My family loves storytelling, not only from books, but also from our own lives. Stories from my kids’ grandparents are even more exciting. Here are some ideas to begin a tradition of storytelling between grandparents and kids:

1. A Day in School. Tell your grandchild about a day in school at about the same age. Details are key: What did you wear? What was in your lunchbox? Was another kid mean to you? Did you take classes after school?

2. Halloween. Describe how you spent Halloween when you were a kid. What was your favorite costume? How much candy did you get? What was your favorite, and least favorite, treat?

3. Weekend fun. Share how you spend weekends as a kid. Was it mostly sports, or family outings? Was there a special meal or tradition that you had? What did you look forward to?

4. Grandparents. What were YOUR grandparents like? What are some of your favorite memories? When did you see them? What did you do together?

Do you have any other ideas? Please share them!

I drove 24 hours over the last 3 days to attend a wedding in Arizona (Death Star-themed wedding cake pictured above). I spent 16.5 hours of this prolonged, but welcome, silence listening to Homer’s story of the Iliad. It is an extraordinary tale, laden with rich characters, emotional conflict, and gruesome death scenes (‘…a cloud of darkness overshadowed him as he sank, holding his entrails in his hand.’ Ew.) But I was mostly interested in the story as an oral history, and I was glad I had the chance to listen, rather than read, the Iliad.

The story of the Iliad was likely passed on orally before Homer wrote it down in the 8th century BC. I like to imagine young people listening to the events being narrated by an older person, perhaps a parent or grandparent, over several days, and then learning to tell the story themselves. In this case, the Iliad was most likely studied, memorized and recited, and all in verse.

I believe oral traditions play an important role for children. There is value to learning to listen, and to remember and recite both the main story, as well as the details that bring a story to life. I could probably summarize the Iliad on Twitter in about 12 tweets. But that isn’t the point. The details of stories are what make it interesting and memorable. Also, the motivations of the characters Achilles, Agamemnon and Hector drive the conflicts, and teach moral lessons about greed, jealousy and holding grudges.

Grandparents can help kids appreciate stories, and become storytellers themselves. A grandparent’s life is itself a story, or a series of stories, with details that give a picture of life through time. And while many technologies focus on abbreviating stories, there are plenty that can allow a child and a grandparent to share richer, more detailed accounts. (Yes, DoubleScoop would work well here). A grandparent can play an active role helping to build a tradition of storytelling in a child’s life, and help a child gain the skills of storytelling – active listening, tracking plots, adding compelling details, and understanding people and their motivations. On top of all that, a child can learn about their family history, and strengthen their relationship with their grandparents.

Exactly how grandmother made me feel!

In honor of Grandparents Day, I made a list of the things that made my grandmother wonderful, loving, unforgettable, fun, thoughtful, fantastic and fully awesome. Obviously not a comprehensive list, but it’s a start:
1. Never forgot my birthday
2. Always sent me something on my brother’s birthday, even if it was flowered underwear
3. Let me win every game of Crazy 8s we ever played, and I didn’t suspect a thing.
4. Paid attention to every word I said, and remembered it later on
5. Told me stories about her childhood, back in the day.
6. Cut out and sent crossword puzzles to me for the entire 2 years I lived in South America
7. Shared her opinions and insights freely, with her unique perspective
8. Went back to college to finally earn her degree around age 50
9. Found friends for us in her neighborhood when we visited
10. Was always there for me.Happy Grandparents Day!

Italian Proverb

A friend’s daughter just started kindergarten, and she attempted a courageous escape from the playground back to her house. She made it as far as the parking lot when her mom caught her and dragged her back. I found the breakaway story to be pretty funny, but it also reminded me of how difficult going back to school can be for some kids. And maybe grandparents can help a little.

When a child is going back to school or even starting school is a great time for grandparents to share stories about their own experiences at school. Young kids love to hear stories in general, and a story starring a family member that relates to the child’s own life is especially exciting. Chances are, there are some funny or exciting moments you can use to liven up your story. And a child might be comforted by knowing that others in the family have gone through the same experience, and maybe even have felt some of the same emotions.

Kids and grandparents can get in touch by phone, DoubleScoop, email, Skype and start exchanging their adventures. How did you get to school? What was your favorite part of the day? What did you eat for lunch? Were you nervous about anything? What did you do after school? There is so much to talk about, and kids love to hear about when their grandparents were kids. Kids will be especially thrilled if a grandparent can share an old photograph when they were the same age. Hopefully, these stories will help going back-to-school a little smoother, and a little more fun.

We love summer in our house. Trips to the pool, fun camps, late, lazy nights followed by even lazier mornings, and the occasional camping trip or visit to grandparents sprinkled in. But, as a parent, I am hearing a lot more about the ‘summer slide,’ where a kid actually loses a portion of his or her learning over the course of the summer. This puts me in a tough spot. I want summer to be fun and relaxing, but I also don’t want my daughter to be shedding what she learned during the school year.

This is where a grandparent can really step in and make a difference. I got the idea watching how a neighbor of ours is using our app, DoubleScoop, with his grandfather. He is going into second grade and learning simple math. His grandfather is sending one math problem over the app, and the boy answers it and sends it back. And there are lots of fun ways to draw smiley faces, stars, whatever, to make it more fun. And the boy says it’s like getting mail!

I think this is a brilliant idea. When I ask my daughter to do something like a math problem, or write a story, I am met with a scowl and a whine. But if Grandma or Grandpa do math or writing using technology, it’s the greatest thing ever for her. So here’s my plan. My dad is going to send her some math every couple of days. She’ll figure it out. I won’t have to worry about it.

My other plan is to have Lydia write and illustrate a story with her grandmother. They can each write a short section, send it off, then the other person will illustrate it. I think this will be a great way to help my daughter write more and be excited about it. I’ll let you know how we do, and share some ideas for types of math problems and story lines.

One way to make the time go by on a road trip

Car door of Prius after kids have covered it in stickers

For the last 5 years, our family has mostly driven to visit grandparents in New York and Los Angeles. After 3 trips to New York, and around 10 trips to Los Angeles in our Prius, I think I am becoming pretty darn good at managing long drives with young kids. I have even driven solo to Los Angeles in one day when my girls were 3 and 6 years old. (‘Did you all wear diapers?’ a friend asked). So here are a few things I have learned that might make your upcoming trip a success. Or at least, less painful.

1. Embrace screen-time. Yes, you can do it. You can spend 30 hours in a car reading books out loud, playing word games, and finally getting around to teaching your daughter how to crochet a pot-holder. We did this. And it knocked the wind out of me. After our 2nd trip, we caved and bought a DVD player. My kids were entertained and I was able to listen to a book on CD in the front half of the car. We also found that our kids watched videos for about a quarter of the trip, choosing to play ‘family’ with dolls or read or draw for the rest of the way. So it wasn’t all that bad.

2. Minimize stops. This is key. It may seem like it doesn’t make a difference if you make a ‘10-minute pit stop,’ but it does. Mainly because, with kids, a 10-minute stop doesn’t exist. Of course, sometimes you have to stop, but too many stops really do slow you down. Our Prius is helpful since we really do stop less for gas.

3. Pack a lot of food. We have tried stopping at different places vs. packing food, and found the latter works best. It is much faster and healthier to bring your own grub. If you do need to stay overnight somewhere, that is a good time to go out – but it is worth it to research restaurants ahead of time and have a plan. When I drive alone to Los Angeles, I have breakfast and lunch bags for each of us next to me in the front, and can toss a meal to a kid in the back as needed.

4. And be careful what food you pack. Yogurt tubes seem like such a great idea…until your 3 year old starts squirting them all over their car seat. And it takes a long time for that smell to go away…

5. Be a little indulgent. Road trips are long, and, if you are going through deserts or cornfields like I do, there’s really not a lot to see. So we do let our kids watch videos, have snacks they don’t usually get at home, and, well, we let them stick as many stickers as they want on their window, pictured above. My husband sold his car recently, and said ‘It took me two hours to get all the stickers off their doors.’ I thought, ‘It took us 4 trips to LA and 2 to NY to get those windows just right.’’

I’m planning a couple trips for our family and truly look forward to both the drive and our destination – grandmother’s house. And once we’ve made it, and the kids have tackled their grandparents, and I have paid out whatever bribes needed to stop the kids from fighting in the backseat (that sometimes helps, too), a break from the kids is only that much sweeter.

In my recent post (ok, fine, they are all recent) about spending spring break with my grandparents, Flying South to Grandmother’s House , it was still up in the air whether we would make it to a resort during our vacation. Meaning, no cooking, no cleaning, multiple pools, cocktails while playing Uno. Happily, Los Angeles was cold again this spring, and we headed to the desert for some warmth. And, it was fantastic. Thanks, grandparents, for a terrific treat and some real vacation! Oh, and the grandkids love it, too.

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