Modern grandparents are often long-distance grandparents — instead of over the river and through the woods, it could be over several states and a handful of connecting flights to grandmother’s house we go. Admittedly, it can be tricky for far-flung family members to form a close bond with toddlers — for whom “out of sight, out of mind” is a way of life. But today’s grandmas and grandpas have an advantage that their parents didn’t — a bunch of high-tech options for keeping in touch. Suggest your parents invest in a web cam and digital recorder (if they don’t have these tech toys already) or send them the gear as a “new grandparents” present. Once they’re ready to roll, try any or all of the following suggestions:
- Set up Skype dates. Most seniors are computer-savvy, and almost anyone can master the basics of Skyping in a few minutes. Faraway relatives can become highly anticipated regular visitors once your tot sees their faces and hears their voices fairly often on the computer screen. Weekly Skype dates that everyone can look forward to are great, but spontaneous chats also work well — particularly if your munchkin is eager to show off the brand-new ball he just got.
- Keep your parents present. You can bring Nana and Pop-Pops into your toddler’s life by making sure their faces are well represented around your house. A digital picture frame is a toddler-friendly way to display a range of photos showing your parents (and their beloved grandkid) in a variety of places. You can use old photos to tell stories about them (“See, Nana’s the bride!”) or share your own childhood memories (“When I was your age, Pop-Pops took me to the circus — see, there we are!”).
- Bring them in for bedtime. Ask your parents to record your cutie’s favorite bedtime story on a digital tape player (they can play different characters or take turns narrating). Then you and your tot can listen as you snuggle and follow along with the book. If your routine-loving toddler won’t stand for any narrator but you at bedtime, play your parents’ recording during one of your daytime reading sessions.
- Give them a starring role. Even if they’re a world away, long-distance grandparents can seem as if they live next door once your sweetie knows what their house looks like. So get them to record their surroundings, narrating the tour as they roam from room to room. It might not be Oscar-worthy, but your curious critter will get a kick out of seeing shots of Grandma’s kitchen, living room, and the always-fascinating bathroom (maybe with Grandpa brushing his teeth!). Ask your parents to shoot scenes in the garage, backyard, or around the neighborhood so your tot can recognize those familiar spots the next time he visits and feel more at-home there too.
Of course, high-tech isn’t the only way to stay close. Grams and Gramps can always reach out the old-fashioned way, via snail mail. Toddlers love getting packages — and they don’t need to be filled with fancy presents. Ask your parents if they wouldn’t mind sending a small package every couple of weeks with stickers or brightly colored paper and crayons or a board book, along with photos of the happy gift-givers. Your little one will treasure his treats from his grandparents, no matter how small.
Here’s to long-distance love!