Retirement in The Villages, FL
Keeping Our Visiting Grandchildren Entertained
Teaching them new skills using unique new experiences. Planning upfront pulled them away from their cell phones and video games.
They all did many things that they never expected, some from the Academy and others that we do frequently. We don’t fit the old and slow grandparent stereotype.
The Villages Academy provides child/grandparent activities in the summer for all ages, but that doesn’t cover 24 hours. The two girls, 9 & 11, and two boys, 12 & 14, with their parents, arrived on Wednesday afternoon. The father and three younger ones left on Sunday. The mother and teenager left on Monday afternoon.
Wednesday — Karaoke Night
After they arrived and checked into the motel, we went to City Fire on the Sumpter Landing Town Square for dinner and entertainment. Allan Ross hosted karaoke, which is very popular in The Villages, with its many karaoke clubs.
After dinner, I performed my signature song, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, to the typical polite clapping and sat down.
We weren’t paying much attention to the kids at their table until I saw that
Anistyn, the 9-year-old, was up to sing next!
She received the largest ovation of the night, but what would you expect from an audience of grandparents.
Not to be outdone, Olivia, the 11-year-old, and mother did a duet.
Then, Anistyn and Olivia performed another duet. The boys refused to participate, maybe because they are older and wiser.
Many places have summer programs for kids. The Villages Academy, which generally provides adult classes for residents, scheduled 22 events per week for grandchildren. Tickets sell out fast. We managed to snag four events.
The rules: visitors must register with The Villages and get a visitors pass. A parent or grandparent must accompany the child (the Academy is not a babysitter).
- Roaming Raptors. The boys, Connor and Diego, and their father went to visit the birds, i.e., local birds of prey. The bird handler brought in a live owl, hawk, and falcon. See the heading picture, top left.
- Arts and Crafts: Paper Quilling. Funny what you can do with little strips of paper just by gluing them edgewise on a piece of paper. Olivia and her mother made a flower and a bunch of balloons. See the heading picture, bottom left.
- Cupcake Decorating. It was a new experience for me. Anistyn and I started with four empty cupcakes and pre-sorted toppings, just like the TV cooking shows. She spread on the icing and added the face pieces for the first one. After that, she delegated spreading the icing to me. See the results in the heading picture, bottom right.
- Cooking Competition with Top Chefs from City Fire. On Monday, Diego teamed with three girls to prepare a flatbread dessert. Under supervision by a chef, they selected their ingredients, designed their dish, baked it, then presented it to the judges — just like the TV show “Chopped.” When asked who would speak for the team, the girls all turned to Diego. They came in second. See the results in the heading picture, top right.
- Juke Box. The Villages threw a party for all visiting grandchildren, parents and grandparents. After snacks, they started the children line dancing (no parents or grandparents).
Then, they spread colored hula-hoops on the floor. When the music stopped, the kid put a foot into a hoop. If your foot was in the selected color, you sat down — a different form of musical chairs.
Tennis, Swimming and Hair Styling
Not all was organized fun and games. They got the afternoons off.
The boys played tennis and everyone took advantage of the quiet pool at the hotel. That was quite a change from the congested public pools and tennis courts back home.
The girls had their hair done. They were the only ones in the shop. I think that the hairdressers, who are near our age, had as much fun as the girls.
Anistyn has always admired my wife’s purse, which she made out of a pair of boy’s blue jeans more than 20 years ago.
So, they decided to make Anistyn a purse, too. Together at the fabric store, they picked out the fabric, the strap ribbon, and Anistyn added a sparkling puppy foot for the side.
It was a team effort! We doubt that Anistyn had ever sewn anything in her life, but after practicing on scraps, she sewed the straight seams and my wife did the difficult corners and the strap. Then they ironed on the puppy foot.
Last year, Anistyn’s most memorable moment was when the girls and I made bread. They measured the ingredients, watched it rise, and then bake. We ate it at a picnic the next day.
I am sure that making that purse will be the most memorable for this year.
She can carry that purse every day and she helped make it.
Holding the Alligator
The Academy had already sold out of tickets by the time our neighbor, Jack Boyd, learned his grandson was visiting. There are plenty of activities nearby that are not actually part of The Villages, though.
So, they went on an airboat ride. After the ride, the boy was allowed to hold a young alligator for pictures. Jack showed me the picture on the cell phone.
I expected to see the boy holding a small alligator in his hands in front of him. Shock! The alligator had its chin resting on the boy’s shoulder and its tail was touching the ground. That alligator was well over 4 feet long!
I am kind of glad that our older boys did not know about that thing. However, when they read this article, they will probably want to visit it next year.
The kids always look forward to visiting. There are so many unusual activities in and around The Villages. Every visit has been a new experience for them.
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