9 free activities for grandparents and grandchildren

Of all the titles and names you can hold in a lifetime – sister, manager, award winner, CEO, author – ‘grandparent’ is easily one of the most special. 

It’s a title of honour and one of immense fun, because you get all the playtime and adventures, then you get to hand them back to their parents before it gets too exhausting! 

With National Grandparents Day in October, now is the perfect time to start planning some fun activities with the grandkids. 

Here are 9 ‘grand’ things you can do without spending a cent! 

1. Explore with nature walks 

From the cute pathways in your local park to the Great Walks of New Zealand, there are thousands of stunning nature walks all over the country. 

Your local town or city gardens is always a good bet, but with a quick search online, you’ll be sure to find countless options nearby. 

To make it even more fun, download the NZ Trees app and see if you can identify any of our beautiful native plants along the way! 

2. Whip up something delicious with cooking and baking 

Everybody remembers learning to bake and cook. From those first moments stirring the pancake mixture to discovering the secrets of the perfectly poached egg, there are countless recipes and skills you can pass along to your little grandpoppets. 

Consider teaching them a family recipe, a Kiwi classic such as lolly cake or a pavlova or find something new to try so you can both learn together. 

It will be messy, things will go wrong, you might set off the fire alarm, it might be delicious, and your grandkids will have those memories for life. 

3. Battle it out over board games 

What’s a childhood without Monopoly? 

What’s a grandparenthood without getting devastatingly confused over modern new games? 

Board games are endlessly entertaining, and perfect for drizzly, cold days or nights in. If you don’t have a few stashed away, pop down to your local library to hire a couple or stop by an op shop to see if they have any in store. 

There are also plenty of virtual board games to play with the family to keep safe and socially distant.

4. Go head to head with virtual trivia

Stuck at home due to lockdown, or prefer to keep your time together distanced for now? Online or app trivia is an incredibly fun solution. 

There are multiple trivia apps you can both download and play against each other in real time, even if you’re both stuck at home. Try Popcorn Trivia for questions about movies, SongPop 2 for questions about songs, or jump on a Zoom call and try the charades game Heads Up! 

5. Be creative with arts and crafts 

Sometimes it’s hard to find an activity that will please all the grandkids, but it’s also hard to find a child that doesn’t enjoy arts and crafts. 

From making playdough and creating epic sculptures to painting, making pompoms, or even learning to knit, getting crafty is a great creative outlet for the young ones. Even something as simple as drawing portraits of each other (that will obviously find a central spot on the fridge) can fill an afternoon with fun and laughter. 

6. Get into gardening 

Got some weeds that need taming? Point the grandkids in the right direction and enjoy a bit of free labour! 

In all seriousness though, helping out gran or gramps in the garden can be good fun for kids, especially if they can find worms and get their hands dirty. You can also plant bright, fast-growing plants that they can check on each time they visit, such as sunflowers that will grow as tall as them in no time. 

7. Send postcards to each other 

For the cost of a stamp and a cheap postcard, you can make your grandkid’s day. Receiving something in the mail (that’s not a bill) is exciting for anyone, but especially for the young ones. 

This is also a perfect lockdown-friendly activity that will create mementos you will keep for years to come. 

8. Draw a family tree 

Family trees are always a fun and interesting activity for kids. It’s a fantastic opportunity to talk about where they came from and any great family stories from along the way. 

You can print photos of each person to add to the tree, and spend time getting in touch with family members to help fill in parts you’re not sure about. With so many cultures and immigrants in New Zealand, our family trees often include members from all over the world, adding another opportunity to talk about different countries, languages, and cultures. 

This is also a great way to keep in touch with family if you’re social distancing – you can put your PowerPoint skills to use and create a virtual family tree and present it to the entire family!

9. Put together a time capsule 

The world is living through strange, unprecedented times, and every year of a young child’s life is precious and special. That’s why it’s the perfect time to put together a time capsule. 

Whether you are able to be together or have to come up with items via Zoom calls, you can create a pile of meaningful items from today. This could be a newspaper with stories about the pandemic and lockdowns, photos of the two of you together, their school report, an art project you made together, a toy or two, a letter from yourselves, and even a mask! Bury or hide your time capsule with an agreed date on when you open it again together, so you can forget all about it then take a look back at what life was like right now in a year or more from now.  

Spending time with the grandkids is something to be treasured, and it certainly doesn’t have to cost a fortune every time you have them over for a day or a weekend. Kids can make anything a game, so if in doubt, let their creativity and sense of adventure remind you of what it was like to be that young (it was only a few years ago anyway, right?)