polar bear costume
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
January 6, 2021 ·  5 min read

Grandparents wear polar bear costumes so they can finally hug their grandkids after 9 months

One pair of grandparents hadn’t hugged their grandsons since the lockdown in March. They were devastated that they would have to stay separate for the holidays as well. That is, until they came up with a brilliant idea: giant, inflatable, polar bear costumes. 

Hugging their grandkids were “the best six minutes” of their whole year, according to Barbara and Clive Walshaw. And the kids — six-year-old Quinn, eight-year-old Morgan, and 14-year-old Mackenzie — were overjoyed to see them, especially in such fun attire. 

Grandparents Surprise Their Grandkids in Polar Bear Costumes 

Since they are in their 70s, Barbara and Clive had been self-isolating throughout this pandemic, but the holiday season was especially difficult. The original plan was to celebrate Christmas virtually with a laptop on the end of each of their dinner tables. Then Barbara thought of an ingenious idea.  

While she was shopping online, she found the inflatable polar bear costumes. The perfect thing to wear to a holiday visit to her grandsons. Afterward, she said it was the “best £15 she’d ever spent”. [1] 

At first they couldn’t understand why they couldn’t come round and it was so heartbreaking,” Barbara said. “We normally spend Christmas day with them and we wondered what we were going to do with all that’s been going on. We wanted to be careful because if we got poorly it wouldn’t just be us that were poorly, the boys would feel like they were responsible for it — which isn’t what we wanted.” 

The close family used to visit each other several times a week. The grandparents even keep a guest room for the grandkids to sleep over. 

Around noon on Christmas Day, the couple adorned their 6-foot polar bear gear and snuck to their grandkids’ house. “The costumes worked really well. Totally enclosed. It was the best idea I’ve ever had I think.” [2] 

A Christmas to Remember 

Inside, Neil Walshaw, 45, and Hazel, his wife, told their kids about the rumors about polar bear sightings in their area. When the boys walked outdoors to check, they saw their grandparents plodding toward them in giant polar bear costumes.  

Quinn, the youngest, was so surprised, he ran inside and back out again “to make sure it was real”. 

Neil said that this was a Christmas memory the boys would “never forget”. He added, “They are the best grandparents in Leeds.” 

The younger boy was a bit overawed by these massive polar bears, but when he realized it was us it was so lovely. So many cuddles. It was amazing,” said Barbara. “Everyone was so happy in those six minutes. And we laughed and cried. I loved it.” 

The pandemic had taken its toll on the family, as it had affected so many people all over the world. 

We’ve not had any physical contact since [March] and it’s been so hard as they’re really involved grandparents,” said Neil. “This year has been so tough but after seeing them, we were buzzing all day. 

The grandkids will never forget it. It was fantastic.” [3] 

Read: Green-Thumbed Man Grows Plants Worth $15,000 Per Leaf, Inspired by Grandmother’s Love

Grandparenting During the Pandemic 

With elderly people being especially susceptible to the virus, many grandparents are trapped in isolation and unable to meet with their loved ones. As opposed to the casual and heart-felt visits from before the pandemic, video calls and distanced visits feel more transactional, like a business meeting instead of a family reunion. Fortunately, there are ways to foster more meaningful relationships while staying safe. 

1. Become part of the grandkids’ routines.

This could involve helping the children with homework or personal pursuits. Or it could be reading to the kids. “That could be Grandma’s job every night before the child goes to bed,” suggested Amy Goyer, AARP’s family and caregiving expert. “That establishes a routine. It’s their special thing. And it gives the parents a break.” 

2. Have the kids teach the grandparents

Kids love sharing hobbies, especially ones that are new to their grandparents. Online gaming is a great example of this. “One of the things kids really like to do is feel super confident,” said Chuck Kalish, a cognitive and developmental psychologist and senior adviser for science at the Society for Research in Child Development. “The fact they might be better at it than their grandparents, that can be super rewarding.” 

3.Have the grandparents teach the kids

Grandparents possess a wealth of knowledge they’d enjoy passing on to their loved ones, like family history and recipes. “You could share your great-grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe and agree to both make them and then eat them together on the phone,” said Dr. Ken Ginsburg, director of programs at the Center for Parent and Teen Communication at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 

4. Write letters with snail mail.

Take a break from Zoom and technology and try an old-fashioned method of strengthening relationships. “It’s really important for children to know that adults think about them even when we’re not talking to them or present with them,” Dr. Ginsburg said. Additionally, everyone enjoys receiving mail, and the kids could save the letters and reread them whenever they like. [4] 

The best part about finding a creative way for grandparents and grandkids to bond is that they could continue after the pandemic. Except then their relationships could be strengthened even more with in-person contact.

Keep Reading: Why a Maternal Grandmother Is So Important for a Child


  1. “Grandparents Finally Get to Hug Grandkids After 9 Months Thanks to Inflatable Polar Bear Costumes.” Good News Network. Jan 2, 2021. 
  2. “Grandparents hug grandkids for first time since March thanks to polar bear costumes.” Yahoo Style UK. Marie Claire Dorking. December 30, 2020.
  3. “Grandparents wear polar bear costumes so they can finally hug their grandkids after 9 months.” Upworthy. Sethuraman S. January 4, 2021 
  4. “Pandemic Grandparenting, Beyond the Dreary Video Calls.” NY Times. Allison Gilbert. October 30, 2020.