Owen, Lydia, and Julia with their grandparents. June 22, 2019

Owen, Lydia, and Julia with their grandparents. June 22, 2019. Not our best photo, but our most spontaneous one. See each personality? Photo by Tiffany Showalter.

Grandparent week at our house started out at the Showalter Reunion. Owen and Julia’s parents drove 8.5 hours to Mountain Lake Lodge in Pembroke, Virginia, to participate in the festivities.

At the end of the reunion, Owen and Julia jumped into Grandma and Granddad’s car, and their parents drove back to Philadelphia and Montclair so they could go to work.

Then the fun began. June 23-28. Grandparent Camp.

Actually, it began months earlier when we were asked if we were willing to do camp again. Of course we said “yes!”

We know lots of families “camp” in this way, so here is a little recipe of how we did it this year in hopes that you might get or share an idea.

Let’s compare a week with young grandchildren to making a cake.

Steps: First assemble all your ingredients.

  1. Confirm the time and length of the visit from your grands.
  2. Reflect on your memories of their favorite foods, activities, friends in your area. Look over the basement and garage to be sure they will discover their besties.
  3. Get advice from other grandparents in your area (social media is perfect for crowdsourcing a list)
  4. If there are two of you, make sure you have all appointments, work schedule, other commitments minimized, with shared coverage for the ones that must stay.

Next, prepare with some special, new activities/art supplies to include children in the planning.

  1. Buy a few new items. I bought some tiny composition books to serve as journals. Also new crayons, and some gem stickers I knew my granddaughter would love.
  2. Look up Chore Charts on Pinterest to get some ideas on what children might be able to do well at ages 8 and 6.5.
  3. Ask if they want to do chores: “Do you want to make a checklist and earn points?” Yes!!
The chore chart.

The chore chart.

4.Search for partial day classes in the local area. We found the miniatures class at the Larkin Arts Center, and the children both loved it. They went four mornings from 9 to noon and made miniature cat house and panda palace.

Next, mix up the ingredients assembled before the week along with new ones you discover in Quiet Time or Free Play time.

  1. A potluck supper with lots of other grandparents, followed by a perfect evening of playground exploring and kite flying
  2. A fairy house —  revisiting last year’s favorite activity.
  3. A neighbor’s hammock  — can’t be resisted.

    The irresistible hammock next door.

    The irresistible hammock next door.

  4. A tree just right for climbing outside the doctor office.
  5. A chance to practice Mandarin with the manager at the Oriental Café.
  6. A puzzle just the right difficulty.
  7. The classic movie Anne of Green Gables (Colleen Dewhurst, Megan Follows, and Richard Farnsworth are wonderful.) In preparation for going to Nova Scotia in July.)
  8. The new movie Toy Story 4. Owen takes money from his own wallet and treats Julia and Grandma to popcorn, gummy bears, and water.
  9. Cashing in those chore chart rewards at Target: a stuffed unicorn and a kite. Julia was surprised to see characters from Toy Story 4 all over the store. 🙂
  10. Walk to Dairy Queen for blizzards.
  11. Play backyard tag with Grandma — in pajamas! At night, catch fireflies and put them in a bottle. Then release.
  12. Drink mocha (hot milk with a little chocolate and a drop or two of coffee) on the deck every morning. Cuddle time.
  13. Field trips: Westover Park swimming and splash pool, playground. Mt. Crawford Creamery to watch milking, buy souvenirs, and eat ice cream. Route 11 Chips to watch how they are made, eat lots of samples (nine flavors!)and buy several bags of the favorites for mama and papa. Pick blueberries at Hickory Hlll.
Smiley's ice cream cones at the Mt. Jackson Creamery.

Smiley’s ice cream cones at the Mt. Crawford Creamery.

14. Reading: Twenty-One Balloons, Blueberries for Sal, The White Cat and the Monk, My Heart, The Boy Who Grew too Small.

Reading as the sun comes up over the deck. Jammies and robe.

Reading as the sun comes up over the deck. Jammies and robe.

15. Bedtime songs: “Jesus Loves Me,”  “Peace Like a River.” We also had quiet time after lunch and mostly they napped during this time.

Were there some fights? Yes. Mostly over taking turns with the most popular toy — a 10-year-old toy computer with scores of games loaded into it. But no real crying. No blood.

They really were amazingly good and easy to entertain. Owen says it all below. You may need to turn up your volume to hear him answer why this kite is the right one.

There were lots of things on our list we never got to, even with six days to fill up. We did all that we could. Baking a cake will have to wait until next time!

What fun activities do you remember from visiting grandparents or from hosting grandchildren? I need your help to both ask questions and offer your fun activities.  In September we plan to go to Owen and Julia’s house to take care of them while their parents celebrate their tenth anniversary. So we’ll need a whole new set of ideas!

Shirley Showalter


  1. Linda Hoye on June 30, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    I love this, Shirley. Thank you for sharing some of your activities. I’m tucking them away for our Camp G and G in August.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 30, 2019 at 9:26 pm

      Oh good, Linda. I hope you can find an idea or two that works for you. Enjoy!

  2. Maren Tirabassi on June 30, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    What a wondeerful time!!!

    • Shirley Showalter on July 1, 2019 at 10:26 am

      Thanks, Maren. Honored to have you visit here. Love your poetry.

  3. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on June 30, 2019 at 8:03 pm

    “It’s amazing, that’s why!” says it all! I find that often the thing I would have thought least exciting becomes the best and the one they remember and want to do again and again! We had a notebook for rainy days at the cottage and they each had their own page to design, with Oma writing a story about it (with their help of course) That book gets hauled out all the time for bedtime reading, and will go along to the cottage this summer for more pages to fill.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 30, 2019 at 9:33 pm

      You are creating art and memories at the same time, Elfrieda. And once something like your book becomes ritualized, it stays that way. I like your comment about not being able to predict what the “hits” will be. Often they are very homey things like fairy houses and pear village. Or flying a kite.

      I hope you have a wonderful time at the cottage this summer. I know you are a wonderful Oma.

  4. Marian Beaman on June 30, 2019 at 9:12 pm

    What a FUN post! You get an A+ for research, an A+ for execution, and an A+ for enjoying it all!

    Owen and Julia are growing up so fast. And you are capturing memories by the bushels.

    One of my blog friends just sent me the template for a book review form she and her grandson collaborated on.

    You have a cake to bake. How about yellow or lemon with chocolate icing?

    • Shirley Showalter on June 30, 2019 at 9:55 pm

      Marian, the English teacher in me loves this simple form. I can see a little box like the one I use for recipes with 3 X 5 cards in them. 🙂 Great idea for next time.

      And that cake sounds great. Although my sister makes the best chocolate cake with peanut butter icing. I need to get her recipe . . .

      Thanks for the encouragement. I enjoy seeing all the creative things your talented grandkids are doing. Teenagers!! And you live close enough to have some form of camp going all the time. Lucky you!

    • Mary Ann Miller on July 5, 2019 at 8:12 am

      We just finished Gramma Camp with my granddaughters from Boston! 1st gramma camp for us now 7 and 9. Some of our activities included making garden stones (purchased at Michaels) made 5 knotted blankets ( Joan Fabrics) kept 2 they chose and gave 2 away to low income children & 1 for my 102 yr old friend we visit. painted mugs and used oven as kiln, visited zoo and Sauder Village in Archbold, shopped and sent immigrant backpacks for MCC ( they loved doing this) , tie-dyed tee shirts, played at Auntie Aud’s pool, reading books from library and my library of books from actual books their Daddy and Auntie read as children, built forts..journaled what we did ever day, watched USA Women’s soccer, .just so many fun things! Culminating tonight with Mom and Dad returned and watching fireworks done by their big cousin along the Elkhart River! Will keep watching for.new ideas for next yesr’s camp! Thx for posting Shirley, we had a great week…and the girls did too,( they left me read their journal) Their Mom and Dad had an envelope with a note inside for them to read every night they were apart..a great treat for them!

      • Shirley Showalter on July 5, 2019 at 8:34 am

        Mary Ann, thanks so much for sharing these great ideas. I wanted to do those immigrant backpacks with Owen and Julia but only saw the list at the end of the week. Next time! Wouldn’t it be fun to collect all these Camps at Sauder Village and let the kids go crazy together in that lovely pool?? You have put a lot of good ideas on next year’s list. I know how much you love them.

  5. Melodie Davis on June 30, 2019 at 9:15 pm

    This is not a direct response to your question but something came back to me from childhood as the grandchildren visited recently. We were driving and telling stories and then almost all the words to “The Flounder and the Fisherman” came back to me as I sang. It was one that the kids in our family all memorized and have often sung it through the years, laughing as the words come back to us. As kids, Mom would frequently have us stay at home with Grandpa and Grandma (who lived in an addition on the side of our house) when she went to town for errands, and then would buy us little 78 rpm records at the dime store. We also loved Puff and Toot but I don’t remember that song version as well.

    • Shirley Showalter on June 30, 2019 at 9:59 pm

      Yes, old songs do come back to us. So much fun, Melodie. But please do give us the words. I googled “The Flounder and the Fisherman” and now believe you are the only family to have sung this song. 🙂

    • June on July 1, 2019 at 10:47 am

      I love the, bake a cake analogy. You can get your grands to create a scavenger hunt. Finding unusual things to help them learn about their community.
      Or being that it is heading into fall, you could plant a tree. Collect and press leaves. Make a pile of leaves and jump into it.
      Thank you for taking me along in this journey.

      • Shirley Showalter on July 1, 2019 at 10:58 am

        June, these are great ideas, and a reminder that the seasons play a critical role in the outdoors opportunities. “Camp” implies summer, and is probably the season of most extended grand visits, but each season brings new creative possibilities. Thanks so much for these thoughts!

        I also like the idea of the grands creating their own scavenger hunt! A reminder that they love planning as much as participating.

  6. Sarah Buller Fenton on July 1, 2019 at 10:39 am

    We can’t wait until our grandsons, now almost 3 and 16 months, are old enough to travel from Harrisonburg to Illinois for grandparent camp! We are gathering ideas!

    • Shirley Showalter on July 1, 2019 at 11:02 am

      You have some great adventures ahead, Sarah. I think our two oldest were 7 and 5 when their parents first left them here. Earlier, we went to their house, which is an easier transition for little ones. Their parents went on a trip, and we took care of them at their house. So maybe some of these Harrisonburg-specific ideas could work for your grands in a few years too. Blessings on the journey.

  7. Laurie Buchanan on July 1, 2019 at 4:47 pm

    Shirley — This post is well beyond WONDERFUL! I’ve just printed your tried-and-true ideas and placed it in my grandparenting folder. Why? “It’s amazing. That’s why!”

    • Shirley Showalter on July 1, 2019 at 6:10 pm

      So glad you found these ideas helpful, Laurie. And I am sure Luna will be saying “It’s amazing. That’s why!” before you know it. The most beautiful music in the world is the music in the voice of a child you love!

      • Tina Barbour on July 1, 2019 at 7:37 pm

        I want to come to Grandparent Camp! 🙂 I was one among many grandchildren on both sides of the family, so I wasn’t close to my grandparents. So glad you are enjoying time with your grands and making wonderful memories.

        P.S. We love Mountain Lake. We spent a few days there when we got married, and then spent Thanksgiving there 10 years later.

        • Shirley Showalter on July 1, 2019 at 9:05 pm

          Tina, you might want to go back to Mountain Lake. They have just opened a new pool and hot tub that is lovely. Also lots of outdoor adventure activities. Plus all the old grandeur of the lodge. We set up the Dirty Dancing movie for those who had never seen it. We oohed and ahed when we recognized the location. Which was often.

          I think grandparenting has changed a lot in the last fifty years. Families are smaller. Working parents welcome the help. And perhaps grandparents are living longer and are healthier. One thing’s for sure. It takes energy!

  8. Kathleen Pooler on July 1, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    What wonderful ideas you have, Shirley. My head is spinning thinking about all the pre-planning and day–to– day activities you have generated. Such beautiful memories you have created for your grandchildren. And when done out of love , it’s not work. But I can’t help but imagine how tired–hsppy tired –you and Stuart are as a result! I enjoyed your post very much.

    • Shirley Showalter on July 1, 2019 at 9:06 pm

      I admit that we were tired and it has taken us a few days to get the house back to normal, Kathy. But we miss their excited voices and cuddly bodies. It was a precious, holy, time. You know all about that.

  9. Shirley Showalter on July 3, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    Have to add the link to baking bread in a bag here. Looks like fun! https://www.yourhomebasedmom.com/bread-bag/

  10. Arlene Steffen on July 5, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    I have fond memories of my grandmother teaching me how to play gin rummy. We sat on her front porch where she had a small yellow table with green legs. She also kept an old candy tin filled with her spare change so we could walk to the nearby Dairy Queen. When we were packing up her house to sell after her passing, my brother found the tin and shook it. It still had change in it and he and I gleefully walked to DQ and had a Dilly Bar in her memory.

    • Shirley Showalter on July 8, 2019 at 5:15 pm

      I love this story, Arlene. The fact that you remember the colors of the table and the walk to the Dairy Queen is testimony to your own version of Grandma Camp years ago. I’m so glad you and your brother honored that memory with a Dilly Bar. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Pamela Wight on July 9, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    Wow. You have some GREAT ideas here. We have three grands within ten minutes from our home (10, 9, and 6 years old) so as a treat to them (and my guy and me) we usually have ONE grand over for a special day, and they each get a turn during the month. That way, they get individual attention, which with a family of five and a dog, they savor. Lots of baking and reading and playing hide ‘n seek and paper airplane making and gliding and hours of Monopoly and Scrabble.
    On the other side of the country we have three grands – all boys – 10, 8, 6. When we visit them, it’s too short. We take them out for dinner at their favorite place and go for hikes. Each time we go it seems to me one of the boy’s birthday, so we take him by himself for ice cream and a toy store. All fun…all exhausting in the best way. Thanks for sharing your activities – I’m going to “borrow” some of them. 🙂

    • Shirley Showalter on July 9, 2019 at 2:14 pm

      So glad you found the post useful, Pamela. You have two sets of grands close in age to each other. I wonder if you ever have Cousin Camp? So many variables to consider when planning activities. . . I like the fact that you can do one-on-one with your local grands. That’s important too. We hope to give each child individually the chance to go on a trip anywhere in the world they are interested in. And want to learn about and reflect on.

  12. Carolyn Yoder on July 14, 2019 at 9:41 pm

    Great ideas, Shirley! Thank you. I loved reading this and will come back to these. We had the parents with them the last three weeks they were here, so we didn’t have the whole time to plan, but we did have a list. I love the idea of a service project, as other readers have mentioned. One of the things we did was the Children’s Discovery Museum in downtown Harrisonburg. Our nine-year-old was hesitant until he learned there is a separate “make-it” part for kids over eight that includes carpentry tools and tech things including a three-D-printer. Now he can’t wait to go back. So it really is a good place for toddlers through older children.

    • Shirley Showalter on July 15, 2019 at 9:04 am

      Carolyn, thanks for the info about the “make-it” part of the Discovery Museum. Owen would love that too, I think, and I didn’t know it existed.

      We didn’t get to a service project, but maybe we can do that in late August when we take care of them in Montclair. I love the idea of the backpacks for refugees.

Leave a Comment