When it comes to spending time with grandparents, think of experiences that are rooted in making memories. It’s a game plan that’s especially fitting now, since the pandemic may have made it challenging for grandparents to see their grandkids.
"Every day I get to spend with my grandkids is a special one, especially since COVID," says Jeanne Stewart, 63. who lives in Port Jefferson Station with her daughter and son-in-law and their three young children. "It’s nice that we’re under one roof. Time together is more special than ever."
Here are five special experiences — including in-person options for grandparents ready to go out and virtual ones for those social distancing.
Plant a tree and watch it grow.
It’s a safe outdoor activity and an experience that keeps on giving season after season. Grandkids of all ages can take pride in watering the tree and watching it grow. "Autumn is an excellent time to plant trees because root systems can start to get established before winter," says Sig Feile, 75, owner of Atlantic Nursery & Garden Shop (250 Atlantic Ave., Freeport; 516-378-7357).
Tree sales — especially flowering and fruit varieties — are up this year, according to Lou Vincennie, 61, owner of East End Trees (168 Townline Rd., Kings Park; 631-754-1051). "People are really focused on their homes and yards," he says. Norway spruce, Fraser fir, Dogwoods and Crape myrtles are some of his personal favorites.
Tips from the Long Island Arboricultural Association: Plant your tree in a hole that is as deep and twice as wide as the root ball, and choose the right spot in terms of sun and shade.
Roll up your sleeves and slip on a mask for a walk-in workshop on Sept. 28 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hammer & Stain (15 Main St., Sayville; 631-891-5524). Teachers guide you through steps to make a wooden sign into "wall-worthy décor" that celebrates family, home and Long Island. Registration not required, but encouraged.
Spend the day at a local farm.
Between fresh air, acres of towering sunflowers, kid-sized pumpkins for picking, wagon rides ($5 a person) and friendly goats you can feed ($4 a cup), there are many good reasons to visit the Suffolk County Farm & Education Center (350 Yaphank Ave., Yaphank; 631-852-4600). "Goat selfies are popular," says farm director Vicki J. Fleming. Jeanne Stewart and her grandkids Emma, 20 months, Oliver, 4 ½, and Kayleigh, 7, spent an afternoon there in August. "The kids enjoyed it," she says.
Serve this experience two ways — virtually or via socially distanced in-person lessons. Either way, you get to eat what you’ve learned.
At the Cooking Lab (162 Main St., Port Washington; 516-570-0050), classes have taken place online since mid-March. On the menu for Sept. 23 at 5:30 p.m. is a delicious, all-hands-on-deck family dinner of chicken souvlaki, flatbreads and a Greek salad is set. Cost is $35 a screen. Private family lessons are also available. "We’ve had a lot of private multigenerational classes," says co-owner Michelle Capobianco, 44. "They’re fun and interactive."
"Cooking is a great team activity," says Polly Talbott, owner of A La Carte Cooking School (32 Atlantic Ave., Lynbrook; 516-599-2922). "There’s always something new to learn." On Sept. 26, the in-person class covers profiteroles, vanilla ice cream, and cranberry orange scones. On Oct. 24, the lesson plan includes homemade tortellini and ravioli and breadsticks. Cost is $150 per twosome for each class.
At ARTrageous (5 N. Village Ave., Rockville Centre; 516-255-5255) drop-in pottery painting sessions are family friendly. "We have hundreds of pieces of pottery to choose from," says owner Karen Rifai, adding that painted glazed pieces are kiln-fired and ready for pickup in two weeks. Pottery pieces run around $20 and up. At the studio, safety and social distancing rules are in place. If you prefer at-home experience, art kits with acrylic paints to go are available.
"It’s fun to see through art the eyes of a child and their grandparent — how they’re different and how they’re the same," says schoolteacher Melissa Pashayan, who co-owns the Art Academy of Garden City (68 Osborne Rd., Garden City; 516-902-3613). Academy instructors will come to your home to lead a 90-minute painting party. "We travel with everything, paint canvases and brushes," says Pashayan. Cost is $45 a person. "People choose the subject."