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Fidget Spinners and Other Fun Grandchildren Bonding Activities


One of the reasons I love being a grandmother is that I think of every interaction with them as fun. Just having a silly conversation and making funny faces with my two and a half year old grandson is a blast but that’s another article!

A few weeks ago, reader Leah Hastings of Pure Flix media, wrote in to suggest I post some ideas for grandmothers to do with their grandchildren. Thanks, Leah!

So….Here are 10 fun ideas which are a mixture of culturally Jewish ideas and general population ideas. All are good, but since I’m a Jewish Bubby or grandmother, I veer towards the Jewish stuff! So come along with me and explore these ideas….

  1. Listen to CD’s of a  funny tape: My grandchildren love to listen to funny tapes which are usually educational stories and songs acted out by professional writers and actors and sold in Judaica stores. Really fun tapes filled with lessons on good character traits  are “When Zaidy Was Young”  and “The Marvelous Midos Machine”.These are wonderfully entertaining – for adults and children –and are useful for playing in the car during long and short errands. Play it at home in the kitchen or family room and sit around and laugh and learn. It’s great stuff and the lyrics and tunes will stay with you for a long time.
  2. Sharing Fads and Crazes: When I was a child, it was the Hula Hoop. When our kids were growing up it was the Rubik’s Cube which went out of style and then came back a few years ago when my own grandsons were pre-schoolers! How perfect. Just these past few weeks, the newest fad is the FIDGET SPINNER.                      It’s wild. It’s great for the kids to have something to share with their friends (during recess only, I’m told!) It’s not too expensive or hard on the parents’ wallets.  It’s fun for those kids with or without ADHD. (but don’t we all have a little bit of ADHD?) And best of all, it’s great as a conversation starter.  I love listening to my grandsons tell me about this fad, showing me how it works and asking my many silly questions (they are very patient with me!).
  3. Friday Night Shabbat Meal: Another fun activity revolves around our Friday night Shabbos or Shabbat meal when our son, daughter-in-law and grandsons eat with us. Every week, they come home from school with a handout from their teacher. The handout consists of questions on topics from the Torah Portion or Parsha of the week that the children have learned. My husband and my son read through the questions and when one of the kids doesn’t know the answer or hesitates, my husband makes up some silly choices with the correct choice being the only logical one. This always gets the boys to laugh and warms my heart because I know we are creating memories.
  4. Baseball Game Outing: Every summer we take the boys to a Dodger Game and the boys love it. It has become a tradition for the past six years since our older grandson was only three. It’s hard to believe he sat still for the entire game at that age, but he did. Anyway, we bring along hot dogs from home and other snacks and take lots of pictures and my husband explains the game to the boys and it’s really a lot of fun. Their mommy and daddy don’t come along, by the way. It’s a great way to give them time off. Oh yeah, we are due for that trip to the ballpark this summer, but the season just started so we’ll wait a month or so.
  5. Day at the Park: This is simple fun – we usually do this on a Sunday afternoon. We grab some balls of all sizes, sandwiches, water bottles, mitts and some scooters. And we head to the park and have a picnic. We haven’t done this for some time and just writing about it is making me excited to suggest it for a future Sunday.
  6. Playing Board or Card Games: As mentioned above, the most popular one is chess. I rarely beat my grandsons and the game goes by pretty fast before they “check-mate” me, so this one doesn’t take that much time. But it’s fun while it lasts.
  7. Reading Books – I love reading “The Cat in the Hat” to my 2 year old grandson. He gets really into it and  he points to the pictures on the page, enthusiastically naming  them. We have a blast, turning the pages (when he lets!)  and discuss his topics about the “fish,” and the “water,” and Thing One and Thing Two.
  8. Singing Songs and Finger Plays: I love singing songs to my toddler grandson. I also enjoy doing the motions and watching him giggle, sing and imitate my motions. He already knows some of the songs like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and others from his playgroup so he’s an experienced guy. Recently we did “Head, shoulders, knees and toes….” and I just adore the way he’s picking up all the names of body parts.
  9. Piano Lessons: The old expression is that the shoemaker’s kids go barefoot, but this piano teacher is not going to allow her grandsons to grow up without piano lessons. So even if I have to give them a lesson here and there when we see each other and when I and they have time, I will do that! So far it’s been fun, if not sporadic. A few lessons on rhythm, note reading and such. They love it, I love it, and it keeps us bonding. And by the way, when they prepared an anniversary card for my husband and me several months ago, they wrote about us “Omi (that’s my grandmother name!) teaches us how to play piano!” And reading that made me proud!
  10. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf: It’s always a fun tradition to take the boys for a cookie or Danish, or other snack at the Coffee Bean near our home. It serves as a special time with grandparents.

My Grandmother Persona

My posts online about my grandchildren, my book about becoming a mom-in-law and a grandmother, and my Facebook page with  the ubiquitous images of my grandsons may give people the idea that I’m a Stay-at-Home Grandmother.

FB friends may think I’m  the always available and hands-on grandmother who sits down on the floor and plays legos, chess, checkers  and Tinker-toys. Or maybe readers of my articles imagine  I’m the type of Grandma who babysits at a moment’s notice, takes care of the kids while their parents go on vacation, or gives them baths and does homework.

Well, I’m none of the above – for sure not on any steady or regular basis.

Or it could be they envision I’m that type who sits on the rocking chair and knits blankets, talks about the good ol’ days and then gets up and bakes a whole batch of cookies with the kids.


Does she look like me? Nope.

People (who haven’t read my book) may even think I’m the sort of Grandma who dispenses advice and hovers over the kids.

Sometimes yes and sometimes no.

And frankly my adult kids are not pining for that kind of grandmotherly attention. Or advice.

So I never ever (ever) give unsolicited advice. Well, almost never.


Not me.

The reality is that  I don’t know how to bake very well, my daughters-in-law are better bakers than I am any day.  And they pretty much know what to do, and if not, they certainly don’t need my comments of how things were done in the old days.

I  kind of do my own thing. And with doing my own thing -teaching, writing, playing music….

We love music!

and being a wife, friend and other roles–

and basically having my own life comes the reality of not being available to do all the grandmotherly things that our grandmothers and mothers did with their grandkids (that-is us and our own children when they were little).

We are a combination of what we experienced as children, both as daughters and as grand-daughters. We get to pick and choose from our own upbringing, what we will – and won’t transmit to the next generation and beyond.

And then we create a persona for ourselves that works with our own personalities and lifestyles.

I often think and reflect about my grandmothers and the loving times I had with them.  My relationships with them have informed my relationships with my grandchildren.

But I’m very different from them.  Both my grandmothers were what one might call today “stay-at-home” grandmothers. Even though they definitely didn’t stay at home  all day, but went shopping and to various activities around their communities, they were pretty much available to my parents when they were needed.

Both  grandmothers were born in Europe, as were my parents. My grandparents lived well into my young adulthood and  were very close to me, my siblings and cousins. I always considered my grandmothers as women who I could go to when I had a problem, who would be on my side and would never reprimand me.

My paternal grandmother helped me with my French and history homework, sat for hours and told me stories about her childhood, and came over every night, especially after my grandfather passed away to hang out with us.


My maternal grandmother would take care of us when my parents went on vacation, would do arts and crafts projects with my cousins and me on long Sunday afternoons, and have us over on Shabbos afternoons sometimes while we played hide-and-seek with the cousins in her fun attic at her home in Brooklyn.

It was wonderful to have that, and I want to be that way with my own grandchildren. And some of that stuff I do. I’m there for them sometimes to babysit, if I’m available. I do the carpools if I’m available, which doesn’t happen that much lately because my work hours coincide with the children’s pick-up times from school.

I take them from time to time to ice cream or 7-11 or  pizza.

But, overall, I am not as available to my adult children.

When a mom has a new baby, my daughters-in-laws’ moms come to help them. I’m not the mom; I’m the in-law and I know my place. I’ll read books to the boys,  play music and sing to the new baby, but wake up in middle of the night for them, like my own mother did for me and like my grandmother probably did for my mother? Not quite.

And while I feel bad about that in a way, because I would love to be “that” kind of grandmother who really bonds on a primal level with the kids, I’m just not that way.

And I think my adult kids are just fine with that. They know I’m a package deal, the kind who stays out of the way, out of the house, and is there to hug, kiss, love and most of all brag about her grandchildren.

And oh – of course, I’m there to post a picture (or two or three) online.



What kind of Grandmother are you?

Stay tuned for this series of things I do (and don’t do) as a Grandmother.


Musical Memories: Finger Plays and Silly Stuff

When I think back on the fun and quality times with my children, I recall the music and singing.

At one time or another,  my sons took piano  clarinet, violin and trumpet lessons. But that process of practicing and performing is not the music I remember as fondly as I do the finger-plays.

The little ditty rhymes that I chanted with each of my sons when they were toddlers. Continue reading

Don’t Be Embarrassed!

Here’s my question for you today and I want you to be very honest:

Seriously, were you ever embarrassed by your parents? Your mom? Were you one of those kids who told your mom to drop you off a block away from school, because you didn’t want your friends to see your mom and her car? Continue reading

Back to Bubby Basics

When it comes down to it, simple is often best. When things get broken down to manageable steps, life is so much easier. My friend shared that with me the other day. She told me how she had babysat her grandchildren and found that life has become so complicated these days. My friend felt that she couldn’t help her grandkids with the math homework, because the “new” math has concepts that are so foreign to us Bubbies. Similarly, this friend noted that Hebrew words are so different than the traditional Hebrew language that we remember growing up with in our Hebrew day schools. Today’s modern Hebrew has become more of an imitation English, that my friend felt that the Hebrew homework was also too complex for her to oversee her grandkids completing.

My friend confessed that the only thing she was able to handle when her grandkids were over at her house, was giving them baths, reading books to them, and taking them to the park.

That’s it. Well, to me that was great news. At least some things never change. I mean, here we are in the 21st century, using computers, blackberries, I-phones, DVD’s, and so much technology that our children’s day-to-day activities barely resemble that of our own childhood. And if we are to care of our children and grandchildren, we need to relate to their world.

So thank goodness that parks are still around, bathtubs more or less operate the same way, and books are still around. If nothing else, how are we to preserve a Bubby/grandchild relationship with such a large gap in technology, education, and language?

Here’s to bathtime, rubber duckies, shovels and pails and The Cat in the Hat. — all skills that a bubby from any century can handle.

Simchas and Stress

This morning I woke up feeling charley horse, achy, and with a sore throat. As I reached for the Advil, I wondered why I was feeling this way. True, I had attended an out-of-town  family wedding the night before, and yes, I had traveled quite a bit the past few days both by plane and by car. But I didn’t do much exercise to warrant all the achy feelings; aside from a little bit of circling around the bride in a joyful dance, I didn’t exert myself too much. I didn’t drink any wine, so no excuse for a feeling of a hangover, and I didn’t even stay up too late.

So why was I feeling this way? Well, to quote my friend, a Bubby: “traveling and simchas are always exhausting.” (a Bubby quotable quote!)  There is just no way out of it.  If every day, we have the usual stress of work and the phenomenon called life, then when we travel on vacation, and/or when we participate in family occasions, we have a unique form of stress: SIMCHA STRESS.

Simcha Stress:

This unique form of stress- (for those planning it, and for others who are close to those who are planning the event), manifests itself in  heartache or physical aches. Simchas, which are supposed to be happy occasions, are peppered with little annoyances and bumps in the road. Simchas, which are joyous weddings, engagements, bar mitzvah’s, and graduations are often accompanied by deadlines, pressure, lists, shopping, expenses, and endless details that cause lots of tension.

Simcha – which means “happy” in Hebrew, produces anything but simcha, for many. But at the end of the day, no one is changing the word, “simcha” to “lachatz” which means pressure in Hebrew. Nope. No one is saying, “hey, can you come to my lachatz next week to be held at the Hilton Hotel?

 Time to Smile:

No Jewish person on the East or West Coasts is inviting their friends to their wonderful Pressure Party. Not any time soon.

You see, even though I have experienced my share of stress amidst simchas in the past (including the achy shoulder that I have right now!), I still feel that no Jewish family should be without a steady stream of simchas – happy occasions — in their life.

Stress and all. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Time to Count our Blessings:

I believe that simchas are what keeps us going. Simchas are the water that G-d sprinkles on our souls to fertilize our spirits to grow and soar. Simchas give us that message that G-d loves us, that life is good, that we are blessed, and that it is okay to feel happy and celebrate.

Simchas are times to socialize and accept mazel tov wishes.

And most of all, simchas teach us priorities, and help us realize what is really important. Even when little things go wrong and glitches arise, we keep our simcha as our goal — our families’ and friends’ happiness and joie de vivre.

Because when it all comes down to it, we can deal with a little bit of burnt chicken, canceled guests, and rain on the outdoor ceremony. After all is said and done, we can rise above the little inconveniences and feel gratitude to G-d for providing us with loving families, children, and grandchildren with whom to plan and celebrate simchas (and pressure too!)

Bubby’s Book Club

I was talking to a friend of mine, a Bubby of kids from infancy to 11 years old. Bubby Lydia has begun a tradition with her grandkids. When each grandchild turns 4 years old, he or she is accepted to “Bubby’s Book Club.”

When one is a member of Bubby’s book club, one gets to read stories with Bubby every Sunday morning. You see, this Bubby has grandchildren all over the world – literally. Some in Johannesburg, South Africa. Others in Beit Shemesh, Israel. And others in New York City. It is no matter that this  Bubby  lives in Los Angeles.  She misses her grandchildren greatly, and has figured out a way to get to know them.

Modern Technology.

Enter Skype. Bubby and the children turn on Skype, open their respective copies of whatever book is being read. And Bubby begins to read. The next best thing to being there – with Bubby and Grandchild on opposite ends of the world or country sharing a story – together as one.

Something to consider – for those grandmothers longing for a connection and bonding experience with their long-distance grandchildren!

And the younger kids look forward to becoming members of the Club!

Bubby’s Adoring Smile

While setting up the lovely header of the grandmother and little girl on this page, I went through the gamut of feelings (what is it about me and that word FEELINGS?)

First off, I was frustrated (hey, my computer mouse kept slipping!), and annoyed (why are all the Bubby pictures out there white-haired women in their late 90’s?), and disheartened (I cannot see myself posting that Bubby on the site).  In the end, I felt warmed with the picture that did eventually make it to be The One. The grandmother’s smile is so real. And the child’s focus, as expressed in her eyes, is so intense and strong. Continue reading

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