11/13/2012 12:07 EST | Updated 01/13/2013 05:12 EST

Six Benefits of Hanging Out with Toddlers


You might think that with Doug and I being as close as we are to becoming empty-nesters, we would be done hanging out with little ones. Actually the opposite is true. As we get older, we crave our time with the youngest members of our family and the young families that are our friends. Once a month, three young families come over to our home for the evening. We chase the parents off so that we can have the kids all to ourselves. And yippee-tonight's the night!

1) We get lots of exercise: running up and down the stairs, lifting, rolling and chasing. After one evening at the play structure at the park, we discovered muscles we didn't even know that we had. When a family joins us for a weekend at the cottage, we have to plan for an afternoon nap when they leave.

2) We get to read all the books that we and our kids loved when they were little: Goodnight Moon, Runaway Bunny, Love you Forever, Thomas' Snowsuit, Skyful of Babies, I Have to go Pee and Jillian Jigs. I have inadvertently memorized some of the pages: "Jillian, Jillian Jillian Jigs, It looks like your room has been lived in by pigs..."

3) We get lots of kisses and lots of hugs good-bye. Even though our grown children still embrace us, there is something especially sweet about a wet sloppy kiss and a chubby arm hooked around your neck.

4) We get to play. I am not very good at this. When I was a kid I spent a lot of time alone and so I am a solitary player. I was always afraid of getting dirty and/or breaking my toys when I was a kid. Doug has taught me over the years of our marriage, how to play and it is a skill that I am grateful for. Doug on the other hand, loves to play and can make a game or an adventure out of the most mundane circumstances. The little ones come to me to read or be soothed but they go to Doug to wrestle and imagine.

5) The parents get a little break. This is the most gratifying part. We have had the time of our lives and require no thanks in return. But the words and expressions of gratitude from the parents, elevate our efforts, to an entirely new level.

6) We stay young (or at least we feel young for a time). The time helps us remember an earlier period in our lives. A time that we cherish and miss.

I challenge you to not sit back and think "but, we don't have any grand kids yet." Volunteer at a Y Neighbours Group, at the community centre, neighbourhood daycare or the nursery at church. Find the little ones who don't have grandparents in their lives or their city. The benefits are as long as your arms. Arms that can be put to very good use.

Kath's quote: "Grandparents are a family's greatest treasure, the founders of a loving legacy, the greatest storytellers, the keepers of traditions that linger on in cherished memory. Grandparents are the family's strong foundation. Their very special love sets them apart. Through happiness and sorrow, through their special love and caring, grandparents keep a family close at heart." ~author unknown

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