Grandparent care is a popular form of informal child care that allows seniors and juniors to form strong bonds and share in fun experiences. Some grandparents look after children on an ad hoc basis, others put in regular days per week, and there are also grandparents who love to connect with their grandchildren, but cannot do so in person.
COVID-19 affected visits between some grandparents and grandchildren, and other families are always separated because of where they live.
The good news is that it is possible to overcome the tyranny of distance. Here are 5 ways for grandparents and grandchildren to stay connected when apart.
- Video calls
Zoom, Facetime, Skype, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger all make it easy to have a face-to-face interaction, and you can set aside a regular time each day/week or make the call whenever your child is feeling fresh and focused.
If your child is younger, it helps to sit with them to guide conservation and judge when they’re getting restless. While older children will be happy to have a chat, listen to stories, share photos/drawings, play ’20 Questions’, giggle at GIFs and send emojis!
Although it’s important to follow screen time guidelines, video calls can allow grandparents and grandchildren to share a meal, watch the same kids’ movie (using Netflix Party) or learn something new (whether that’s counting to 20 or solving a Sudoku).
- Phone calls
If your family has Zoom fatigue or your grandparent isn’t too tech savvy, then a good old-fashioned phone call is great too.
You can schedule this for a set time each day, and a bedtime call is a nice thing, with your child’s grandparent reading a different picture book each night or one or two chapters of a longer story. Young children are less engaged over the phone than in person, so a funny anecdote or favourite book is a good way to keep their attention.
- Letters and cards
Even young children can keep in touch with homemade greeting cards, drawings and letters written with Mum or Dad’s help.
Older children can be proper pen pals, and letters sent back and forth are a great way to share news, have something to look forward to, and hone your child’s hand-writing and narrative skills.
- Collaborate on a project
Distance is not a dampener on creativity, and there are lots of projects that grandparents and grandchildren can work on together. They might collaborate on a book (drafting one chapter each and emailing it back and forth), invent some recipes together or join forces on a photo album.
Your child might also like to design a woodworking or sewing project for their grandparent to complete. If Granny makes jam, your little one could design the labels, and if Grandad draws comics, your child can fill in the speech bubbles. The only limit is their creativity!
- Play games together
Some games can be played over video call (like Charades), some can be played over the phone (like 20 Questions) and some online games are made for multiplayer.
School children and grandparents will get the hang of online chess, and there are lots of apps that family members can play together, including:
- Words With Friends 2, which sees players scrambling to make words from the letters dealt
- Best Fiends Stars, which is a puzzle game with cute characters and team/chat features and
- Mario Kart Tour, which has a multiplayer function for classic racing.
Children shouldn’t be staring into a screen for long periods of time, but technology does make it easier than ever for different generations to connect.
It’s important to check in with your older parent regularly, especially if they’re isolated at home, and there are benefits for the whole family when children build strong relationships with their grandparents.
Grandparent care can be provided through conversations, correspondence and computing power, so think outside the square and look at new and creative ways for young and old to keep in touch.