. Leave the music off: Adults and kids often have the most meaningful conversations in the car. Theme parks and play parks are good ways to spend quality time, but some quiet time together can be the best of all.