Until recently my mom lived 3700+ miles away from us. Despite this she was determined to be a part of her grandchildren’s lives. So we had a weekly Skype date with her. Earlier this year we were lucky enough to have her move much closer to us! However, despite her being only a 10 minute drive away, due to the current pandemic we have decided to keep our distance seeing as she is among the 60+ crowd and therefore considered high risk.
Over the past three years, since we moved to Alaska my mom had developed some awesome ways to stay connected with her grandchildren from afar. I figured, with the current necessity of social distancing, some grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, etc might want some suggestions on how to Skype more successfully with young children.
If you have ever Skyped with a young child you know that their ability to stay focused lasts about 2 minutes. At that point the novelty of situation wears off and the excitement of speaking to the family member wanes. Then they either want to take off with the tablet or they simply take off out of the room themselves. It’s hard to connect with young children if they aren’t even present during the conversation.
One thing my mom does is read to my children through Skype. Sometimes she borrows books from the local library, though that currently isn’t an option due to shutdowns (at least where we live). However, if you have children’s books at your house then your in luck! If you need to purchase some books I suggest books with multiple stories. We have a few different books of 10 minute stories that work great! Early on in our separation I disinfected a few of our books that had collections of stories in them and I delivered them to my mom’s doorstep. She is also borrowing digital copies of books from our local library and reading those to my children during their Skype dates. A friend of ours does bedtime stories with their grandparents. Now that Jasper’s grandma is in our timezone (and not 3 hours ahead) I think we will be trying this out.
Before she moved here my mom had developed quite a collection of Hot wheels and other small cars. Though they are quite cheap at the store, she also found many of her toy cars at second hand shops. I am sure you can purchase some off of Amazon or through your local grocery pickup.
Though this interests my one-year-old very little. My four-year-old begs grandma to show him her cars. They talk about how grandpa Tom (my dad who passed away before my son was born) loved working with vehicles the little tractor my mom possesses. She shows my son a tiny ATV she owns and they talk about how his cousin enjoys riding them. She shows my son her Hot wheels Camaro and they discuss how his uncle races Camaros. Then they go through all the cars and my son decides which is his favorite that day. He also shows grandma his cars and plays with his own cars during all of this.
If your child isn’t interested in cars the same concept can be applied to dinosaurs, animals or other small toys. You can share animal facts with each other or you can discuss what animals you have seen in person or which you might find at the zoo compared to your own backyard. This idea can be changed and applied to space, trains, fairy tale creates, or almost anything your child may be interested in!
Finger Songs and Puppets:
My youngest just turned one. Prior to grandma moving here she had very little interest in our Skype time. She simply wanted the tablet because her brother was interested in it.
Now that she remembers who grandma is, she seems a bit confused as to why grandma is on the screen and not holding her.
In the past my mom had tried telling my son stories with finger puppets. He always liked the pictures in the books better. Each child is different and age is a large factor when they are this young. My daughter has only ever truly been interested in Skype when grandma has sang her a song using some finger puppets she owns.
The finger puppets that my mom owns were actually made by my girl scout troop about 20 years back. If you have the tools and supplies around your house you can make your own finger or sock puppets. If you aren’t the crafty type I’m sure you can purchase some off of Amazon or Etsy.
Finger songs are great with or without puppets!
List of finger songs.
How to Links and Purchasing Links?
Have Meals Together:
One thing I enjoy is to have a Skype dinner date with my mom. Usually I don’t even try to talk to her during her Skype dates with my children because my son always wants grandma’s full attention. However, sometimes we plan our Skype times to coincide with dinner. This helps to entertain the children while I’m cooking dinner and then we prop the tablet up at the table and talk to grandma while eating, as if she is there eating with us.
My mom picked up some second hand Legos and bought a set or two at the store. Jasper and grandma sit together and build with Legos. Sometimes Jasper makes requests. In addition, my mom has looked up Lego instructions to make certain things. Pinterest has lots of great options for Lego instructions.
Store bought playdough is super cheap. You don’t even need tools to play with it. Sometimes Jasper and grandma play with playdough together. There are times Jasper makes requests for what he wants his grandma to make. Other times Jasper makes things to show his grandma. Sometimes grandma makes letters and number as asks Jasper to identify them.
Though you may think that you have to constantly be communicating during a Skype session, I don’t believe that is true. Sometimes your grandchildren just want to be “close” to you. Often Jasper and his grandma color together over Skype. They sit there quietly and each color their own page. When they are done they show each other their artwork. Often Jasper requests that Grandma mail her artwork to him.
There are many websites that offer coloring pages for free and print them directly to your home, or simply search Google images for the picture you would like.
My mom says, “You don’t have to talk all the time whileSkyping. Jasper just likes having someone to play alongside of.” She also states if that child is “…ready to try something else, take their lead or they’ll get bored.”