For grandparents, the arrival of a new grandchild is a time of excitement and delight. Usually, grandparents have all the pleasure of admiring the new baby but none of the responsibility!
However grandparents today are often called upon to take over the role of baby minding. It may be just on the odd occasion, but many grandparents are baby minders for a day or more a week, while the young parent is at work.
Advice from experienced grandparents to a new grandmother or grandfather is to remember that the essentials of child care have not changed that much: young children still need food and liquid, warmth, comfort and cleanliness, and loving attention. You may have to reacquaint yourself with some day-to-day mechanics of dealing with small children but have confidence in your own parenting ability - after all, you have done it all before and if the new parents entrust you to step into the responsible role of minding a young baby, they must trust your judgement.
If you find yourself regularly taking care of a baby or toddler, or older grandchildren, there are a few things to bear in mind:
- If minding a young baby it is a good idea to keep some items on hand in case they get left out of the baby bag - for instance, spare nappies, bibs and bottles, sachets of appropriate infant formula or jars of baby food.
- Though it is the grandparents' preserve to indulge grandchildren, try not to shower them with treats each time you look after them. All too quickly granny and grandpa's place will become associated with treat time, and you may have difficulty getting them to eat anything sensible.
- Ask the parents if they have any special wishes about feeding the children, or objections to giving them any particular food. It is important to respect the nutritional choices that your daughter or son and partner have made for their children. The occasional sweetie won't hurt, but, if for example, your daughter-in-law has chosen for the baby to be raised as a vegetarian, you should try not to undermine that choice.
- A picky or fussy eater is another matter. Very often foods that are currently spurned by a toddler at home, will be happily eaten at granny's place or when other children are enjoying the food. So do not anticipate a certain food will be disliked. If mum says her child will not eat this or that, it may simply be a passing fad (typical of this age group), or may be the way it was cooked or presented. Toddlers are changeable creatures. Grandmas can sometimes have success with new foods or tastes where mum has so far failed.
- Remember that those tried-and-true, simple dishes you grew up with are very often still favourites with children. And certainly the system of set, regular meal times, seated at the table, suits both grandparents and young children.
- Make sure you have a few child-friendly staples in the pantry in case you are called upon unexpectedly for toddler-minding duty. Most young children enjoy macaroni cheese, lasagne or spiral pasta with Bolognese sauce. Prepared minced beef sauce can be frozen in individual servings. Have a packet of custard powder or seameal custard on hand. And for savoury snacks it's easy to make ahead and freeze those old standby "Mousetraps". They thaw very quickly and children love them.
For more nutrition information refer to the Nutricia Guide to Picky Eaters. Or look for the Ministry of Health booklet, Eating For Healthy Babies and Toddlers, from birth to two years old.