When Grandparents Live Far Away

Nana and Pappy arriving from Ohio
Nana and Pappy arriving from Ohio.

We are very blessed to have my parents 15 minutes from our house. They help so much with our son, and I don’t know how I would do motherhood without them. On the flip side, we have another set of grandparents who would be equally helpful and involved, except that they live halfway across the country. My son is only 2, but his love for Nana and Pappy fills the gap between Texas and Ohio.

In the early years, it is so important that your children know and love their family; no matter how far away. If not for the kids, then for the family that feels the distance every day.

Thank goodness for technology! What did people in this situation do before Skype and Face Time? However, these seemingly quick and easy media tools can be quite challenging with a toddler. Here are some ideas that we have found helpful in keeping our toddler connected with family.  

Mealtimes are a great time to use technology. The toddler is contained (BIG key factor), and he is engaged in an activity — eating! We have enjoyed many Skype dinners with Nana and Pappy.

Another great way to connect through Skype or FaceTime is singing. Our son and Nana found a special bond in their love of music, especially guitars. All I have to do is make sure Nana and her guitar are visible on the screen and the rest is musical history.

Playing hide-n-seek is a good time to pull out the phones for FaceTime. Our son LOVES to go hide and have Nana or Pappy find him. This involves some coordination by mom or dad to maneuver the screen, but well worth it to hear the squeals of delight when the hiding place is discovered.

Nana and Pappy also have toys that our son looks for EVERY time. “Nana! Pappy! Elmo, neigh-neigh, apple?” Translation: “Hello Nana and Pappy. Where is Elmo, the horse, and his apple?” These toys make the interaction feel more real to him.

Just recently I discovered another great way to use FaceTime. Our son is now very familiar with talking to someone on a screen, so I “took” Nana with me when I woke him from a nap. What a great idea (pat myself on the back)! Not only was he contained in his crib, but Nana also got to see the sweet, sleepyhead look that only a toddler can pull off.

Nana and Pappy also send videos of one of our son’s favorite things — TRAINS! Living in rural Ohio, they come across lots of train stops. They pull out their phones and record the event along with commentary. These videos are always a HUGE hit with our little man.

In addition we’ve discovered ways to connect with family that do not involve media. I have photo albums filled with grandparents and other extended relatives. These have become normal books that we “read” everyday. They definitely played a big part in our son being able to name and identify far-away family.

Pinterest Success!
Pinterest Success!

After some Pinterest searching, I found a way to use peg puzzles to talk about family. I cut out pictures and taped them to the inside of a puzzle. Little man lifts up the piece and sees someone he loves. Not only does this get us talking about family, but it also engages our busy toddler in a sit-down activity. Normally, he has no time for such a task.

Even though it is not ideal to live so far away, using these few tricks has made our son’s relationship with his Nana and Pappy especially unique. I know they wouldn’t have it any other way (except maybe to live next door).

What tricks do you have for keeping your children connected to far-away family?


  1. This is a great blog full of informative and practical information. Her tips are wonderful and I know many parents will find them very helpful when trying to connect with family!

  2. Cute ideas! I especially love the puzzle. We also have the same issue. Recently we have found the app Glide, it’s a video messaging app. It has a lot of advantages for us over Skype. We don’t have to arrange that it is a good time. They get a notification that we are recording and can watch live or watch later at their leisure. If the kids are doing something cute and can glide and my parents can watch whenever they want, as many times as they want. Once kids are old enough (3 or 4) they can hold the phone and make selfie videos which is appealing to kids. They ask questions and look forward to getting a video reply. Logistically it is just easier for us, if you want to check it out.

  3. We are in this situation with both grandparents- we use some of the Skype/facetime tricks, and we also have a book of family pics, but I love the puzzle idea! thanks!

  4. be grateful that grandparents are able or willing to use technology to be/become a family. Both my parents are in rural Asian, not willing to adapt to technology and still (after 65 years) considered illiterate. My kids have only heard their grandparents’ voices, and lose interest in them shortly after age 7


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