Caring Currents

Grandparent's Day (or Any Day) Gifts Kids Can Make

Last updated: Sep 10, 2009

Image by striatic used under the creative commons attribution license.

Grandparent's Day (Sunday, September 13, in 2009) is a gift to caregivers as much as their kids: A way to honor our loved ones without having to do any extra work. That's right, no extra work: Get the kids to create something for your parents, and then you can all bask in the glow of having done a good deed.

Best of all: These easy, not-so-kitschy ideas for Grandparent's Day (or any day with Grandma or Grandpa) require little prep time, because who, adult or child, has time? And I'm pretty sure the kids will have fun in the process.

1. Make a movie

Making a movie sounds intimidating to people of a certain pre-YouTube age, and therefore all the more impressive as a grandparent gift. But it's just an afternoon's amusement for a kid with a portable mini-cam. Prompt yours with a title: "10 Things We Love About Grandpa" (and 10 different people share their stories), "A Day at Nana's," "My World and Welcome to It, Grandpa," or "Grandma's Favorite Places."

If you live nearby, make a special event out of a screening, with programs, popcorn, and comfy chairs set up around the laptop. If you live far away, upload the movie and arrange for someone computer-savvy (if the elder isn't) to show it.

2. Load an iPod with old TV show favorites.

This is a pricier gift, and one that your child will need your help to procure -- but it's a pretty easy device for most adults to figure out, and a delightful one when you customize it with wonderful things to watch. (My dad just loved discovering he could see oldies like the "The Honeymooners" right in the palm of his hand.) You'd be surprised what the iTunes store carries.

3. Fashion a crown

Show your child how to tear aluminum foil out of its box in three- to five-inch strips, then roll these strips into sturdier long pieces that can be shaped like filagree. You can concoct an amazingly fanciful crown that rivals anything the Queen Mother ever wore. Just fold pieces together to "weld" them.

4. Draw a multi-generational family portrait

This includes Grandma and/or Grandpa, of course. Use any medium that's age appropriate, from crayons to oil paints. If you put it in a frame, it becomes a work of art.

5. Get an oral history.

Here's a present you don't have to execute before Grandparent's Day or the special occasion: Do it on that very day. Encourage your child to prepare a list of questions about the grandparent: Where were you born? What was your favorite thing to do as a child? How did you feel the day my Mom was born? Then your child can conduct an interview (audio or video) that will be enjoyed in the near term and treasured years later. It's especially wonderful to discover an old tape like this and hear a grandparent's voice long after they've died.

6. Make a special Grandparent's Day card

Not just any card: A multi-part gatefold or booklet with as many pages as your child is old: "My Seven (or 10 or 15) Years With Granny." Encourage your child to think of different things about their relationship to the grandparent over the years: Age 2, You Changed My Diapers; age 9: You Taught Me How to Fish.

7. Burn a CD

Help your child think of the kind of music the grandparent would enjoy -- or better yet, have him sneak a peek at those dusty old 78 albums on the grandparent's shelves. Download this music onto a customized CD. Trolling around for era-appropriate music might even be educational for your child.

8. Fill a wishes jar

Have your child write on each of 10 or 20 strips of colored paper an experience he or she could give the grandparent during a visit: One free kiss. One big hug. Milk-and-cookies to share. A foot rub. A movie. A story made up by Me. Depending on the grandparent's health and proximity, include more ambitious outings: A walk around the block. One free ice cream cone. Siblings can each use a different color of paper, so that grandparent could pick out one from each.

9. Present a special sort of brag book

If you have a baby: Grandparents love portraits, of course "“ but not necessarily the clutter that all those photo frames add up to over time. So consider the gift of a beautiful, dedicated photo album large enough to house a 5X7 or 8X10 portrait (whatever size you normally give). Every time you have a new portrait made of your child, insert it in the original frame, and take the old one out and place it in chronological sequence in the special album.

10. Join hands

One of my mother's all-time favorite gifts from her 14 grandchildren was the collage we made out of their handprints. My sisters, sisters-in-law, and I each traced our kids' handprints on different colored construction paper. Then each child went to town customizing his or her handprint with messages, doodles, or other decorations, and we added each child's name and age. Then we took a photograph of all 14 kids assembled at one time (yes, it was a wild photo shoot). Finally, we -- well, my enterprising sister-in-law Laura gets the major credit!-- took a print of the photo, arranged the handprints around it, and framed the thing.

With fewer grandchildren (or just one), you can do the same thing by decorating a flower pot. Dip the hands in paint and press against a terra cotta pot. Add names and dates with permanent marker after the paint dries. Insert a lovely flower, and you're good to go.

These ideas are simple enough to be executed on just a day or two's notice. Because they're gifts from the heart "“ your child's heart and yes, yours, too "“ they work year-round. Any day with a grandparent is Grandparent's Day.