Spending the Night at Grandma'sby Dianna Graveman
The first time a child sleeps over at Grandma's house can be a little unsettling or both parents and grandparents. How early this happens depends on both parties. Sometimes the grandparents will invite the little one to spend the night before the parents are ready for the big step. Other times, the parents will be ready for a first night out long before the grandparents feel completely comfortable being in charge. If you're not yet ready to leave your baby (or care for your grandchild overnight), be honest. The chances for a fun, peaceful, and successful first night at Grandma's are a lot greater if everybody is prepared and excited about the event.
Once the decision is made, get the practical stuff out of the way. Pack like you would for the sitter. Make a list and brainstorm with your spouse about anything you will need to include like full bottles, diapers, wipes, extra sleepers or clothes, or favorite toys. Also, make sure both parents and grandparents are comfortable that Grandma's house is thoroughly baby proofed in advance. Make sure a safe sleeping arrangement is available for the baby. If no crib is available, consider a safe playpen or something portable like the Pack 'n Play, by Graco.
Now you're ready for the fun part--planning the entertainment. For toddlers and older children, consider some of these ideas:
1. Make cut out cookies and invite the child to decorate them with sprinkles, raisins, and candies, according to the holiday--hearts for Valentine's Day, bunnies for Easter, etc. Reindeer cookies are a favorite for Christmas. Simply shape some plain cookies into a teardrop shape. Ask the children to make the reindeer by adding a chocolate chip for each eye and a small red candy for the nose (at the bottom tip of the upside down teardrop). Then invite the young chef to press two miniature pretzel twists onto Rudolph's head, one on each side, for the antlers. Voil! Cute and yummy reindeer cookies.
2. Take a tour through a Christmas light display, if it's holiday time. If you'll be viewing the lights from the warmth of your car, allow the child to attend the display dressed in cuddly pajamas for an extra treat--she'll be tired and ready to hop right into bed after a cup of hot cocoa when you get home.
3. If Grandma has a Wii, toddlers and older children love the dancing games.
4. Provide markers and a paper plate for young children to scribble on the "bumpity-bump" around the edges. Invite children older than 3 to dip cotton swabs in food coloring so they can paint a pretty picture on their plates. The parents will treasure their children's vibrantly-colored artwork, and the kids will enjoy an opportunity to experiment with the four basic colors (red, blue, yellow, green) by mixing them to make new ones.
5. Use a computer and microphone (or a digital recorder) to record the child counting, singing, or saying his ABCs. Children love to listen to themselves and marvel at how different they sound in a recording! You can also videorecord the children, of course, but they will focus more on how they look than on how they sound.
6. For the computer savvy and creative grandparent: Take photographs of the grandchild (or use existing photos) and, with your grandchild's "guidance," make a short video or presentation with a computer program like Windows Moviemaker or PowerPoint. The children will eagerly look forward to premiering their production for their parents.
7. An alternative might be to simply print copies of the photos on plain paper and assemble a collage with glue and poster board. Invite the child to add shaped sequins or craft decor (like snowflakes or hearts) to the creation.
8. Don't forget the old standards: read together, assemble a puzzle, draw pictures, hand paint. Play board games or simple card games. Try playing Dominoes with an older child.
9. Most importantly, be sure Mommy and Daddy kiss the young ones goodbye before they leave and tell them they will be back. This is a wonderful time for grandparents to really get to know their grandchildren. Relax and have fun! Lots of hugs and reassurances will help them (and you!) fully enjoy your special night.
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