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Taking your grandchildren to the park

girl in playgroundIn many ways, a walk in a city park is as much fun as a walk in the country. There are the same opportunities for finding treasures to bring home. If you are ambitious, it might be frogspawn or tadpoles in a jam jar. But more ordinary objects, such as snail shells, feathers or pretty pebbles, also have their appeal and can be used for crafts later.

Town-dwelling children love the chance to let off steam in an open space, and enjoy just running and jumping, especially if you join in. For homesick country bumpkins, accustomed to running free at home, getting out to the park is even more vital.

It is always worth taking a football for the children to practise their kicking and catching skills, but you must be prepared to join in.

If your park has a lake or pond, take some defrosted frozen peas, grapes sliced in half, raw oats or duck pellets to feed the ducks. These are healthy treats which they'll enjoy, while feeding them bread can 'lead to them developing health problems' according to the RSPB. It's also considered irresponsible to feed pigeons, Canada geese or squirrels, as they've all become a serious menace. Their nuisance presence in the park should not be encouraged.

Hide and seek ranks high on grannies’ lists of preferred activities, but can be rather nerve-racking in view of the golden rule that you should never let a child you are responsible for out of your sight. Happily, most toddlers think the whole point of the game is to be found immediately.

If your grandchild is the proud owner of a scooter or tricycle, he is certain to want to take it to the park. This can be alarming if your journey to the park involves crossing roads; I would persuade him to leave it behind, particularly if you are taking more than one child. Your heart will be in your mouth as the child on the scooter vanishes into the distance while you try, in vain, to run after it with a baby on your hip and one hand on the pushchair, your warning cries carried away on the wind.

The playground in the park may be the main attraction. Here, your town grandchild excels. He can shin up a climbing frame to dizzying heights, leaving the intrepid country cousin tree-climber hesitating below. In uncertain weather, the Good Granny goes to the playground equipped with an old towel to dry off the slide and the swing seats. If you forget the towel you can sacrifice the spare nappy you brought along. You may find it difficult to drag your grandchild away from the slide or the swing in the playground, but try to quit while you’re ahead, and leave them wanting more, even if it means offering a bribe such as an ice-cream on the way home, or a video to watch after tea. The main objective is to get them home before they are so tired you have to carry them.

If you're a keen gardener or a nature lover, a trip to the park is an opportunity to encourage your grandchild to share your love of flowers, trees, birds and butterflies. Naming names sometimes seems like a tedious waste of time, but keep at it. Repeated by you, over and over and over, it is remarkable how many are eventually retained in that developing memory.

Adapted from The Good Granny Guide: Or How to Be a Modern Grandmother

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