The Grandparents Guide to Giving

The Grandparents Guide to Giving

Something happens to grandparents and their wallets when grandbabies come along. Their hearts are somehow more enlarged than when they were parents and their ideas about rules and strict bedtime procedures go out the window. All the sudden, it’s okay to spoil a child. Needless to say, it is part mystery and part insanity to see how grandparents begin to see gifts and other material tokens as fit contributions for a child who just happens to be their grandchild. The child does not have to do anything noteworthy, win any awards, save any lives, rescue any dogs from a pet shelter, or sing/play an instrument/write/make artistic projects, etc in order to find themselves the benefactor of an award from a grandparent. All a grandchild has to do is BE. Following is a gift-giving guide for grandparents. Adhering to the advice below will spare headaches, prevent hurt feelings, avoid rejection of gifts, prevent blowing of budgets and more.

Extravagant vs Moderate

When Sean P. Combs’s son, Justin Dior, turned 16 – P. Diddy (another name Sean goes by) bought him a high-end Maybach, which is a super luxurious Mercedes-Benz. The vehicle comes at a price point of almost $400,000. It’s not hard to imagine what P. Diddy might do when he becomes a grandfather. If he follows the trend of many grandparents, he will do more for his grandchildren than he did for his children. But not every grandparent is as well-heeled as Combs. Still, grandparents who don’t have deep pockets often find ways to be extravagant in their gift-giving to their grandchildren.

Some ways that grandparents can help their grandchildren is to pick up the tabs on something that the parents don’t think of doing or are not in a position to do. One lady named Vickie shared how her grandmother bought term life insurance policies for all of her grandchildren. As Vickie explained it, this grandmother gave modest and infrequent gifts otherwise, and only for birthday gifts and Christmas presents. Yet, when each of them turned 18, she presented them with their insurance policies, which had come to term. They could take out the cash value of their policies and use them for savings, college tuition, and wedding costs or to set up housekeeping. As Vickie explained it, “It was the best gift – helping us to launch into adulthood.” She spent hers on a wedding that she couldn’t have otherwise afforded, since she was only 18 and just out of high school. Another sister used hers to become owner of a local laundromat. Still another started a savings account.

This type of gift is extravagant in terms of its ultimate value. Yet, it was moderate in terms of the monthly premium cost. Because such a policy increased in value, the dividends put it in a whole different asset value. A life insurance policy can be an excellent delayed gratification gift.

When it comes to moderate, some grandparents have learned how to give the gift of their time. For example, taking the child out to dinner or lunch, along with a special friend. Another example might be taking them to the park and having a picnic for their birthday. A grandparent can do this, even if the child(ren) is having another party.

On the moderate end, grandparents can even pay some of the expense for a birthday party, such as buying a themed cake, footing the bill for a clown or balloon artist, paying for themed decorations or party favors, etc. Some kids love the party done big and will love showing off the party favors and entertainment that a grandparent made possible. This is simply a process of adding to what the mother and father already intend to do. Gift-giving etiquette dictates checking with the parents first to see if they are okay with the idea of the grandparent making possible a more enjoyable party. While the party eventually ends, the memories will be endless. What will make it possible for the child to appreciate what their grandparent(s) contributed toward the party is to have the parents announce your contribution in a manner such as, “Honey, did you know that grandpa paid for the magician at your party. Isn’t that great?” Both the children and grandchildren will think so.

Getting to Know Them

The song “Getting to Know You” should be on grandparent’s minds when they give gifts. During special times with grandchildren, grandparents should strive to find out what the child(ren) like to do, what their interest are, what hobbies enable them to get more enjoyment out of life. When grandparents know that one grandchild loves to read and carries armloads of books home from the library on a regular basis, they probably won’t go wrong buying them a book or giving them a gift-card to a bookstore. On the pricey side might be a book from Barnes and Nobles. On the moderate side might be a book from Half-Price Books. Both stores also sell gift cards.

A grandparent can also find out if there are any local children book authors visiting the area close to the particular grandchild’s birthday. They can snag an autographed book if they go to the event. Knowing that a book was signed by the actual author might be a pleasing experience for a grandchild. Opening the gift and finding the book is the gift and seeing a special note addressed to them by the author is the added value for such a gift.

At the same time, a grandparent might discover that a grandchild loves something else and would not like receiving a book. The grandparent has to do some snooping around and careful questioning and observing in order to know what would be an excellent gift for a grandchild.

Some grandparents have found value in taking a grandchild window shopping in toy stores. They tell them that they are not buying anything, and make mental notes on things that make their eyes light up as they hold it in hand.

One grandmother gives her grandchildren a $5 and takes them to dollar store. When the children are young, being able to get a bubble and wand, a pair of jacks, a coloring book and a paddle ball makes them feel like they have won the Lotto. Once children get older, this might not work, or the amount might need to be increased.

The right child might really love a collectible. An action figure  might really send them into the stratosphere of happiness. There are plenty of white action figures out there. There are also black action figures like the Green Lantern; as well as black-themed toys from companies like Itty Bitty Bees. There is even a President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama action figure.

If somehow, it’s hard to figure out what the child really likes to do. When that’s the case, grandparents need to talk to the parents about what might the child like to receive as a gift or what interests them during that phase of their childhood.

So That Values Don’t Collide

The way things work today, children may grow up under a set of values and then marry and sometimes change their value system. They may come up with a hybrid mix of what they came to the marriage with and what their spouses brought. They may go a whole different direction. One of the best things a grandparent to do to keep from clashing with the values their grandchildren are being reared under is to ask and to seek to understand. Once that insight is available, a grandparent should purchase toys that don’t offend the values of the household.

Keeping the Score Even

Children keep score, including grandchildren. For this reason it’s important that grandparents not spend more or do more for certain grandchildren. The temptation to do this often comes up when some grandchildren are local and others are not. In such an instance, grandparents might spend more on the grandchildren that they see more often.

Grands can spare the family a lot of hurt feelings. If the grandchildren compare, and many times they do, some grandchildren can end up feeling slighted.


A grandchild can be as still as a marble statue, doing nothing, giving nothing, helping no one – and still get lots of loot from their grandparents. Grandparents need to be aware that they are under a spell when it comes to their grandchildren. However, with bills, looming retirement, end of life expenses and such closer down the road than when their children were growing up – grandparents need to look at gift-giving to grandchildren with an eye full of timeless wisdom and a heart brimming over with love. It is possible to have both.

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