Expand Their Horizons

We all have wish lists -- full of those things that someday, sometime, somehow we'd love to experience or have. But, as soon as they're changing that first diaper, newbie parents quickly find their lists extending to include the items or experiences they want for their child -- your grandchild.

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Class Act

Jessica, a Washington, D.C., mom of two, was pleasantly surprised when her in-laws gave an experiential gift to their granddaughter. They found a family-based yoga studio that offered a semester of toddler yoga classes and registered the then-2-year-old as a gift to her.

One place to start browsing for experience-as-gift ideas is excitations.com, a Web site that does exactly that -- ties up experiences in nice, neat little bows so they can be given as presents. Items are searchable by region; prices start at $50 and climb to the upper hundreds. Its "Kid Zone" section offers everything from indoor rock climbing to an overnight stay on a historic World War II battleship in Philadelphia to a recording-studio experience or a chance to feed sharks in an aquarium.

That's the Ticket

Want to give them a secret pass to a stash of knowledge? Another item parents may like to have as an extra for their children, but wouldn't necessarily shell out for is membership to a museum. And many children's museums, such as the Boston Children's Museum, offer a gift membership.
The annual gift membership there costs $125 and includes invitations to special members-only events, access to express lines on busy days, and discounts on birthday parties and gift shop purchases. The museum also participates in the Association of Children's Museum Reciprocal Program, which includes free admission to more than 150 other kids' museums nationwide. Want to attach an incentive to your grandchild's learning? Throw in a gift-shop budget for each museum visit. Astronaut ice cream all around!

Family Ties

Katie, a Washington, D.C. mother of a 2-year-old son, would love the gift of a family reunion for her son. With family up and down the East Coast, she'd like to see an annual or semi-annual family gathering happen, in hopes that it would become a family tradition.

George G. Morgan, author of Your Family Reunion: How to Plan It, Organize It and Enjoy It, suggests starting to plan a reunion at least three to six months in advance (even further if it's a destination reunion) and setting a budget early.
When planning, don't be afraid to ask other family members for help. And, definitely enlist the help of a travel agent when it comes to assembling the plans. "They can negotiate prices for you and have the contacts within the travel industry," he says.
For multigenerational trips, cruises work well, as the more active can venture off to the rain-forest zip line while others relax at the pool. Then, reunite at dinner or in the game room.

What Parents Want... for Themselves

It may not be the most outlandish gift on the market, and it's not specifically for the grandchildren, but it's like pure gold to parents. Karin, a mom of two in Alexandria, Va., was thrilled when her New Zealand in-laws joined her, her husband, and their two young children in North Carolina's Outer Banks. Not only was it great bonding time for the kids to have with their faraway grandparents, but when Karin's in-laws volunteered to babysit, that gave the parents a much-needed night out. "As parents, it gave us the opportunity to have some alone time," she says.

Plus, you will likely find that gift of one-on-one bonding time with your grandchild equally valuable. The 10 days granddad Bryan spent traveling with his grandson on the Harry Potter trip created lasting memories. And, he won't soon be forgetting his grandson's excitement at opening the gift. "Seeing the stars in his eyes," he says, "was the best memory for me."

Clues & Cues

Uncovering the items topping your adult child's wish list of things he or she wants for your grandchild -- but won't ask for -- may be as simple as listening for clues and cues. Has your child casually mentioned something friends gave their child that your son or daughter might also like to give -- but just can't swing financially? The response to that question could lead to the makings of a perfect surprise.

More tips for grandparents:

How Finance Pros Advise Their Grandchildren
Sharing the Wealth With Your Grandchildren
Dueling With the Doula

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Comments

Comments on "Grandparents: What parents really want from you"

Amanda January 24, 2014 | 3:30 PM

Sorry but I would be really annoyed if my family wanted to take my kids away, come on holiday with us. I wouldnt even want them paying because we are not for sale. They see the kids once a week and every special occasion is ruined by their presence. Enough time is lost to school and obligatory family visits the remaining time is for us - OUR FAMILY!

Gina May 19, 2013 | 1:12 PM

These are great ideas. As a parent dealing with overbearing in-laws, the ideas would work as long as they weren't surprises to the parents as well as the kids. I deal with this lack of communication, unfortunately, and gifts and trips for my kids aren't always discussed or even mentioned beforehand. However, since this is the case, I know I need to be more proactive and find out what is in the works before plans/gifts are solidified.

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