Updated June 2022
A 2019 AARP survey found that more than half of American families are dealing with distances of more than 200 miles between grandparents and at least one grandchild. It can be painful to be physically distanced, but that doesn’t mean you have to be emotionally distanced as well. Thank goodness for video chat and Zoom calls! But why stop there? Why not try a few projects that can help you stay connected while having fun in the process? FirstLantic has seven ideas that can bring you and your grandkids together while you are physically apart.
- Read a bedtime story together – Make a standing date to read to your grandchild every night. It will be a treat for them and you and provide a break for mom and dad. Obviously, this won’t work for your teenage grandkids! So, you might have a better time staying in touch with them via chat, but if you check in regularly, it can keep you close and connected. Please don’t assume that they don’t need you because they are older. The teenage years are especially tough for most adolescents; knowing you are there for them will make a difference.
- Play online games together – There are many virtual games that you can play over video chat. And even board games are available online such as Monopoly, Scrabble, Chess, and more. You can also try entertaining (and educational) games with your older grandkids like Words with Friends or Wordle, where you can challenge each other to a little friendly competition!
- Make a scrapbook – Because everything in our life is digital these days, physical scrapbooks or photo albums seem to be a thing of the past. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t revive them and have some fun. Try this project – ask your grandchild to make a scrapbook of milestones in their life to date, i.e., when they won that baseball trophy, when they played the lead in the holiday play, or their graduation from first grade. If they don’t have physical mementos like photos, ask them to draw a picture or write something to describe the event. Then you reciprocate and do the same thing. It’s a great way to give them a peek at what you were like when you were younger. They will have fun looking at those old photos of mom and dad as toddlers or a picture of you when you turned 21, got your first car, or at your wedding. Again, the idea is to have fun, so don’t stress if you can’t find the perfect physical remembrance. Write something about it instead, or print out photos from the Internet of a similar car to the first one you drove. Just be creative and have a laugh while you’re doing it.
- Write a story together – The first steps are to decide on a simple premise. It could be something like a child’s first day at school or a family’s process of adopting a kitten. Once you’ve decided collectively on the story’s concept, get the ball rolling, and write the opening chapter. Keep it to just a few pages at the most. You can even draw some pictures to go along with it. Now ask your grandchild to write the second chapter. Again, this is about having fun and not trying to become another Shakespeare. If writing a story is too complicated, develop a short list of questions such as what’s their favorite animal or flower, the funniest thing that ever happened to them, etc. Have them write down some questions for you, and then pick a time to read the answers out loud to each other.
- Record your family history – Video record your family’s story. Talk about your ancestry, your family, your favorite subjects in school, how you met Granddad, and what it was like to have your children. You can talk about anything that will give them an idea of what happened in your life before they came into the picture. They will appreciate getting to know your history more through your words and will always have it as a reminder of you. You can also record stories to be archived in the Library of Congress as part of the “preserving the stories of America project” through StoryCorps.org.
- Visit a foreign country – Virtually, at least! Pick a country you have always wanted to visit, spend some time researching, and then share the facts. Each of you picks a few things you are responsible for finding out, such as the language spoken in that country, their most famous capital city monuments, or national holidays. You can even choose a country specific to your ethnicity, which is an excellent way for your grandchild to learn more about their heritage.
- Play a game of trivia – Ask your grandchild to pick a subject they are interested in, such as baseball stats from 2021 or paintings created by a particular artist. Spend two days researching the topic, develop five questions each, and then quiz each other to see how much you both learned and retained. It’s fun to share a topic your grandchild is interested in while also helping them understand the process of researching a topic.
In summary, it doesn’t matter if you go high or low-tech with your grandkids. The bottom line is that no matter what you decide to do, the fun is doing it together (even while remote) and creating long-lasting memories. In fact, research has shown that involved grandparents report having more meaning in their lives, as well as lower levels of stress and depressive mood. For grandchildren, studies have shown that kids who spend more time with grandma and grandpa tend to have fewer emotional and behavioral problems. So, do what you can to build that bond because both your grandkids and their mom and dad will thank you!
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