Grandparents come in all shapes and sizes (step-grandparents, paternal grandparents and even grandparents who provide kinship care), but they all have one thing in common - the joy they experience from knowing and being able to support their grandchild. Becoming a grandparent changes your world in so many ways, so we think it's only fair that the world gives a little back one day each year. Here's our guide to Grandparents Day, including how it started and how you should celebrate.
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Grandparents Day is a day dedicated to acknowledging and celebrating the important contribution made by grandparents to the wellbeing and education of children within their family. It is an opportunity for family to show their gratitude and respect for the older generation and to honour grandparents. The average age of a grandparent is just 49 and a day in the life of a modern gran is as far removed from pearls and twinsets as possible.
While it's not as widely celebrated as Mother's Day or Father's Day, Grandparents Day is increasing in popularity, and it's the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time with your grandchildren - whether that's a visit in person or catching up with them through a video call.
In the UK, Grandparents Day 2021 is on Sunday 3rd October. Each year it is usually celebrated on the first Sunday of October. However, Grandparents Day is also celebrated all over the world and although some coincide, each country has their own day of acknowledgement.
In the United States, for example, it's usually celebrated on the Sunday after Labor Day, so this year it will fall on Sunday 12th October, and there are often dedicated Grandparents Day events in schools and cities.
Grandparents Day, as we celebrate it in the UK, originated in America after a woman called Marian McQuade wanted to create a day to celebrate grandparents after discovering many of the residents in a nursing home didn't have visitors.
The day was first recognised in West Virginia in 1973, and became a national holiday in the US five years later when Jimmy Carter, the president at the time, signed a federal proclamation. It was first introduced as a day in the UK by Age Concern in 1990, and is something that is celebrated across the world.
Grandparents Day can help to make children more aware of the many ways in which their grandparents often influence their emotional development and education. It's a good time for grandchildren (and their parents) to reflect on the guidance they receive from older generations and to show their appreciation.
With our childcare survey (pre-Covid) showing that over half (51%) of grandparents looked after their grandchildren regularly all year round, and with 7% looking after them five days a week, it is clear that childcare is just one way in which grandparents make a very large contribution.
In addition to providing (mostly) unpaid childcare, grandparents often also contribute financially to their grandchildren’s wellbeing. With 84% of grandparents saying they help with money, and a quarter (25%) contributing towards holidays, the financial support of grandparents should not be underestimated either.
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We think you'll agree when we say that most grandparents won't really mind what they do with their grandchildren as long as they can communicate. Gifts, surprises and special occasions are lovely, but it's the thought that counts on this day and all we really want is to know that we're appreciated. If you're a new or soon-to-be grandparent, why not spend this day thinking about whether you want to be called 'Grandma' or 'Nana' or even 'GaGa'? There are hundreds of grandparent names to choose from - you might just be surprised.
Grandparents Day is the perfect time to share hobbies and interests and bond with your grandchildren. Perhaps you could ask your grandchild to share their favourite activity with you, or show them the things you enjoy? Whatever you are able to do, whether it's baking up a storm in the kitchen or looking for the best days out for grandparents, today is about enjoying each other's company.
If you're in need of some inspiration ahead of 3rd October, we asked our wise gransnetters for their favourite activities to do with their grandchildren so you can celebrate Grandparents Day UK accordingly...
"Baking. She wants to run a cafe and bake cakes to sell in it, so she tells me."
"Making cakes is my favourite."
Any excuse for cake, right? A great way to celebrate with grandchildren is to head to the kitchen and make some sweet treats. If you're lucky enough to live close to your grandchildren, you can make some memories in the kitchen, but if you're unable to be there in person why not set up your laptop or tablet, and video call your grandchildren (while they are supervised of course) and make the same recipe together? Not only is this a valuable bonding experience, but you'll get some delicious rewards from your hard work (okay, fun) too...
Need some inspiration? Here are some of the recipes you can find on Gransnet, and we also have a video for an easy microwave banana bread recipe below:
"Building 'obstacle courses' and 'challenges' on our patio using anything I can lay my hands on - upside down chairs, big cushions, sturdy short ladders."
The temperature may be cooling down in October but that doesn't mean you can't head outdoors for some adventurous fun. Just make sure if you are using obstacles that the course is safe and your grandchild is supervised. It's a unique idea your grandchildren will love, but there are plenty of other games you can play outdoors too. How about giant snakes and ladders or hosting your own sports day?
"I love any outing with them, especially taking them to places they haven't been to with their parents. I'm also a great believer in getting children used to going for long walks with the promise of a treat at the end."
Organising a walk is a great way to spend time with your grandchildren, educate them about the natural world and is also a healthy activity for the whole family. Plan your route beforehand so you know where you are heading, whether it be woodlands, a beach or a walk through a local park, and be sure to bring a picnic along to refuel after all that fun.
"Putting on shows. I'm the script reader, my grandchildren are the actors or animals."
If your grandchildren love drama and storytelling, this one's for you. Get them involved in the story to help their literacy skills and add some improv moments for extra fun. Whether you perform the play for their parents at the end of the day or just rehearse together, laughter is guaranteed and you can even do it over a video calling app if you can't be there in person.
"We cook (he loves baking and cooking), do crafts and make things from boxes. We made and painted a magnificent castle from a box which had held a fridge-freezer and he ate all his meals inside it for about a year!"
An inexpensive idea that doesn't compromise on fun is utilising things you already have in the house and working together to transform them. Not only will this promote creativity and encourage your grandchildren to use their imagination, but activities like this mean you or your grandchild will have something to keep as a reminder of Grandparents Day. If you can't see your grandchilden in person on the day another way to spark their creativity is playing a 'Pictionary' style game over Skype, where you each have to guess each other's drawings.
"We structure their days with indoor activities. I have a big dressing-up box which contains all kinds of hats, clothes and accessories. They adore dressing up and concoct all kinds of costumes. We cook, bake, make perfumes from flowers and herbs in the garden, play cards, draw at the kitchen table, and take beach walks while looking for shells and stones. We go on country walks, especially with activities like hurdles, climbing frames etc."
Why stop at just one activity when you can have a whole day making memories with your grandchildren? A varied and packed itinerary will ensure the little ones are entertained and you fit a lot into a short space of time - whether you can see them in person or you're spending the day together virtually.
Being a long-distance grandparent is hard work and often quite a tough situation to be in. However you make it work, national Grandparents Day is a good reason to do something out of the ordinary. Why not try having a meal together over Skype? Or FaceTime karaoke? It might just be the best idea yet.
Even if you don't do something different however, communicating with your grandchildren is a nice way to mark the day and feel closer to them. As this one gransnetter explains, sometimes just being a part of their everyday is special enough in itself:
"I have two grandsons living abroad and we Facetime at least once a week. I don't expect them to chat with me all the time, so I talk with my son and daughter-in-law whilst I watch the children play. Sometimes the three-year-old will carry the iPad into the playroom and show me things there. I've sometimes been propped up on the sofa while they go about their lives and include me in conversations which is very funny."
Are you celebrating Grandparents Day? Let us know on our forums.