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I was fortunate to grow up with grandparents who lived on a working farm on a bluff overlooking the White River in Washington County, Arkansas. I spent many happy hours “helping” my grandmother in the kitchen during canning season and riding in the back of my grandfather’s pickup on a hunt along fence rows for the perfect Christmas tree.
Now that I’m a grandmother, I don’t have a fence row to drive along, and my canning efforts have been sporadic at best. But I do hope that I’m making memories with my granddaughter that she’ll carry with her into adulthood. Here are some ideas for memory-generating activities to explore with grandkids in Arkansas.
There are plenty of ways to get outside in The Natural State. We can go big with a week-long road trip, or keep it local with visits to nearby creeks and hiking trails. A simple afternoon outing and a picnic can be just right, or go with a little planning to offer the children some engaging activities.
Scavenger Hunt: Make a list of objects to search for while hiking a trail or exploring a creek: ideas include animal tracks, native wildflowers, different kinds of leaf shapes and fossils. Search items that represent each of the 26 letters of the alphabet or all the colors of the rainbow. If we’re on our own or a friend’s property, it’s easy to bring a bag to collect treasures, then display them somewhere prominent at home to remind us of our grand adventure. As an alternative to collecting actual specimens* take photos on the phone and compile them into a scrapbook or a photo album to have printed online.
Geocaching: This is a great family-friendly activity available at state parks and other public locations across the state. All that’s needed is a phone equipped with GPS and a comfortable pair of shoes.
Attend a Festival: Residing in the state of Arkansas means we all live near at least one annual festival or fair. We have the Wye Mountain Daffodil Festival near central Arkansas and an Arkansas Goat Fest in Perryville. There’s the Hope Watermelon Festival in the southwest corner and a Butterfly Festival at Mount Magazine State Park. Grandparents, we can take those young ones for a few hours or a whole day, and feast on festival food the whole time. (On festival days, kettle corn is suitable as a meal replacement.)
*In state and national parks and rivers, and even some local public parks, taking souvenirs home is not only frowned upon, but it may also be illegal. Please research before you go.
As elders, we like to share lessons we’ve learned with our grandkids, but how about learning together? There are opportunities in our community to join a pottery class, learn to sew or attend a program. Arkansas State Parks present educational programs that appeal to all ages, and local businesses and arts centers tend to share local class schedules via email or websites. We can join clubs and learn a new hobby like astronomy or rockhounding.
If access to those opportunities if limited, there are always how-to videos on YouTube. The platform includes education about the quartz mines around Mount Ida, how to create a fairy garden terrarium or identify those fossils we found on the hike. A simple and accessible option, it might be fun for the children to enjoy educating us on how to use it.
That leads me to my next suggestion: let our grandkids teach us. Older ones could give us lessons on an instrument they’ve mastered. What about a magic trick or the latest trendy dance move? Younger children can school us on their preferred way to make a peanut butter sandwich or how to make chalk art on the driveway. We can let them lead and encourage them every step of the way.
My grandmother taught me to sew and how to crimp a perfect pie crust. She also gave me acrylic paints and small brushes and encouraged me to paint faces on rounded stones from the river. I suspect the latter was an effort to keep me occupied when she was busy, but nevertheless, it is a treasured memory.
Family Crest: Let’s invite our grandkids to work with us while we research the family tree, and create a crest to display as they develop an appreciation for their family history and where they fit into it. For a recent school project, my son searched on Ancestry.com for clues about the origins of our family surnames and used flags of the countries our ancestors hail from to determine which colors to use.
Visit the town’s historical museum and include some iconography based on what is found there to depict skills and occupations: horseshoes for a farrier or blacksmith, for example. Dozens of examples of family crests can be found online. Create a crest for each child with their own hobbies represented as well. Extend the project by turning illustrated crest into a wood-burning project or a quilt pattern.
Make a Movie: The grandkids probably know better than we do how to work a video recorder. Use movie-making apps for the phone or purchase a small camera and create recordings of the children telling favorite stories about our lives. We can let the kids ask questions, or record a conversation about the differences between our childhood and how they live today.
Time is precious, and time with our grandkids is not to be squandered. I hope these ideas will spark some conversation with your grands and inspire a flurry of plans to keep you busy for months and years to come!
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