When our kids were young, we busily searched for gifts to give them for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. Now that we’re grandparents, we don’t send a gift for each night. These grandkids seem to have EVERYTHING in abundance. So what do grandparents do when they want to give something to their grandchild that’s both memorable and meaningful, and won’t be left out in pieces the next day on the living room floor?
I recently asked a number of adults which gifts they remember fondly from their grandparents and I’ve compiled the responses. Here are eight gift ideas that are memorable and stand the test of time in years, and even decades.
1) “My grandma gave me my great-grandma’s apple pie recipe.”
Yes, food is love. Bake Hanukkah cookies with the grandkids. Create an edible menorah. Make a soup together and write down the recipe for future generations. They will remember it.
2) “My grandma gave me a locket with a picture of her and my grandpa from their wedding.”
Go through your drawers and your old jewelry box. Or better yet, let them go through the drawers with you. Do you have a necklace from a long ago trip to Israel? A colorful scarf or tie ready to go? A picture of your grandchildren’s mom or dad when they were your grandchild’s current age? Your old stuff can become precious treasures to your grandchildren.
3) “The gift of Jewish tradition. I remember us lighting candles together.”
Don’t underestimate the value of this one. Buy (or create) Jewish ritual objects for the grandchildren (menorahs, dreidels, Shabbat candlesticks, havdalah sets, beeswax Hanukkah candles). Or pass on to the kids one you’ve used over the years. Then have fun being Jewish together. Have a special treat, a song, a tradition that you share. I bring my grandchildren chocolate rugelach for a Shabbat morning treat and it is a winner.
4) “My Bubbe on my mom’s side taught me about being selfless and volunteering. She gave to others and made you want to be a better person.”
OK, you can be this grandparent, too. Find a way to volunteer with your grandchildren. Go to the grocery store and let the kids pick out groceries to bring to a soup kitchen or shelter. Do a craft project together to knit/bake/create something (blankets, dolls, brownies) to bring to a hospital or nursing home. Start a Grandparent-Grandchild Tzedakah Club where you and your grandchild become partners in giving.
5) “The love of travel.”
Lucky you if you have the opportunity to share this gift with your grandchildren. Some people take each grandchild away for a special trip prior to their bar or bat mitzvah. We’ve taken younger ones away for several days or weeks during the summer to share new places (the beach!) and experiences together. Friends have taken their grandchildren on a “roots” trip to see where their great-grandparents used to live. Travel requires a great deal of time, energy, and resources on the part of grandparents. But the dividends can be outstanding.
6) “My grandpa used to read all of my essays for school–the gift of education.”
Books are special. Even today. Even though kids may prefer electronic stimulation to old-fashioned books. But books are made more enticing when you read them together. Try starting a grandparent-grandchild book club. Take your grandchild to a bookstore (do they still exist in your neighborhood?). Buy them some of your favorite books from when you were a kid.
It’s a hectic world we live in. Everyone (parents and kids) is busy. On the phone. Texting. Working. Watching. The gift we can give our grandchildren is putting our phones away and playing “hide and seek.” Or sitting together to do a jigsaw puzzle or a word search. Or playing catch outside. Or creating a “macaroni necklace” or a “make your own volcano” science experiment. As we get older, we have more time to give. And more reasons to give it.
8) “The first thing that comes to my mind is unconditional love.”
Yup, that was the most common response I received. Grandparents’ greatest gift is the love they give. All grandchildren remember the little gifts they love to open. But what stays with them over the decades is the love. The warmth. The patience. The understanding. The listening. The hugs. The total sense of being loved.
You can’t wrap that up, but it’s never going to be left on the living room floor.