Five-year-old “Stephen” couldn’t wait until his next birthday. And who could blame him? On his fifth special day, his grandparents gave him a pony. On the fourth birthday, it was an above the ground swimming pool.

Rolling her eyes, Stephen’s mother responded, “This has to stop. Every year the presents become more extravagant. I can’t begin to imagine what they’ll give for his 16th birthday!” If you’re like this family, you certainly don’t want hurt feeling. And, they’re glad the grandparents want to provide gifts and spend time with their son, as they love him so much.

How can parents handle the over-generous gifts showered on their children by grandparents? “It’s too much, too soon,” remarked a young father. “And imagine how our child feels when we explain we can’t keep a pony where we live. It makes me look like a bad parent!”

What’s the best solution to allowing grandparents to being involved in their grandchildren’s lives without going overboard? Hint: Think education. Can this be done and still maintain your parental authority? Look at some ideas being used by Christian families today.

Grandparent Gifts That Make a Difference 

  • Provide music lessons. Normal living expenses are a problem for many young families. Between the house payment, the family car, insurance (health, auto, house), food, utilities, clothing and that extra expense that seems to always appear, many children to not have the opportunity for music lessons. Research shows that children who learn to play a musical instrument score higher on math and science tests. Long after the gift paper and ribbons are gone, lessons and a musical instrument could add a lifetime of enjoyment.
  • Schedule a train ride. Seated in a passenger car, watching the beautiful world God created with a grandchild is one of the pleasures of being a grandparent. Here, you have an opportunity to talk without the interruption of TV or video games. And yes, leave the cell phone behind or turned off during the trip. Prior to the journey, map your area of travel and talk about the historical sites along the way. Was there a Civil War battle fought nearby? Did a famous person live in this area? Point out the names of rivers, mountain ranges, and roads as you ride the rails.
  • Cruise the inland waterways. Purchase tickets for a steamboat river ride on one of the majestic paddle wheelers that make their way up and down the Mississippi, the Ohio or the Tennessee River. Often you can find two-for-one specials. What a unique way to celebrate a birthday or event in the life of a grandchild. Could this be a trip for the entire family? Arrange to meet the captain and make photos.
  • Invest in camping equipment. Purchase basic camping supplies, including a tent (one that’s easy to assemble), portable grill, cooking supplies and sleeping bags. Watching the heavens at night, tell the story in 1 Samuel 16: 11 of how the shepherd boy David must have watched the stars in the night sky as he cared for his father, Jesse’s sheep.

Lisa Moore of Houston, Mississippi says some of the best memories are made from pitching a tent and camping. “My parents—our children’s grandparents—bring their RV to a campground and all the other families tent-camp. Everyone shares in the cooking and taking care of the younger children. It’s something that has brought out family closer together.”

  • Sign up for a library card. Research shows that children who have books read develop an appreciation of literature and reading becomes a priority in life. Reading is the foundation of being a success in school. Enroll the child in a book-a-month club where they help make a selection. Check with your local Mississippi library about story time for younger children. They’ll not only hear a classic book read, but they’ll learn socialization skills with children of similar ages.
  • Invest in the child’s future with a saving bond. By the time the child is ready to start college, this investment will make a difference in their future. Add to this saving account on birthdays, Christmas and other occasions, you’ll see your money grow. However don’t deny yourself, or your grandchild, the joy of having an inexpensive gift wrapped to open on this special time.

Of course, one of the most priceless gifts grandparents can give is their time! To see the world through the eyes of a child is one of the greatest treasures. If you, as parents, feel grandparents are giving too much, talk with them about your concerns. Keep the lines of communication open. Help them realize that you want what is best for this child—a child who is loved by all!

Carolyn Tomlin writes for numerous family magazines. She teaches the Boot Camp for Christian Writers. She can be reached by email at