How to Celebrate Grandparents Day

Lack of Tradition Means That Families Can Make Their Own

Family activities such as jigsaw puzzles are great fun for Grandparents Day.
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Grandparents Day is a holiday created by federal proclamation in 1978. It was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Jimmy Carter. It is a "real" holiday. It is not, however, one of the federal holidays for which government workers receive a day off. It is celebrated each year on the first Sunday after Labor Day, so it falls between September 7 and 13.

Marian McQuade, a West Virginia mother of 15, began a campaign for Grandparents Day in 1970. Three years later, her home state created the first Grandparents Day in the nation. The movement for a national holiday stalled, however. McQuade and her supporters rallied the media and urged organizations for older Americans to support the cause. They finally succeeded eight years later. McQuade died in 2008. When she died, she had 43 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

Only a few other countries have official grandparents day holidays.

Most family holidays come ready-made with traditional activities. Grandparents Day has no real traditions associated with it. Some families are at a loss as to whether they should celebrate Grandparents Day at all and, if so, exactly how they should proceed.

The purpose of Grandparents Day, according to the original proclamation, is "to honor grandparents, to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children's children." Notice that the celebration flows two ways: Grandchildren honor their grandparents, and grandparents honor their grandchildren.

Things to Do

Any activity that brings extended family close is appropriate for the holiday. A traditional get-together with food, games and lots of "visiting" is suitable for most families. Gift exchanges aren't necessary, but grandparents who want to give grandchildren something should consider a family-oriented gift for grandchildren. These gifts are rich in sentimental value but don't cost a significant amount of money. For example, having a completed grandparent journal for each grandchild would be a wonderful celebration of the holiday. 

Grandparents Day is also a great time for grandparents and grandchildren to try writing a poem. Write your poems together, or compose one for each grandchild ahead of time. This fill-in-the-blank poem format makes it easy.

The weather is usually grand on Grandparents Day, so it's perfect for outdoor activities such as walking or biking, geo-caching and classic outdoor games. If you'd like a quieter endeavor, try a craft such as rock-painting, and then take the grandchildren to hide their rocks. Some grandparents enjoy renting a bounce house for the youngsters. It's a great way to keep the children entertained so the adults can visit. When the weather doesn't cooperate, try jigsaw puzzles, board games and card games. There's nothing to get the grandchildren laughing like a rousing game of Spoons! Treasure hunts are great fun for the grandchildren. Find clues for indoor treasure hunts and outdoor treasure hunts.

Places to Go

Some venues such as zoos and museums offer special deals on Grandparents Day. Older grandchildren would enjoy a trip to a ropes course, bowling alley or miniature golf course. If your grandchildren are younger, a trip to a really cool playground can't be topped. 

Grandparents who still live near some family landmarks might want to share them. The grandchildren might enjoy seeing sites of importance in their grandparents' lives, such as the schools they used to attend, the churches where they worshiped or the houses they once lived in.

Across the Miles

If you don't live near your grandchildren, you can still connect on Grandparents Day. Send a card, letter or package, or schedule a Skype or FaceTime session.

Create a Tradition

However you choose to celebrate Grandparents Day, be aware that children love repetition, and you just might be starting a new tradition that the grandchildren will clamor for each year.

Wouldn't that be grand!