Getting to know your grandbaby from afar is hard, but distance isn’t a barrier to a baby bonding with grandparents.
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Welcoming your first grandchild is so exciting, but not all of us can be there to meet them. When grandparents are at a distance, it sometimes seems as if we won’t have the chance to bond with our grandchild during the early months. We worry that missing that crucial developmental stage will have an impact on our entire relationship.
Have no fear! First, unless you met your spouse at birth or have never made a friend, you know it’s entirely possible to have a meaningful relationship with someone you meet later in life. If you don’t meet your grandchild until they are out of the cradle, you can still form a deep, lasting bond.
Second, there are ways for you to make sure your grandbaby knows you from birth, even if you aren’t there. Babies learn through sight and sound, and you can make sure they hear and see you with these four ideas.
Message in a Bear
This plush bear from Amazon has a voice recorder inside. You’ll record a 20 second message, then send the bear to your grandchild’s parents. They can activate it so your voice becomes part of your grandbaby’s world. Not sure what to say? Sing a simple song like Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star, or recite a nursery rhyme. Or tell them how much you love them, or how much you look forward to meeting them. You can order the Record-a-Voice Bear here.
A Book of You
Pinhole Press’ board books are ideal for helping babies learn the faces of distance grandparents. Create a book with 12-20 photos of you as you go about your day. Include pictures of you making silly faces or various expressions. Include distance aunts and uncles or cousins, if you’d like. My grandchildren adore the one we made for them with all their loved ones, and it’s held up incredibly well. Order your own book here.
We are incredibly lucky to be grandparents in the age of video chat. Facetime, Skype, Zoom, Google Meet—whatever platform you use, having the opportunity to interact with your grandchild from afar is perhaps the most exciting technical advance I can think of (though depositing a check with my phone might be a close second!).
Just remember that a baby’s attention span is miniscule, and don’t expect them to engage with the screen for a few months. In the early days, just talking to them for a minute or two is enough to start getting them familiar with your voice. As they get older, they will eventually notice you and begin to interact! A great time for FaceTime is while they are having tummy time—just ask their parents to set the screen where you can see the baby and sing your favorite songs! Check out this blog post for video chat ideas when they get a little older.
Record-a-Story Books from Hallmark
The product development team at Hallmark clearly knows their market: They have a collection of recordable story books that are designed with grandparents in mind. The stories include some wonderful titles like Under the Same Moon, Even Elephants Have Grandmas, and All the Ways I Love You. You buy the book, record the story, then send it to your grandbaby. As parents share the book with them, they’ll become familiar with your voice. (Hopefully you will do better than me and be able to read emotional stories without choking up!) Find your favorite at Hallmark.com or your local Hallmark store.
(Just a note: Amazon carries some recordable books, but they have terrible reviews. The Hallmark ones are worth the extra money, so I linked to them even though I’m not an affiliate.)
Do you have any other tips for bonding with baby from a distance? Please share them in the comments!
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Today's post is written by Winston (Winn) Egan, author of Grandparenting on Purpose.
First, let’s begin with a BIG disclaimer. Not everything you do with grandchildren needs to be purposeful. There’s great value in just “hanging out” with your grandchildren—listening to what they have to say, enjoying spontaneous conversations and outings, and just having fun with them.
However, I think there is much to be gained from being intentional and purpose-driven in providing experiences and activities for grandchildren. Here are two illustrative stories about our attempts to make family activities more purposeful and meaningful for our grandchildren. We hope they’ll be helpful to you.
In our community, a savvy company sells ice-cream sandwich seconds, Fat Boy[s]. The sandwiches are seconds for a variety of reasons. They’re missing something—the top or bottom of the sandwich. Or the sandwich is incomplete in some fashion. However, they appear to be the same because of how they are packaged. If you were to look at the packaging, you would think there is nothing wrong with these sandwiches. So, when the company sells them in our area, I buy a lot of them—sometimes 40 or 50. They are cheap. They taste great. And my grandchildren and our neighbors love them.
So, how did I use these sandwiches with my grandchildren and their parents? It was simple. At the end of a family dinner, I told the grandchildren I had a terrific dessert for all of them. I suggested it was a one-of-kind treat we’d never served before that evening. Of course, the grandchildren were very interested in the dessert. Take note! Curious grandchildren are more attentive when you are trying to make a point or teach an important life concept.
I removed my box of frozen Fat Boy[s] from our freezer. I then provided these instructions:
Our grandchildren were quick to observe the differences among and between their sandwiches. At this “peak” moment, I asked questions like these:
It’s tempting for grandparents to buy too many gifts for their grandchildren, especially when they don’t see them often. The main reason I don’t might surprise you.
I was having lunch last year with a friend whose second grandbaby had just been born. When we finished lunch, she mentioned that she had to pop into the boutique next door to get gifts before she went to visit her grandchildren the following week.
“What’s the occasion?” I asked her.
“No special occasion—I just always bring them something when I come visit!”
I didn’t want to rain on her parade, so I just smiled and accompanied her to the boutique, which was almost certainly designed specifically to appeal to grandmothers. It was full of adorable toys and clothes and books and gadgets, all artfully displayed and temptingly priced.
I won’t tell you what she bought, but I was a little shocked by the pile of things she accumulated as we browsed. When I saw the size of the bag she carried when we left the store, I briefly wondered if I should share my own philosophy about bringing gifts when I visit.
I decided against it, but I’ll share it with you now:
I don’t bring my grandchildren gifts when I come visit.
One reason is that they have enough stuff, and their parents don’t want any more.
Another reason, let’s face it, is that I’m cheap and hate throwing away money on things that will quickly be cast aside.
But neither of these are my main motivation.
My main reason for arriving without presents is so that my grandchildren remain excited to see me. I don’t want to be greeted with, “What did you bring me?” I want the focus to be on each other, and not what may be tucked away in my purse or hiding in my suitcase.
What I do sometimes bring: a book we’ve been reading together, so they can see it in real life and we can pour over the pictures side-by-side. Recently, it may be a chapter book we are in the middle of, that I’ll finish while we are visiting. Or maybe I’ll bring a game we can play together, one that I’ll likely take back home so we can enjoy it at our house when they come visit us.
When he remembers, Pops brings treasure: a fake jewel and a pirate doubloon for each of them, which he’ll leave under their pillow to be discovered when we leave. This way, it’s a reminder of our visit, and a way to soften our departure.
What do we always bring? We bring hugs and time to give our full attention to these small people and their parents (who sometimes do get presents when we come, like tea and chocolate and books!). While I may change my strategy as my grandkids get older, for now, I don’t bring them gifts.
When I come to visit, I consider the visit itself a gift—to all of us. And when I arrive, I usually hear these words, “DeeDee! I missed you so much!”
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I received a complimentary copy of Grandparenting on Purpose from the author, in exchange for an honest review. As an Amazon affiliate, I may receive a commission for purchases made through links on this site, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for helping to keep this site ad-free.
“To be purposeful is to be focused and intentional in your grandparenting. You are clear about what you are trying to contribute to your grandchildren’s happiness and how you hope to be useful to them and their parents.”
M. Winston Egan and Linda Egan, authors of
Grandparenting on Purpose: Fresh Ideas, Activities and Traditions for Connecting with Grandchildren Near and Far
The Egans could be considered professional grandparents, with 22 grandchildren when their book was published, and they confess that they are a little “over the top” in their grandparenting. It is clearly a calling of the highest priority in this season of their lives, and this book is proof of their dedication to that calling. Grandparenting on Purpose is packed with ideas for connecting, and connecting genuinely and deeply. While not everyone is prepared to list grandparent as their primary job title, the Egans have much to teach those who may be more casual in their approach.
Grandparenting on Purpose will be especially helpful for those with older grandchildren. For example, the chapter entitled “Discovering the Needs of Your Grandchildren and Parents” has excellent ideas for connecting, but most really apply to children of school age and above. New grandparents will find plenty of inspiration for the years to come, but perhaps less that they can immediately apply.
Other chapters are dedicated to traditions, routines, and family themes, with in-depth explanations of the Egans’ own family’s practices. Peppered with feedback from their grandchildren, it’s clear that the traditions and activities they’ve initiated over the years have had a positive impact on their family. As they share what has worked for them, they also provide suggestion for implementing their ideas with your children and grandchildren. Each chapter ends with prompts for you to reflect and record, helping you to organize your thoughts and decide how to apply what you’ve read to your own family.
Grandparenting on Purpose has a distinctly Christian perspective, with occasional references to prayer and faith throughout the book. Some readers may find that is foreign to their own family experience. However, if you are looking for ideas for sharing your faith with your grandchildren, the chapter on building spirituality can be applied to any faith.
If you’ve created a Grand Plan through New Grandparent Essentials, and your intention is to be a fully-present influence on your grandchild’s life, Grandparenting on Purpose should be on your shelf to refer to in the years to come. (And if you haven't yet taken time to reflect on what your goals as a grandparent are, there's no better time than now!)
Order a copy of Grandparenting on Purpose from Amazon.
Music is a magical way to build strong bonds with your grandchildren–and have fun while you are at it!
Before he could walk, my grandson could dance. Whenever he heard a lively song, he began to move his body to the beat. When his muscles and coordination caught up to his desire to move, he became a dancing machine. Naturally, we all provided lots of lively music to encourage him, and we were rewarded with performance after performance.
We are wired to recognize rhythm from the earliest age, and nearly every culture has songs that are meant to soothe babies and entertain young children. Whether you are a music lover or not, music is an incredible way to connect with your grandchildren. Here are five ways to use music when you are playing with your grandchildren.
1. Singing and reciting
Even those among us who were not blessed with vocal talent can sing a lullaby or The Itsy Bitsy Spider. Hearing these songs over and over teaches important elements of speech and communication, like tempo, pitch, and rhythm. The call and response of songs like Down by the Bay mimic conversation and improve listening skills. What’s more, sharing the songs and rhymes that our parents and grandparents taught us connects the generations. Plus it’s fun!
2. Rhythm instruments
Hand a baby a spoon, and they will bang it on whatever they can reach. Making music is really just a refined version of making noise. As babies learn they can make noise, they will delight in every opportunity to do so. Providing them with ways to make noise helps develop their ability to make music. Simple rhythm instruments like shakers, tambourines, and small drums are a wonderful way to introduce musical instruments. Homemade versions are easy to create and just as effective. Provide different size cans and containers and a wooden spoon or two, and sit down with your grandchild and tap out rhythms together.
3. Parent-child music classes
Many communities offer parent-child music classes designed for very young children. These make a thoughtful gift for young parents, provided their schedule allows for it. If you are a local grandparent, you might even be able to tag along or fill in for the parents. To find a class, try Music Together, Kindermusik, or Google “Parent child music classes” plus their zip code.
4. Sharing favorites
Music is a great way to share parts of yourself with your grandchildren, no matter their age. What are your favorite songs? Your favorite artists? Your favorite genres? Share them! Play classical music during breakfast, or Garth Brooks while you build with blocks. Not only are you exposing them to things you love, you are creating powerful musical memories. Play Purple Rain often enough, and some day they will hear it somewhere and think of you.
5. Live performances
Children often don’t realize that the songs they hear at home are made by real people playing real instruments. Taking them to a live performance can inspire and delight them, and sharing live music can help connect them with their community. Look for local performances aimed at children, or summer concerts in the park. As they get older, attending concerts and recitals can broaden their horizons and bond you through a shared love of music.
Encouraging babies and small children to sing and move to music is a lot of fun—and has the added benefit of helping their cognitive and social development. As grandparents, it’s an ideal activity for the time we spend with them, even from a distance.
More ways to connect:
5 Ways to Be More Present with Your Grandkids
Connecting with Grandchildren Through Reading
Being Silly Keeps You Young
“Play enriches our grandchildren’s lives and our own.” Judith Van Hoorn
As an Amazon affiliate, I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you. Thank you for helping to support this site.
Are you an energetic grandparent who loves to get in on your grandchildren’s games, or one who prefers to observe them as they play? In either case, you’ll find The Gift of Play both fascinating and helpful. Van Hoorn’s book explores and explains the importance of play for children, and how grandparents can foster and participate in their games and interests.
I consider myself more of an observer than a playmate, yet The Gift of Play expanded my understanding of play and made me realize I participate quite often. Reading stories, exploring math and nature, and enjoying art and music are all forms of play for children, and I love those activities. Judith Van Hoorn provides background on how a child’s mind develops and how play fosters that development, plus activity tips and charming stories of grandparents and grandchildren playing together.
Van Hoorn tackles each area of play separately, providing evidence for their importance and examples of how children engage in them. While most of the book focuses on early childhood, when play is the all-encompassing center of a child’s life, she includes a chapter on the play of older children. She recognizes that grandparents may not live near enough to play with their grandkids in person, and includes ideas for playing from a distance. She also provides a useful list of resources for grandparents who want to learn more about how they can enter into their grandchildren’s world and support their development.
Van Hoorn is an expert on play, having studied, taught and written about children’s play for decades. She has, quite literally, written the textbook on play. This book, however, is not a textbook. It’s an engaging resource for grandparents who want to help support their grandchildren’s learning and development while creating memories and deeper bonds. I highly recommend it for any grandparent who wants to make their time with their grandchildren richer and more meaningful.
Purchase a copy now from Amazon.
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A convenient way to help new parents when they visit grandparents
It’s almost that time: summer vacation and the beginning of the grandchildren visiting season. What do grandparents need to do to get ready for these precious visitors? One of the best ways is to help new parents by minimizing the amount of stuff they need to bring with them when they visit.
I’ve written before about how helpful it is to have baby gear on hand for when your grandchildren visit. Traveling with small people is hard enough without having to lug a portable crib, car seat and baby toys along. But what if you don’t have the room to store a highchair between visits, or it doesn’t make sense to invest in a really good car seat? There’s an answer: renting baby equipment for the duration of their stay.
What Baby Equipment Do Grandparents Need?
Whether your grandchildren come to your house every day or just once a year, there are things you’ll want to have at your house to simplify visits for everyone. For babies and toddlers, a safe place to sleep and somewhere to sit during meals are probably the most important. If your grandchild and her parents are arriving by plane, having a car seat already installed when you pick them up at the airport will earn you gold stars. (Just make sure you’ve checked with the parents to confirm you get the right kind, and read both the car seat directions and your car’s owner’s manual carefully to ensure you install it correctly.)
Those three things are the most vital, but there are lots of other things that will make the visit more relaxing for everyone. Depending on the baby’s age, you may want to have safety gates or an infant bathtub. You’ll want things to keep your grandchild occupied with toys, books, an activity gym or a swing. You can make bedtime easier with a blackout curtain, noise machine or toddler night light.
If your grandchildren will visit often, it may be worth it to buy the most basic items like a portable crib and foldable high chair. But it doesn’t make sense if they only visit once a year! Luckily, you can now rent baby equipment in many places.
Books with grandmothers that your grandchildren will love
As an Amazon affiliate, I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you. Thank you for helping to keep this site ad-free.
Is there any doubt that grandmothers are important? Not according to research, and not according to the authors of these eight picture books about grandmothers. We are constantly on the lookout for stories that feature grandmothers, and these are our current favorites.
Each of these books features a grandmother with a special relationship with her grandchild. Which one will you get to celebrate your relationship with your grandchild? (Click any title or photo to shop on Amazon!)
I Really Want to See You, Grandma
by Taro Gomi
Originally published in Japan, this delightful story tells the tale of Yumi and her grandmother’s frustrating attempts to visit one another. Its simple words and expressive pictures will appeal to the youngest grandchildren.
When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree
by Jamie L. B. Deenihan
This was a favorite of the grands, especially the six year-old. The grandmother in this book plays a small but key role in the story. The humor and colorful pictures share more than one important message, all wrapped up in an engaging plot.
Nana in the City
by Lauren Castillo
A Caldecott Honor book, Castillo’s wonderful images fill a book about perspective and the influence a grandparent can have on a child’s experience. Nana’s love for her grandson and his love for her come shining through the simple story.
by Arthur Dorros
The colorful, intricate illustrations take the reader on a magical trip through New York City with Rosalba and her abuela. With lots of Spanish words, a focus on family and references to immigration, this book can be a springboard for meaningful conversations with children.
Last Stop on Market Street
by Matt De La Pena
The relationship between CJ and his nana is an integral part of this award-winning story, and their bus trip across town is long enough to show how important Nana is to molding CJ’s experience of the world. The lyrical text is fun to read out loud to your grands.
The Hello, Goodbye Window
by Norton Juster
Nanna and Poppy's Window is the lens through which we see a delightful relationship between grandparent and grandchild. It stands up to repeated readings--even three in a row! Each time we read it, we have a different conversation inspired by the book.
How to Babysit a Grandma
by Jean Reagan
Perfect for reading with Grandma! Babysitting a grandma requires doing all the things she loves to do with her grandchildren. The silly premise and playful illustrations will make your grandchildren giggle.
A Grandma’s Magic
by Charlotte Offsay
This one is a perfect gift for grandmothers. The story is lovely: the sentiment is sweet without being cloying and the words flow beautifully for reading aloud. The charming illustrations by Asa Gilland depict modern grandmothers of all sorts.
Looking for books about grandfathers? You can see some of our picks here!