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A Grand Day Out

Trips to grandparents - does anything divide parents more neatly down the middle? You either dread it or delight in it and there isn’t much room for uncomfortable fence perching on this issue.

It’s either a tense ordeal as words are spoken, old hostilities resumed and priceless ornaments totter on the edge of stone fireplaces as toddlers react to tension in the normal way. Or it’s a fabulous, comforting trip back to your own childhood and a welcome sharing of parental responsibilities with people who are old hands at the game.

You either go home wishing you lived much closer, or get straight onto job opportunity websites for the Falkland Islands. We believe the horrors of in-law or out-law visits are greatly exaggerated and the benefits of visiting grandparents are much valued across the land. But houses that are strangers to the thudding of tiny feet and the inquisitive and imaginative ways of toddlers are also potential danger zones for visiting families. Kitchens at grandparents are the source of much food related nostalgia, but it’s unlikely that they are as toddler proofed as home is.

Grandad’s, or grandma’s – let’s not make gender assumptions here, workshop or shed is a great place for learning. But only under supervision - otherwise they are full of extremely intriguing tins, jars of liquid and lurking sharp edges. If you’re only visiting a few times a year (then shame on you!) there is no requirement for grandparents to turn their home into a permanent risk free sector. So, it’s wise for parents to take the initiative – to have a quick look round before letting the toddlers off the lead in home or in garden. Take cupboard locks or improvise, check out the shed in advance, raise the subject with the parents or in-laws.

Well, clearly how that subject is raised is important. Careful handling of the issue is necessary – declaring mum-in-law’s kitchen to be a death-trap isn’t on the first page of the UN Peacekeeping manual. But sensible, healthy awareness and discussion is the recipe for a fun but safe visit. Toddlers then get the chance to explore a fascinating new environment. And someone else does the cooking.