Congratulations—you're a grandparent (or about to become one)! Which probably means your children are overjoyed and overwhelmed with family life. You're happy to share in their joy, but want to help, too. After all, you've been there and know that the to-do list is endless. Here's a checklist to start you out. Pick a few tasks or all, and your kids will thank you forever. And remember: Treats and monetary gifts are always appreciated, but the best present of all can be the gift of time. Be there for them and offer help—and this is important—with no strings attached.
During the First and Second Trimesters:
• Offer to accompany Mom-to-be to her checkups. You'll be in the loop and she'll have a backup who can help her remember what her obstetrician or midwife suggestions.
• Help plan a babymoon—the couple's last-hurrah getaway before she gets too big and uncomfortable for travel. (Share our babymoon article here).
• If the couple have older children, offer to babysit. If they can't take a long vacation, suggest they go for date nights.
• Play shopping buddy—the new arrival will need everything from outfits to wear to places to sleep. If this isn't the couple’s first child, help unpack equipment they may have stored the first time they were expecting.
• Be an encouraging, supportive sounding board for their worries and concerns.
• Give baby books as presents (so mom and dad can bone up on essentials). Another option: Borrow them from the library, and offer to return them when they're done.
• Vow to ditch an unhealthy habit—smoking, anyone?—so you can be a good role model for your future grandchildren and stick around as long as possible to see them grow up.
• Volunteer to assist in prepping the nursery by painting the room or helping arrange furniture.
• Help pack for the hospital (or at least get a checklist going).
• If Mom's on bed rest, keep her supplied with reading material (great American novels, tabloids) and treats (fruit smoothies, the occasional
• Host a baby shower (or keep her company when she registers).
• Arrange to watch the couple's older children (if any) when it comes time to head for the hospital.
The Baby's First Six Weeks:
• Play gatekeeper if the new parents want some quiet time to bond with the baby. Or graciously give them their privacy if they request it.
• Offer your services as chef. If you don't trust your culinary skills, be the point-person for takeout orders. Phone them in, arrange for
delivery or pick food up a few times a week.
• Do one household chore—folding laundry, taking the trash out, loading the dishwasher—at every visit.
• If they have older kids, take them out for special dates so they don't feel sidelined by the new arrival.
• Rock or feed the baby when Dad and Mom are tired and need a break.
• Give soothing words of encouragement—so important when parents are sleep-deprived and trying to settle into their new roles.
• Pick up basics like diapers and wipes before you stop by.
• Help with planning the baptism, bris or any other family rituals.
• Exchange or return baby presents that don't fit or aren't quite right.
• Help address envelopes for the couple's thank-you notes to friends and family members.
• Tend to the garden, get the oil changed or do any other time-consuming tasks that require constant upkeep.
• TiVo (or videotape) the couple's favorite TV shows so they don't have to remember to do so.
• Stock their pantry with basic essentials, like bread, eggs and milk.
The Rest of the Baby's First Year:
• Help gather hand-me-downs from well-meaning friends.
• Start the baby's college fund if you're financially able.
• Offer to pick up the baby from daycare a few times each week (if parents are using one).
• Take the baby out for "Grandma (or Grandpa) and me" fun.
• Assist in planning the first birthday (or at least help out with a part of it by, say, picking up the cake or writing down who gave which
• Post pics of the baby on Our365.com’s photo sharing space —with Mom and Dad's permission, of course—so they don't have to find time to do it themselves.
• If invited, attend baby's pediatric checkups so you can get the latest information on child health.
The Toddler Years and Beyond:
• Always remember birthdays on time.
• Troll garage sales for inexpensive toys that are in good shape.
• Help check out preschools to get preliminary information and a "feel" for them.
• If invited, tag along on family trips so Mom and Dad can steal away for a grown-up date while you hang with your grandchild.
• Keep the child's room organized by weeding out old toys and taking them to Goodwill or dropping them off or arranging pickup by the
couple's friends who have younger kids.
• Attend plays, visitor days and other functions at preschool (and beyond).
• Shower grandkids with hugs and kisses.
• Find an efficient way to store and display your grandchild's art and other handiwork.
• Be available—your presence matters most. And respect your children's wishes when it comes to parenting decisions. They’ll be fine. After all, they learned from the best: you.