Writer Gore Vidal, not known for his sentimentality, said ‘’Never have children, only grandchildren.’ His disdain for the former and fondness toward the latter helps highlight the unique relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. Grandparents get along with their grandchildren in ways parents don’t, with the expectations and aspirations between child and parents often being widely different.
It is rare to hear of children who are embarrassed by their grandparents or who groan with derision when their grandparents ask them about their day. Grandchildren tend to talk to their grandparents differently than to their parents, or maybe they just actually ‘talk’ to their grandparent. An Italian saying encapsulates the relationship nicely ‘If nothing is going well, phone your grandma.’
A perfect opportunity
With a dynamic like this, why not start a hobby together? I am talking about stuff you can find out and do together but that you can research and work on while you are apart. Starting a hobby is the perfect opportunity to spend more time in each other’s company and even add a new dimension to the relationship. There are, of course, considerations, such as:
- Levels of ableness
- The time you can both spend on it
- The time of year
I am going to discuss five hobbies that you and your grandchild can learn together. It's learning together and creating something special that you share, that I think is the crucial bit. According to Cornell University, peer learning helps build rapport, creates greater engagement, increases self-esteem and better prepares learners for ‘real-life social and employment situations'. These benefits are central to what I'm suggesting here.
Who doesn’t like magic? There is a ton of stuff on the internet - start with YouTube - and that should lead you to plenty of other options. For the non-internet savvy, you will find plenty of material on magic and conjuring in bookshops and libraries. When you astonish your grandchild with a trick, he or she will think you’re the coolest ever. But and this is the route I’ll be trying to take with these suggestions, don’t allow yourself to be in charge. This ought to be new for both of you.
Agree to learn a different new trick each and then demonstrate it when you next meet. Teach each other the trick until you have both perfected it. Repeat the process until you have a repertoire of half a dozen or so. Agree to research a magic trick or a magician. Find out about their history, act or techniques and then share it. Sit down together and watch videos of famous magicians (YouTube again). You could prepare a show for the rest of the family and write a script for it based on some of the research you’ve previously done.
We spoke to Dominic Reyes from Merchant of Magic, who told Age Times: "When people visit the magic shop, we love hearing their stories of being amazed by magic in their childhood. The most common by far is that of a grandparent who would produce a coin from behind the ear, or a cut and magically restore a length of rope. These are powerful lifelong memories being made.
"Learning magic can help children build self-esteem and confidence. Magic has something for both introverts and extroverts. The quiet activity of privately learning a trick appeals to children with a quieter nature whilst giving the young magician a subtle push to seek an audience to watch their 'show'. More and more teachers are introducing magic clubs into their Schools for this reason. And best of all it's taking the children away from their screens for a while."
If you don’t have a smartphone, here is the perfect reason to trade in the Nokia 3310. Maybe you already own a camera. However, the purpose of this is to work as equals and to both have the same level of expertise. It’s probably better to agree on a theme you’ll follow before you start. This should keep it interesting and means that you can again work together, or separately. With younger children, you might both try photographing household objects from unusual angles and then guessing what they are later. You could take photos of the family pet and prepare a story based on them. Or you might take still-life pictures.
Outside, you could take nature snaps or in the city, graffiti. There are plenty of apps for adjusting photos and cheap printers for phones. How about studying composition and influential photographers together and eventually build a portfolio of your work. Maybe work towards giving an exhibition for your family and friends. You can go further by setting up a blog together where you could display your pictures. It’s easy to do, and there are plenty of free platforms to use, and what's more, it's another little hobby to add!
This hobby suits younger children as well as those who are older. It involves fixing up things and turning them into new or restored products. There are currently a couple of popular shows on TV the moment, such as The Repair Shop and Money for Nothing that do up old stuff and reuse or sell it. YouTube is full of videos that show you how to repair or restore things. A hobby like this not only helps builds dexterity, is creative and imaginative, is good for the environment but also helps create entrepreneurialism.
Upcycling isn’t the hobby for you if you are already a wiz at DIY or handicrafts because, as I keep banging on about, it should be something you do together. Anyway, pick up things from car boot sales, flea markets, bric-a-brac stalls, or sites like eBay and give them a makeover. You can upgrade bottles and jars or make jewellery with glass, wood, or resin, create vases or pen holders with old tin cans and fabric. There are hundreds of things you can do.
You and your grandchild could sell items online or from a stall, either for profit or to raise money for charity. Why not set up an online shop on Etsy, Facebook, or eBay?
There are very few people who don’t like pizza. Again, you should try to start with a level playing field and so if you were born and brought up in Napoli, then this won’t be the best one for you. Most kids like baking, especially with the popularity of The Great British Bake Off and MasterChef on TV. Making a pizza works exceptionally well because it only takes around an hour and a half and the ingredients are reasonably cheap.
Furthermore, while the dough is proving, you can experiment by trying to create the most delicious sauce for the topping. You could start by making a couple using a basic recipe to perfect your technique and then experiment with different toppings. Making a dessert pizza using Nutella is great fun! Find out how to make a sourdough pizza, a white pizza, Sicilian, or Chicago style crust. Research the history of pizza and how they have become a favourite all over the world. Before you know it, you could be running the family pizza chain!
Described as the "world's biggest treasure hunt," geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity that uses GPS to find 'geocaches' or 'caches' placed in specific locations. The cache consists typically of a waterproof container with a logbook and pencil that the hunters find and sign to prove they found the cache. It is then put back in the same position for others to find. Sometimes the caches are bigger and contain toys or trinkets, known in the world of geocaching as ‘swag’. However, finding the cache, not what you find in it, is the purpose of the activity.
Geocaching shares many similarities with older pursuit/puzzle games like treasure hunts, orienteering and letterboxing, an activity that dates back around 160 years. It gives grandparents and grandchildren the chance to get outside and become more involved with the countryside and nature while hunting for your cache. To extend the activity, you could both research the area you are going to beforehand and get some idea of the terrain. Find out about any landmark or geographical features in the area. Geocaching puts a technological spin on an activity that has been going on for years and gives you some useful exercise in the process. Find out more here.
Hobbies to start with your grandchildren
In short, starting a hobby will bring a lot of pleasure and create long-lasting memories for both you and your grandchild. I am sure most of that pleasure and many memories will be derived from your time together rather than doing the hobby. That in itself has to be priceless.