Recently I kept my grandchildren for several days of play and fun in our on-top-of-the-ground pool. When the days were over and they were packed and headed home out of our driveway, I felt I had just begun to experiment with ways to enjoy them and the pool without letting the heat, the hyperactivity and endless splashing get the best of me. Here are a few tips for grandparents who take on grandchildren of all ages who love to play in the water and need to survive the experience until another day!
First of all, children eat and eat and eat. What does that have to do with swimming? Being active in the water makes them hungry! I try to schedule their day around their meals and provide delicious, nutritious snacks to maintain their high energy levels. Setting and maintaining a schedule is the easiest way to keep the day flowing and smooth. It also helps if you do your food shopping before they arrive will help you decide what is the best choices for their little growing bodies–not the unhealthy ready-made food selections they might make. Beside, fresh fruit and vegetables are usually less expensive this time of year. Picky eaters? They will adjust. I promise they won’t starve and they just might learn to like new foods. Of course the kids get out of bed at my house with two requests…”When will breakfast be ready, Nana?” and “When can we go swimming?”
My grandchildren are ages 1 year, 3 years (almost 4), 6 years, 8 years and 12 years! They all have different likes and dislikes when it comes to eating and ways to spend their days with me. When I have them all at once, it’s a matter of doing what is easiest, simplest and taking care of myself–their only Nana! Josiah, my one-year-old has decided that this year he does not like the pool. In fact, he barely endures a bath. I think one or two or maybe all of his brothers and sisters have splashed him in the face and he took it as a direct insult. He’s done with it and would rather sit on the porch and swing in my porch swing than be splashed with cold water. I rather agree with him. He will get his share of fresh air and sunshine but in smaller doses and we’ll forgo the pool at this point. He must be looked after while I keep my two eyes on the other four so after letting his “Aunt TaTa”-my daughter with two wonderful helping hands–in the front door, we prepare for the day. Now there is one thing that must be taken care of before any other activity and that is breakfast. Although Josiah has a distinct abhorrence of the water activities this season, he is pushing the ready button for the first meal of the day. I focus on getting him settled in his chair and, as if on cue, my three-year-old, Elijah, is climbing into his chair, usually after having donned his swim suit. As both of these are very active children, I give them a choice of several whole wheat or multigrain cereals and fresh fruit. Both love bananas but will also choose pairs or strawberries. Elijah loves raisins as well and cheese is a definite favorite.
By this time, the rest of “my crew” has reached the table and after giving thanks to God, we discuss our morning while enjoying multigrain cereals (no sugary cereals) or oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon and a slice of homemade bread (unbleached flour and no sugar) with a taste of honey or melted, bubbly cheese. Timothy, my eight-year-old, has everything lined up as to his own preferences; however, we go over a few safety issues and rules and identify Nana as “the boss”. This is a great time to put safety first as all meet here for breakfast and are more willing to pay attention to me before I fix their plate. I usually have their undivided attention. Reminders include: No one leaves the porch to go to the pool without an adult; No one leaves the porch without plenty of sunscreen applied adequately and without helping each other do that; and whoever takes a pool toy to the pool, must be responsible for bringing it back to the porch. Wear shoes to the pool. We live in the country and some of our grass has weeds with stickers. Little feet need to be protected. We also talk about other safety issues such as: No jumping off the pool ladder, looking out for the smaller ones as they play and when Nana says, “Out of the pool, she means it.” A big safety issue where we live in South Carolina are thunderstorms that pop up at a moment’s notice almost every day in late May and June. The usual time they appear is mid-day or late afternoon but they tend to surprise even the most alert weather-watcher. Sometimes we see a darkening cloud that blows over quite quickly but sometimes one of those same type clouds can send thunder and lightening at the blink of an eye. I not only have to keep my eyes open but my ears. I engage the older kids to listen out as well. This time of year even watching the weather forecast is a bit useless as the weather changes so abruptly.
Insects are another pesky problem this time of year. Several days before the children arrived, I did a “wasp check” around the area where they play and swim. I found three or four thriving nests and used an insecticide to rid the yard of them. If you should see several wasps flying around a particular spot in the yard, especially where there is a place a nest could be built, check it out. More often than not, you will find one. I found several under the benches of my picnic table (just ready to sting those little wiggly legs), on the side of our pump house (near the pool) and up inside our yard bell. Look also inside bird feedesr-a certain place each year for a new crop of wasps!
Remember to also keep a sharp eye on the clock during outside activities. When watching children play, time can slip away from you and suddenly you realize they have been exposed to the hot sun too long at one time. The result can be dehydration and/or sunburn (even with great sunscreen-“how did I miss that spot?”). Children who are enjoying themselves and caught up in play are unaware of getting thirsty or the sun burning their skin until it’s too late. To help prevent sunburn I make those with very fair and sensitive skin wear a light-weight t-shirt when swimming and I start off letting them only being exposed for a short amount of time in the early a.m. when the sun’s rays are not damaging, especially if this is their first time for the season being in the sun. Late afternoon, unless the weather is nasty, is another good time to be outside. It’s cooler and more pleasant (especially for grandma!) Let me also say, don’t forget yourself. Put on sunscreen, even if you are not going in the pool. Just standing around or sitting where you can watch the children is not safe without this. Drink plenty of water and go for shade cover off and on if you can. Some medicines react adversely with sunlight so read to know if yours does. Sunshades for your eyes will keep them rested and healthy as well.
Make lunch a nutritious affair with protein, veggies, fresh fruit and plenty of water. I do thin and lean meat sandwiches on whole-wheat bread with crunchy sticks of carrots, cucumber and celery. I sometimes add pimento cheese and/or peanut butter (if no allergies) to the veggies.
Now, for my favorite part of the day-naptime. They all take “um. That is-if they want to go swimming later. A nap helps restore our bodies, renew our spirits and teaches us that rest is an important way that we take care of ourselves. The older ones occasionally complain so, if they are quiet, I resort to let them color or read but the rule is that they MUST be quiet. Usually when they get still, they fall asleep. Nana takes a nap too. (yahoo!) After an hour or so, we have sugar-free popsicles and prepare to go back outside.
Fun in the sun can truly be fun for you and your grandchildren if you follow simple rules and set boundaries. It is true that children feel safe and loved with boundaries set in your great love for them. But it is a lifestyle that must be perpetuated in all your dealings with them. Let children know what you expect and let them experience some consequences if they ignore your boundaries. It’s teaching them what life is all about. They will gain your insight and appreciate your care and love for them as you keep them safe.