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Bonding is what grandparents really want to do with their grandchildren. The reasons for this are quite simple: we want our grandchildren to love us and like us; we want them to look forward to seeing us; we want them to feel that they can turn to us if necessary; and we want them to grow up feeling that we are an important part of their family.

If we don't have a bond with them, these things are unlikely to happen so we want and need that bond. Getting it and keeping it is not quite as easy as we might think and it does require grandparents to be active in their relationships with their grandchildren.

How much we see them will inevitably affect the strength of the bond and if we do a lot of child-minding it is likely to get stronger much quicker. There are potential problems, however, in being child-minders to our grandchildren which are touched on in a previous page of this Guide, Striking the Right Balance, so do have a look at that.

Guide to Grandparenting links

If we're not a full-time child minder, then there are other ways of forming bonds with grandchildren. The most obvious (and probably the easiest) way is just by being loving and supportive. Grandparents do tend to spoil their grandchildren and, up to a point, there is no harm in this. We must beware, though, that we don't cut across what the parents are doing with their children because the one thing that children require is consistency. However, most of us are fairly sensible in how we spoil our grandchildren and if they realise that we love and care for them (and spoil them occasionally!) then that bond will be created.

However, there are other ways in which we can create a bond. Bonds are formed by shared experiences, so the best, most effective ways of creating bonds with grandchildren are by doing things with them and by taking them to different places. What sort of things can we do?

  • Play with them. Playing with our grandchildren is the basis of our relationship with them. It very often requires patience and sometimes it needs stamina but it's all worthwhile. As soon as children realise that we are prepared to spend time with them, playing on their terms then we will have a bond with them. So get up and join in (even lead if they let you!) with their games. They can be active games, sitting around games or play-acting games (which might require you to be an animal, a monster or a fairy). Children can be very imaginative in their games so encourage them and join in. If you want help with thinking about games to play, a helpful website is
  • We can also do fun learning things with them. We can do some cooking, make something from card or paper and go into the garden and do some gardening with them. All these and other activities will help increase the bonds, because we are sharing experiences with our grandchildren.
  • Read to them. Children love to be read to and if you can engender in them a love of books you will be doing them an immense service, both for school and for life. Children love to be read to and if we can take the time to sit with them and do it, we can quickly and easily make very strong bonds. For an interesting set of books that will help young grandchildren learn to read, take a look at
  • If you want to buy books for your grandchildren, go to Amazon and in the search box type 'Books for Children' you'll get a screen that gives you books for different ages. Select the one you want and you will see a wide range of books for that age group. Click here and you will see the Under 5s books.
  • Of course, we don't have to buy books for our grandchildren; libraries have a children's section, so make use of your local library to get free books. Most libraries do events for children, such as Story Time, so take advantage of these, too.
  • Don't forget bookshops. Your high street book stores will all have a comprehensive children's section and there are many discount book shops around now where you can buy books much cheaper.
  • Take Them Out. Children love to be taken out and if we take them to interesting places to share different experiences with them, bonds will quickly be formed. Obviously where we take them will depend on their age but if we get them in the habit of going out, then it will be good for them socially as well as helping to form bonds with us. Going out with them doesn't have to cost a lot of money.
  • We've already mentioned taking them to events at the local library and trips to the local park will also prove popular with small grandchildren.
  • Most children like to see different places so use your bus pass (if qualify for one!) to take them to explore new locations.
  • Animals fascinate most small children, so if you can take them to local farms or just for walks in the country where they can see fields with animals in, they will like that. If you live in a town or city we can take them to the park where they will see birds, dogs and possibly other animals, too.
  • Small grandchildren just like joining in and being included, so take them to the supermarket or to the department store with you and let them share that experience.
  • As grandchildren get older we need to expand their experiences and it's fair to say that this might cost money. If we have found out that they have a love for animals, it may be that we take them to a safari park or zoo. If they like play acting, maybe the pantomime at Christmas will be the place to go. To broaden their horizons will mean taking them to see and do completely new things and so theme parks will become appropriate places to go.
  • For more ideas, there's an excellent website called What to do with the kids.

Creating a bond with grandchildren is very important. They are a joy and we want to cherish and nurture them for as long as possible. It does mean being proactive and not just sitting back assuming that our grandchildren will forge a bond with us: they don't live with us full-time, neither are we their parents. Having said that, we can get very close to them and offer them a relationship that is completely different to the one they have with their parents. It can be warm, emotional, trusting and caring but, like any other relationship, it has to be worked at. Because grandchildren are children (obviously!) it is we who have to work at the relationship - they will accept whatever relationship we create.

Now read the rest of this guide by clicking on the links in the box. If you have any grandparenting experiences that you would like to share, please do so through the feedback form.

This Guide is written by Retirement Specialist Dave Sinclair supported by members of the LaterLife team. As well as writing on retirement matters Dave is Training Director at LaterLife and responsible for the content and continuous improvement of LaterLife's Retirement Courses.
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