10 Cheap or Free Activities to Enjoy With Grandparents

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ALL IN THE FAMILY

Here are 10 ideas for things grandchildren can do for grandparents, grandparents can do for grandkids, and grandparents and grandkids can do together. All are cheap or free, and might come in handy for families looking forward to celebrating Grandparents Day on Sept. 13 by spending time together. 

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TEACH THE GRANDCHILDREN

Grandparents might introduce children to a hobby or a favorite song from long ago -- the point being not what is learned, but how it becomes part of family history to recall later in life. My grandfather taught me to skip, a memory that always makes me smile.

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SEND A SIMPLE MEMENTO

Grandparents Day doesn't have to be complicated. If grandparents live out of town and a visit isn't planned, a simple card (homemade or otherwise) is a straightforward and inexpensive way to let them know the grandchildren are thinking about them. A follow-up phone call reinforces the bonding.

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ORGANIZE FAMILY PHOTOS

Sit down together and use old photos to help pass on family lore -- perhaps using the opportunity to organize and preserve the jumble that's been stashed away. My grandparents have hundreds, perhaps thousands, of photos (many in black and white) and there's a story behind each one. As a child I spent hours looking at and talking about the photos with them.

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FACETIME

Instead of getting around geographical difference with just a phone call, make it more personal by seeing each others' faces with a video call via Facetime, Skype, or other video chat program. If that isn't possible, record a quick video on a phone and send it off via text or email.
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PUT ON A PERFORMANCE

Get the whole family in on the action and organize a small play or song to perform for the guests of honor. Make it as simple or detailed as you prefer, possibly including props and costumes. If grandparents live far away, record the performance and send it to them.
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DRAW PORTRAITS

A simple art project suggested by Grandparents.com involves creating two portraits: Grandparents and grandchildren sit on opposite sides of a table and draw each other using markers, watercolor, crayons, or other media. The completed art can be framed and displayed on a wall.

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CREATE A FAMILY TREE

This can be as easy as making a chart by hand, using a simple excel spreadsheet, or trying out the free MyHeritage. A month's trial at Ancestry.com is also free; after that, the minimum cost is $99 for six months.
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OPEN A MEMORY BOX

Find a special box and fill it with items that hold special meaning, anything from a rock to a photo or drawing. Collect ticket stubs, maps -- whatever has significance and is worth sharing. On Grandparents Day open the box with young family members and explain the significance of each object. (My 4-year-old used to call this a treasure chest.)

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CREATE HAND-IN-HANDS

Hand art is a fun project to do with young children. Let grandchildren trace a grandparent's hand, then place one of their hands inside the traced hand for the grandparent to trace, Grandparents-Day.com suggests. Vary the project with finger paint: Use a paper towel or sponge to cover a palm with color and make a handprint on the paper. Then cover a grandchild's palm with a different color paint and have them make a handprint inside the larger one. When dry, frame as a keepsake.

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SHARE A MEAL

If grandparents live close by, prepare a meal -- enough that the entire family can partake --  and deliver it in person. Alternatively, grandparents and grandkids can cook a meal together. Intergenerational time in the kitchen is something many grandparents will cherish, and the effort becomes extra special if ingredients are gathered for a favorite dish.

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MAKE A COUPON BOOK

Have the grandkids -- not you -- think up five to 10 ideas of things they can do with or for the grandparents. The coupons could be for things as easy as free hugs, or more complicated like a car wash.
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MAKE A SALT DOUGH HANDPRINT

An easy and low-cost recipe for a 3-D handprint from the blog Homemade Grits calls for mixing flour, salt, and water. Knead, roll, and cut the dough; imprint with a hand; and bake. (Tip: Baking time seems to depend on the thickness of the dough. If the handprint is intended as a Christmas ornament, roll the dough thinner so it's light enough to hang on a tree.) The ornament may be left as is, or painted. If the back is rough, use a hot-glue gun to attach a piece of felt. Hand deliver to grandma and grandpa, or pack up carefully and send in the mail.

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PRODUCE A PHOTO BOOK

Print a photo album and send to long-distance grandparents. Both Shutterfly and Snapfish offer relatively cheap photo books ($11 and $13, respectively). Also check out GrooveBook, an app for iOS and Android devices that lets users print 100 pictures into a photo book for just $3, shipping included. The pictures can be stored in the photo book or ripped out individually to frame.

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SIMPLY SPEND TIME

Go for a walk in a nearby park or around the neighborhood, perhaps to a playground; or take a day trip to a local zoo or a museum the entire family will enjoy. If one grandparent has lost a spouse, a visit to the grave would be a sympathetic gesture and provide quiet, reflective time together.
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PLAN A SHORT EXCURSION

Depending on grandparents' age and ability, planning a simple way to spend time together may be the most treasured present. Just hang out for the day: Play a game, watch their favorite show with them, or just sit and talk. This one is so easy, but reflects that the most important thing is to just be present with them.