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    « Introducing Grilled Grandma Diane | Main | And marked it with a B »

    The Grandma Bag demystified

    As some of you may know—because I've written about it here and here—I get a kick out of looking at the search terms that lead folks to Grandma's Briefs. Nearly every time I check those queries, there's one variation or another of the question, "What's a grandma bag?"

    To answer that, dear inquiring minds and those who didn't read about it the first time, I offer you The Grandma Bag least as it applies to my Grandma Bag.

    My grandma didn't have a Grandma Bag, only a purse. Same for the grandmas of my children, my mother and mother-in-law. So I had never heard of a Grandma Bag until right after Bubby was born, when Megan, a teacher, mentioned how sweet it was to hear one of her students tell about the magical tote "Grammie" brought along on her visits.

    If I remember correctly, seems that particular Grammie visited her granddaughter's class at one point and explained to Megan exactly what her ever-enchanting Grandma Bag was. The story was that Grammie's Grandma Bag was a tote filled with fun things to do with her grandchildren during her visits. Everything in the bag arrived with Grammie...and went home with Grammie when she left. Because of the short period available for enjoying them, all the activities inside maintained their magic and charm from one visit to the next.

    The granddaughter's delight in her Grammie's Grandma Bag appealed to Megan, and she mentioned it to me in that offhand kind of way that carries the not-so-subtle idea that "You really oughta do this, Mom." So I did. I searched through my pile of purses, backpacks, and such that I can't seem to part with and found a floral bag I used way back in the day to tote travel goodies in the car while trekking here and there with Jim and the girls. It did indeed look like a Grandma Bag, if ever I'd seen one (which I hadn't, but you get the idea).

    Then I started gathering things to pack in my Grandma Bag for its inaugural visit to Bubby. He was around two-years-old when I decided he was likely mature enough to marvel at the items within my Grandma Bag. My Grandma Bag—then and now—always features the following items to share while visiting, then pack back into my bag to take home with me:

    • Picture books, of course.

    • Craft activity ideas, and the supplies for execution.

    • Movies. Mostly Disney movies I'm sure Bubby hasn't seen.

    • Color crayons and color books.

    • Construction paper, scissors, glue stick.

    • Long, brightly colored pipe cleaners. (A recent addition, thanks to a suggestion from Grandma Lizzie.)

    In addition to those standards, I always throw in a few unexpected goodies—changing with Bubby's age and interests—such as:

    • Play-Doh activities.

    • Snow...which Bubby never sees in the desert. Not real snow, but the artificial awesomeness known as Snow in Seconds. (Which, believe it or not, has never caused a ruckus of even the slightest sort with the TSA.)

    • My apron so we can each wear our kitchen coverings when baking or cooking up the recipes I also included in my bag.

    • CDs for a dance party.

    Dinosaur eggs.

    One key to the Grandma Bag is to add far more than you think you'll ever get around to using during a visit. Just like packing far more clothes than you'll wear, the idea is to have options.

    The Grammie who first introduced me, by way of Megan, to the Grandma Bag supposedly didn't leave any of the goodies from her bag with the kids when she returned home. I go against that Grandma Bag rule and do leave something, sometimes a couple things, especially when it's an item I'm sure Bubby will have outgrown by the next time I see him. Or if it's an edible treat of some sort. Or a Matchbox car he'll adore. Okay, so I always have something in my Grandma Bag that I know will be left with my grandson.

    That's the great thing about the Grandma Bag, though: It contains whatever you want it to, used in whatever way will delight your grandchildren. I can assure you if your grandkids are like Bubby, that anything and everything you pull from your Grandma Bag will be a crowd pleaser.

    I say crowd because even though I currently have only one grandson who gives a hoot about what's in my Grandma Bag, as Baby Mac is far too small for it to matter at this point, others in the crowd—meaning me—are pleased as can be at Bubby's smiles and anticipation each and every time he and I prepare to pull another item, another activity from Grandma's Bag.

    I once was told by a supervisor that the best ideas are stolen ideas, tweaked to become our very own. Right or wrong as that may be, I must admit that stealing the idea of a Grandma Bag is one of the best ideas I've ever nabbed, then made my own.

    I encourage you to do the same: Steal this idea! Then go for the grandma gusto and make it your very own.

    Today's question:

    What did your grandma share with you—from a Grandma Bag or not—when she visited?

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    Reader Comments (11)

    Neither of my Grandmothers could drive, so we usually visited them. Both lived within a 15 minute drive.

    When my Nonnie came to visit the only bag she traveled with was her knitting bag. Filled with her latest project...usually a gorgeous afghan, sweater, etc.

    Great post. I'm rather shocked as I now realize that neither of my Grandmothers' houses had toys!

    However, time at my Nonnie's meant doing things WITH her. Tending to the garden, 'helping' bake pies, 'helping' clean the house. When the morning chores were completed, we'd spend the afternoon playing cards together on the sun porch until her favorite show (Jeopardy) came on. Then we'd watch it together before preparing the evening meal.

    The gardening, baking, cooking, and cleaning didn't stick with me, but I still love Jeopardy and playing cards. Gosh, I miss her. It's a great idea, but maybe Grandmas don't even need a bag of goodies?

    September 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNonnie Kelly

    My grandmother and my step grandmother were both excellent cooks and bakers. Lemon pie became my favorite pie as a very young girl because my step grandmother made the very best. Egg fu yong was a family favorite I grew up eating because of my other grandma. Their recipes are among my prized possessions since neither lived long enough for me to cook and bake along side them.

    September 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrandma Shelley

    My grandmas also did come to our house to visit, nor did their homes have toys. But my maternal grandma did ceramics, so there was always something to paint. And my paternal grandma had so many grandchildren, there was always someone around to play with. So, no grandma bags but still fond memories -- just as your grandkids will have!

    September 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPammeey

    My Grandma on my Mom's side passed away before I was born and the one on my Dad's side never visited. So my Mom's oldest sister became my pseudo grandma. She never visited us, but we visited her quite often. She always had home-made goodies ready such as huckleberry cobbler and fresh biscuits. Yummmm.

    My grandson Tono is 10 now and your Grandma Bag idea is something I'm mulling over for my next visit. Of course, it would need to be age-appropriated. Any ideas?
    I can use the help.

    September 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTerri

    All my twenty grandchildren are pretty much grown-ups at this point (youngest are fifteen and sixteen--you'd be amazed how grown-up they can be at that age these days) and it's too late for me to start "Grandma Bags". Never had one, neither did my Granny, but I think they are truly a "Grand" idea for long-distance grandmas. Filling one helps the grandma's anticipation time between
    visits and the sharing must be an excellent time during the visits themselves. Great idea.

    September 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

    This is a very sweet idea, Lisa! As I only see my grandsons a few times a year, as I live across the country form them, I always bring gifts to them when i see them. They are not presented from a special bag so I think I'll do that next time --one more thing to pack --lol! I always bring them a new book and a small toy, or two, that I leave with them

    This story will make you smile ..... my older grandson asked me on my last visit if I had an I Pad like his other "Grammie" did. It seems when my Daughter-in-law's mother visits him she always pops out her I Pad out of her purse and allows my older grandson to play games on it. I was actually quite shocked at how well he used it! I guess in my grandson's two year old mind all grandmothers came with I Pads in their purses!! How will I ever keep up? lol! :)

    September 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti

    My grandmother never visited us, we visited her. But she had 2 things that really stand out in my memory. She saved empty cans and boxes so we could stock our very own grocery store. We shopped with Monopoly money. It was so much fun. The other thing was catalogs and scissors. We made our own paper dolls by cutting "dolls" out of catalogs and dressing them with clothes that we cut out.

    I love the idea of a grandma bag. I'm going to put one together myself. Thanks for the inspiration.

    September 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrams

    We went to my grandmothers house every Sunday for dinner. What she shared with me was her love for cooking, sitting me on her ample lap while she prepared all manner of pies and other delectable goodies. I felt warm and safe on her lap and love fruit pies to this day over all other desserts.
    I love this idea of a grandmothers bag- hmmm, mine are a little older but I'm thinking about what I can carry...

    September 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrandmother

    My own grandparents lived in Ireland and, sadly, before I travelled there, both had died. Missing them as I did, my own experience as a grandmother is doubly rich. My eight grandkids range in age from 21 years to our youngest one year old. Love your idea of the grandma bag and have lots of ideas for having several depending on those I am visiting.

    I am reminded of O'Brien's book, The Things They Carried, and how much we reveal by what we put in our bags.

    Many thanks for the fine website and blog.

    September 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkathleen

    Wonderful idea, the granny bag... I have two granddaughters (5 &3) who are in that current "princess phase" (Rapunzel being a favourite... my 5-year old granddaughter took me through all the different versions of this fairytale on Youtube... who knew?) so I'm going with the fairytale/ princess theme, waiting for it to wane with my too-girly-girlies. They love paperdolls, which is an unexpected trip back into my own childhood! They love the fact that there is always something for them in my suitcase... now I will make it a granny bag. The older child called me once, as we were en route to their place, to ask, "Grandma, could you... uh... bring me a little sumpthin"? Could charm the money right out of Grandma's pocket, could they! lol thanks for the inspiration.

    September 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLola C.

    My grandmothers lived by me and we went to visit. Grandmother Richardson had a fantastic outdoor space with boulders, huge trees and a garden. I loved playing in the yard. When we were inside she had a small basket of toys next to the couch. I specifically remember the sea shell.

    Grandmother Bentley had tons of nick nacks- that were not off limits, parakeets and canaries and lots of treats. Grandpa was a jolly fellow that teased and sang. It was a happy place.

    Grandmother Bates worked at resorts as a cook while I was young so I didn't get to know her until I had kids of my own so I mostly sat and visited with her about her life.

    great question today.

    September 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkaye
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