Katherine Lewis is a very lucky woman. With her in-laws about an hour away from where she lives and her parents two hours away, her children have been able to enjoy their grandparents on a regular basis.
"I am very fortunate for extremely involved and caring grandparents, from the time that my first daughter was born," she says.
Lewis, who writes the "Working Moms" blog for About.com, says that having grandparents in such close proximity allows for a lot of hands-on baby-sitting with her kids. She has 3- and 5-year-old daughters and a 16-year-old stepdaughter.
No matter how close or far you are from your grandchildren, spending time with them is an important part of both your and their lives. They will remember it for years to come, and you will get to experience something like a second childhood with them.
There are plenty of different activities that you can get involved in with your grandchildren. Lewis' dad loves to take her daughters for long walks in the woods, educating them about the outdoors, although she adds that getting dirty is "a top priority."
However, what you do with kids depends on their ages. For younger kids, you may want to give them an option of where they want to go, such as the library, pool or a local museum. But no matter what, Lewis says that younger kids should get outside and play for a little bit.
For older children, such as her stepdaughter, there are additional things you can do. Her mother-in-law likes to take her stepdaughter to the mall and go shopping. Meanwhile, her father-in-law has been giving her stepdaughter driving lessons. "They can relax and not feel so on edge with a grandparent," Lewis says. "I think it works a little better."
One activity that Lewis suggests, no matter the age of the child, is cooking/baking. "They love to make a mess, and they can do it in a controlled way," she says.
If a child is younger, grandparents may want to stick with a simple baking recipe. "Even 2- or 3-year-olds can mash up a banana with something that can't hurt them," Lewis says. If the children are older, you can get them working more with the stove or with knives, as long as you teach them how to be safe in a kitchen environment and keep a first-aid kit handy.
Kids also can help in cleaning, sweeping and laundry. "The attention from an adult is what they love," Lewis explains.
No matter what you choose to do, there are important things for all grandparents to remember when getting ready to take on being with kids:
*Although these are your grandchildren, you are not the primary caregivers. Your children have rules for their children that need to be upheld. Your grandchildren need to respect their rules no matter where they are, "even if it's not what you did," Lewis says.
*Pace yourself. It probably has been about 20 years since you last were keeping up with children, and you aren't as fast as you used to be. "It can be exhausting to take kids for the entire day," she says. "A few hours at a time gives parents comfort that you're not going to be passed out on the couch when they come back."
* If you are going to baby-sit children, their turf is ideal, as your child's house probably is baby-proofed. If children are coming to your house overnight, make sure the house is ready for them. Cabinets should be closed, and equipment should be put away.
*For smaller children, don't hesitate to put them into a playpen in instances such as when you're getting food ready for them. "They may cry a little, but it's important that no one gets hurt," Lewis says.
*When grandchildren are very small, your children may feel insecure in their parenting skills and may go on the offensive if they feel that you are judging them. "Don't interfere with their parenting as they're trying to be parents," Lewis says. When the children get older, the parents may feel more comfortable coming to you for advice.