Adults only: Grandchildren, animals … and pizza


Many of us older folk are fortunate enough to have grandchildren. I have six — two boys and four girls ranging in age from 10 years to four months. I consider myself lucky because two of them live right here on Shelter Island.

Two live on Long Island  and the others live in New Jersey, which in some ways might as well be the moon, considering how long it takes to get there.

Although I try to give them equal attention by planning trips and outings, the Island kids see me the most.

My time with them has made me aware of the plethora of activities available to Island children without going too far past Riverhead.

When choosing activities, a fundamental truth to remember is that youngsters love animals almost as much as they love pizza. You can plan on capping off an outing with a visit to a pizzeria.

I know that keeping animals in captivity is a controversial subject, but how else would we ever get close to a lion or a tiger or an elephant to appreciate these marvels of nature?

My grandchildren and I have had hours of fun at places like the aquarium in Riverhead, the Long Island Game Farm in Manorville,  the South Fork Natural History Museum in Bridgehampton and the Mashomack Visitor Center right here.

The large animals can be seen at the circus each year in Greenport.

Whichever venue you choose, children are usually treated to knowledgeable talks on wildlife, hands-on activities and up-close connections with many different forms of animal life.  Whether it’s a skate in the touch pool at the aquarium, a giraffe at the game farm, a turtle at the museum, birds at Mashomack or a dancing elephant at the circus, visits are always exciting.

I always have to remind my jaded, cynical self that the little ones are experiencing these sights and sounds, smells and sensations for the first time.

I hope to be making lifetime impressions on them.

Activities available all year round can be found at our local library. We are very fortunate here on this Island to have a library that is very kid-friendly.

Children’s Librarian Jennifer Blume is always ready to guide the kids to make appropriate book choices.

She has the knowledge and the patience.

There are also many children’s activities sponsored by the library.

I’ll explore summer adventures  in a future column.