The phrase “summer vacation” puts a smile on every kid’s face. Grandparents also love summer, because chances are the vacation plans might include them!

Owen, Lydia, and Julia at Cousin Camp

Owen, Lydia, and Julia at Cousin Camp. Can you see the purple highlights the girls added to my hair? Hair styling is a current favorite with the granddaughters.

We had three days of continuous celebration of summer here in Lititz when our son’s family from Tulsa and our daughter’s family from Lancaster were united at our house. I’ve been planning for those three days even while traveling in Ireland in May. We made up a Google Doc in advance so that all the adults could chime in on the planning. Our son’s family had planned to visit a Dude Ranch and learn horseback riding. However, the ranch was too close to some wild fires, so their plans changed to a road trip in Colorado and New Mexico, followed by visits to Montclair, Lititz, and New York City.

The loss of the horseback experience gave me the idea to suggest an Amish “buggy” ride so that we could be close to horses and so we could view our location in Lancaster County the way eight millions tourists do every year. The idea was greeted with enthusiasm.

Tip #1: Visit the places tourists in your area visit. Trip Advisor is a good resource.

Instead of a Dude Ranch: An Amish "Buggy" ride.

Instead of a Dude Ranch: An AAA “Buggy” ride. AAA=Amish All Around.

We really enjoyed our Amish guide, a school teacher three months of the year who loves her tourists in the summer.

We really enjoyed our Amish guide. “I love the tourists,” she declared. When summer is over, she teaches eight grades in a one-room school house. Here she accepts help from her cousin. The strong wind was blowing her head covering off. Two other cousins sit and watch.

Tip #2 Plan, but be open to the natural rhythms the children create, exploring your space. They enjoy the familiar and love to revisit favorite places.

The girls headed to the little corner created just for tea sets, art supplies, and small toys.

The girls headed to the little corner created just for tea sets, art supplies, and small toys.

Tea party on the porch!

Tip #3 Have plenty of books available, and not just for bedtime. Younger children love when older children read to them.

They read all the books I put in the pockets.

They read all the books I put in the car seat pockets. Then we played “Eye Spy.”

Tip #4 If possible, include the larger family — in our case, great-grandmother and great aunts and uncles and second cousins.

Picnic with the Hershey family.

Picnic with the Hershey family.


Great Grandma, Great Aunt Sue, Granddad

Great Grandma, Great Aunt Sue, Granddad

Tip #5 Be mindful of, and grateful for, the ordinary wonders of each moment. Capture a few in photos.

Waiting for food to arrive at the restaurant.

Waiting for food to arrive at the restaurant.

What are YOUR tips for summer fun with grandchildren? One of the best rewards of writing a book on grandparenting is hearing the infinite number of creative ideas others have. If you are too far away to get together in person, here are some great tips for doing video chats.


Shirley Showalter


  1. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on June 9, 2022 at 11:21 pm

    When our grandkids (and we) were younger, we rented a cottage close to a beach for a week every summer and had a fun time with our grandkids there, without their parents. The last couple of years (before Covid) our daughter found a larger cottage and the parents joined us as well. This took the work load off our shoulders as we could now all share in the chores. Everyone is looking forward to that this summer after a two year Covid break!

    • Shirley Showalter on June 10, 2022 at 9:34 am

      Oh Elfrieda, I am so glad to hear that you will be able to be together again this year. I imagine that you will bask in the joy of reunion. I know you will have fun projects to suggest and a great openness to hearing the stories your children and grandchildren have from your years apart. Enjoy the beach!

  2. Maren C. Tirabassi on June 10, 2022 at 8:47 am

    Wonderful ideas … our grandchildren are visiting this summer in the middle of our house move. We need all the suggestions to be creative!

    • Shirley Showalter on June 10, 2022 at 9:37 am

      Glad you saw some ideas here you might be able to use. I forgot to say that there is a fun game called “pack up all grandma’s books.” 🙂 Sounds like a challenging combination, but I am sure you will find a way!

  3. Phyllis on June 10, 2022 at 10:43 am


    • Shirley Showalter on June 10, 2022 at 10:47 am

      Thanks, Phyll. Wish you could meet these munchkins. You would have them making music or fabric art!

  4. Carol Bodensteiner on June 10, 2022 at 2:57 pm

    I always let my granddaughters have the first say on what we do. My preference is for anything outdoors, but that’s usually their first preference, too. Fishing. Digging in the sand along the river. A splash pool at the park. It’s all good. Any time we have together, we enjoy.

    When the weather does not cooperate to be outside, then we make cookies or do art. If it’s meal time, they get to choose the meal and then we all cook it together.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 10, 2022 at 3:08 pm

      Thanks, Carol. I know all of these activities light up you granddaughters too. They are a little older than mine and have been coming to your house for a long time. We are just settling in to the Keystone State and the “Garden Spot of the World.” And our grandchildren are getting used to new places where they live as well as where we live. Also, we only have 10-14 days/year when all of us are in the same place. Your comment reminds me that simplicity and familiarity are just as valuable as novelty and complexity. In fact, complexity can produce conflicting expectations, tears, and disappointment. Luckily, in our short three days, we managed the upside of complexity (by simplifying wherever possible) and novelty (all those tea parties!). We didn’t get to the art project I had planned, but that’s okay. I’ll have something to bring to Tulsa in July.

  5. Laurie Buchanan on June 10, 2022 at 4:44 pm

    Shirley — I love all of the photos and the wonderful ideas!

    One of the things we’re doing with Luna (this coming week, in fact) is transitioning her into a twin-size “big girl” bed.

    Papa built the frame, which is sitting empty in her bedroom. This weekend, she’s coming along with us to pick out the mattress/box spring and help load it into the back of papa’s big truck.

    She and I already ordered (online) all of the new bedding—it’s brightly colored rainbows and unicorns. We’re waiting on pins and needles for it to arrive!

    • Shirley Showalter on June 10, 2022 at 4:50 pm

      Laurie, I remember well how exciting it was for Lydia to do the same just a little more than a year ago. I think we might have ordered the same bedding! Enjoy all of it. These milestones are thrilling for the whole family. Watch out world, here comes Big Girl Luna!

  6. Melodie on June 14, 2022 at 1:28 pm

    We moved the dog bed to accommodate the littlest camper, age 3 (4 yrs in Sept.), who has been known to be a cut up and keep his brothers laughing if he sleeps in the same room with his brothers. So: he will sleep with us in a toddler bed in our room and I’m holding my breath that will be ok.

    We also plan to visit Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, as a place where tourists, and valley people go!

    • Shirley Showalter on June 14, 2022 at 2:46 pm

      You have five boys at Cousin Camp, right? That’s a whole level up from two girls and one boy! Have you considered a tent in the back yard? That’s an idea from my friends and former neighbors in Goshen, the Roths. You would have a lovely place for that. The 3-year-old might not be ready . . .

      Great idea to go to the Frontier Culture Museum. Also the Route 11 chip factory, the Mt. Crawford Creamery, and Larkin Arts. Just in case these are useful tips. Blessings!!!

    • Shirley Showalter on June 14, 2022 at 2:48 pm

      Here’s another post that may be relevant.

  7. Melodie on June 14, 2022 at 9:30 pm

    Thanks for that look back at your 2019 camp. Yes, I thought of using a tent, perhaps in a year or two when they can be instrumental in setting it up. We have one.

    I was also charmed when one of the older boys called us this week (he doesn’t get permission to do so alot, but I’m ready for it). Anyway, he called with some ideas for things he wanted to cook at cousin camp and gave me a list of things I should have on hand. I was thrilled to know he was looking forward to it that much. Might not be the same in a few years like 14 or 15. 🙂

    • Shirley Showalter on June 18, 2022 at 3:00 pm

      Melodie, you illustrate one of the values of establishing traditions and rituals. Children will initiate their own ideas. They want to take more leadership and creative roles as they grow older. They also want to share their skills and use them to teach their cousins. I have every confidence that your grandsons will still want to come to Cousin Camp even if their commitments and activities make it hard to be there a whole week when they get to be older teenagers. They can share memories or leave notes or videos for the younger ones if they can’t come in person.

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