My grandmother and mother were the epitome of grandmothers at their best—cheerleaders, mentors, gentle teachers, encouragers, passionate advocates, and prayer-coverers. My loving grandmother always thought I could do anything and supported me all my life, and my mother has championed and loved my own children well. They both inspired me to write my newest children’s book, Nana the Great Comes to Visit.
Nearly everyone has discovered the gift of video conferencing — and almost everyone recommends it for weekly connection, if not more — but I wanted to share some unique ideas to connect with grandchildren, whether they’re near or far. I’m filing these options away for future use when I get to be a Nana! (Or Gramma. Or Mimi. I haven’t decided what my handle will be!)
IF YOU LIVE NEARBY
- Start a family text thread to share fun things every day — from funny videos to things you see.
- Figure out silly face filters on Facetime or Snapchat — kids love to laugh!
- Create an annual Gramma/Grampa Camp and have a special overnight (or two) and full day together doing something really fun. Eat at least one meal out at a restaurant of the child’s choice (or make their favorite at home).
- Have a weekly date with each local grandchild — two hours where you eat together and do something special. Kids share things in the car that they don’t at home. Make the most of it!
- Don’t just park your grandkids in front of a movie; watch it with them and get to know the characters and themes. Then, when they’ve watched it another 10 times, you’ll have a common reference point for chats.
- Do the Home Depot Kids Workshop together once a month.
- Remember how tired you were when you were a young parent? That’s your kids. So when the grandkids come over, do what most parents don’t have the energy to do: a special craft. Make a fort that takes over the whole living room. Break out the Play-doh. Fingerpaint. Even venture into slime and glitter. Work on a puzzle. Grandparents don’t pay much attention to mess (or figure it’s worth it), and that makes that time/activity special.
- Figure out a monthly “mystery adventure,” where you do something oriented to your grandchild’s interest and let them choose where you eat. Make it a rule that parents can’t know where you’re going or what you’re doing until the child comes home to fill them in.
- Invest in some old-fashioned board games to play. Lincoln Logs and LEGOs, too.
- Once a month, take each grandchild to “special breakfast” for one-on-one time.
- Create a scavenger hunt in your yard or house, leading to a special prize.
- Buy “adventures” rather than things for your grandchild—membership to a zoo, children’s museum, botanical garden, or activity center.
- As kids get older, they get busier; commit to driving them to one practice a week and staying for it. It connects you to their daily life (and the parents will be so thankful!).
IF YOU LIVE FAR AWAY
- Send care packages—birthdays, holidays, and sometimes “just because.”
- Weekly tea—share a cup and read them a book via Zoom, Skype, or Facetime! (The House Party app also allows Apple and Android users to connect.)
- Send a weekly card or note; kids love getting mail! Fun postcards with pictures are especially popular.
- Encourage your kids to send daily pics of the grandkids via text, just so you can see how life “feels” day-to-day and have something to talk about with the grandchildren—whether they’re sick or playing a sport or just winning at their favorite video game.
- Consider paying for the child to fly out to you (parents can take them to the gate, and you can get permission to meet a minor at the gate on the far side) and spend a week together every summer; such a tradition will live long in their hearts.
- Have a standing, weekly video phone date, so kids are mentally ready to engage and look forward to it.
- The Messenger Kids app has parent-guard filters, so it’s a safe app for them to use; establish and share a daily kid-friendly joke to make them giggle!
- Game Pigeon app allows you to play games like Uno, Battleship, and more together from afar! Or you can play Yahtzee or Farkle with them online.
- Create a family picture album that is baby-friendly, so they get to know your faces from the start.
- Send a goodie box before each holiday; fill with dollar-store items as well as a new book and a homemade treat.
- Create an airline fare watch so you can hop on a plane and go see them at least twice a year. Try to be present for big occasions. When you go, send Mom and Dad on a date on your dime—because it’s a gift to them and a gift to you to have time alone with your grandchild.
- Hallmark has recordable storybooks—record a few and send them to your grandchild so they know your voice.
- For kids abroad, you can buy books and send them for free via bookdepository.com.
- See if Mom or Dad is game to bake the same cake in separate kitchens at the same time. Then share a piece “together”!
- Buy a digital photo frame for each household and send one another pictures from your daily lives to keep it fresh for the other party.
More Resources Inspired by the Book:
Join Ms. Linda for a tender, spunky picture book that celebrates the ways loving grandparents help children find new adventures!
A fun activity kit to do with your grandkids inspired by the picture book Nana the Great Comes to Visit.
A how-to guide for hosting your own Grandparent Camp inspired by the picture book Nana the Great Goes Camping.
Books by the Author: