Rediscovered Families

Ideas for grandparenting from a distance

Long Distance Grandparents: Tips For Staying Connected

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Do your grandchildren live far away? We’ve got loads of ideas to help you build relationship across the miles. Click through to find activities, games, apps and fun activities. Includes tips for using Skype or Facetime and lots more. You are going to be awesome long distance grandparents.

Long distance grandparents

The above photograph melts my heart every time I see it. It is a picture of my Dad holding my oldest son. I live a long way from my parents. We are in Canada and my parents are in the United Kingdom. It was my son’s first trip to see his grandparents.

I took the picture on the day we were leaving. My dad was getting in one more cuddle and I could see the sadness in his eyes as he held his precious grandchild close. I’m so glad that I had my camera nearby. It is a snapshot of a very tender moment of connection between the two of them.

Grandparents play such a special role in the lives of their grandchildren don’t they? I was really blessed as a child, because both sets of grandparents lived close by and I could visit them often.

My children were not so fortunate. They did not have easy access to their grandparents and sometimes several years would go by before we could afford a visit. That is not unusual in our increasingly mobile society, where vast distances often separate families.

Long distance grandparents

How to stay in touch with long distance grandchildren

In an ideal world all grandparents would live close to their grandkids. As this is not always possible I have gathered loads of ideas to help long distance grandparents build those special connections, even when they live in opposite corners of the world.

Send Mail

Children love getting things in the mail and my boys were no exception. My parents sent all kinds of things. Cards, letters, stickers, comics and small gifts arrived regularly and delighted my boys. It let them know that that their grandparents were thinking about them often. It meant a lot. Write often. It doesn’t have to be long letters. Postcards, short e-mails, and even texts help you stay in touch.

Send a weekly or monthly e-mail with interesting links to funny videos or fun activities. Here are a few activities you could share.

My parents visiting
My boys enjoying a visit from their grandparents

Video chat is the secret weapon for long distance grandparents

Technology is a marvel and makes things so much easier for long distance grandparents .Web chats allows you to see your grandchildren, watch them grow, and share their joys as they visit on screen. You can see and admire their artwork, new toy, or outfit. You can share jokes and talk about their daily lives. It is almost as good as a visit except you miss out on the cuddles. Sometimes it can be awkward though. Have you ever had that experience when you get on Skype and conversation freezes?

What kinds of things do you do to encourage conversation?

Ideas for grandparenting from a distance

Games to play on facetime with grandchildren

Lots of different games work well over video chat. If you like drawing you could try Pictionary. Another fun game is Tenzi, although you will both need to have the dice. Invite your grandchildren to set up their favorite board game and move your game pieces.

There are also lots of games that do not need boards. the following suggestions would work well over video chat.

App for long distance grandparents and grandchildren

You can play all kinds of online games with your grandkids at the click of a mouse. Check the apps out with parents first, so they can take a look and vet any privacy concerns. Some apps are free to download, but need in app purchases. Others have advertisements. Make sure you have permission BEFORE you suggest it to your grandchildren.

There are a number of board games apps. Some are free and others need to be bought. Note: A number of the free apps offer in-app purchases, so be aware there may be an extra cost down the line.

Skyping with grandparents

Hold a Netflix Party

Netflix Party allows you to watch Netflix with others online. Both parties need a free browser extension and a Netflix subscription. Then all you have to do is set up a watching party with your grandkids. Netflix adds group chat and synchronizes play back. It’s not quite the same as being in the same room, but kids may enjoy the chat box and all the emojis. Send them some popcorn and have the grandkids choose the show. Find out more here.

Share Books

Make a habit of calling at bedtime, so you can read your grandkids a bedtime story. If that isn’t practical create a recording. My parents borrowed children’s books from the library and recorded themselves reading the stories aloud. My boys loved those tapes. They would ask to hear them time and time again and it wasn’t unusual for them to drift off to sleep to the sounds of their grandparent’s voices.

If your grandchildren are older ask them what they are reading. Make a point of getting a copy of the same book and reading along. That way you can name the characters, talk about the plot, ask informed questions, or speculate about the ending.

my parents visit
My youngest soaking up the attention

Do Something Together

Distance doesn’t have to prevent you from working together on a project. You need to think outside the box, but you can definitely do projects even when you are long distance grandparents.

  • Come up with a challenge like drawing a picture every day. Then share your pictures the next time you talk. Joannha Basford has some free coloring pages. I love the 30 days of flowers. The idea is to color one flower every day. That would be perfect for a challenge.
  • Create a progressive story. Write the first paragraph of a story and upload it to Google Drive or Dropbox. Send the link to your grandkids, so they can add a paragraph. Keep going back and forth until the story is finished.
  • Do the same thing with a progressive picture. Start a picture and send it to your grandkids so they can add to it.
  • Maybe you can plant the same seeds in your separate gardens and report back as the plants grow.
  • Send your grandchildren coded messages. Kids love cyphers and I’ve got 6 Secret Codes For You To Try.

Anticipate Upcoming Visits.

Express excitement about impending visits. Talk about the walks you’ll take, what you’ll see and the fun things you will do. Make a survey with a list of activity suggestions, so that your grand kids can check off the ones that appeal. Create some kind of countdown calendar, so you can mark off the days together.

Recall Previous Visits

My Mom was good at this. In her letters and phone calls she would often refer to things that she had done with the boys. She would talk about the mischievous ducks they had fed together, the trees that the boys had climbed, or “the special place” in the park that they had explored. It was a way of honoring the memories of the precious time they had spent together. Recalling these kinds of stories helped her build deep connections with my boys.

You might make a vacation book or collage of your time together. Send it to the grandchildren as a keepsake. It’s also a great reminder of how fun visiting you can be.

Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.”

Alex Haley

Your Turn

Are you long distance grandparents? I’d love to hear from you. how do you stay in touch with grandkids far away? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas for connecting long distance. Please share them in the comments section below.

Long distance grandparents

9 thoughts on “Long Distance Grandparents: Tips For Staying Connected”

  1. Wonderful reminder Sharon of how important our grandparents are. When I moved across the country, NB to AB, my gp’s traded cassette tapes back and forth. My grandfather would occasionally tell a story on the tape. I treasure hearing his voice now, that he’s gone.

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  3. Hi Sharon:
    I agree, I believe the role of grandparents are vital in our children’s lives. But like you, we live very far away, making visits a rare thing. Our children do ask “When is grandma or grandpa coming to visit?” It breaks my heart everything…to be honest, I miss my parents as well.

    Do do the phone call and Facetime regularly. These other tips are great too…especially #3 Share Books and #5 Share A Common Project.”

    Like always, your tips are always very practical.

    Thanks Sharon!

    1. Sharon Harding

      Glad you found it helpful Kelvin. It is really hard to be so far away from family isn’t it. I often feel torn between two countries. <>

  4. Isn’t technology great! I didn’t grow up near my grandparents and would have loved to connect with them the way my son is able to connect with his distant grandparents! Thanks for linking up at the Thoughtful Spot!

    1. Sharon Harding

      Technology is fantastic! My family is getting together for a big celebration this Sunday. I can’t be there in person, but I can be there via Facetime. It’s not quite the same, but it helps bridge the distance.

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