7 Ways Farflung Grandparents Can Feel Involved in Baby's Life
It’s easy for Grandma or Grandpa to jump in and connect with baby when they’re physically close. (Just come on over and read them a story or snuggle!) But when grandparents live far away, finding ways for them to bond with baby proves a bit more challenging. While your little one might delight in watching Grandpa blow bubbles on the porch, they’re not exactly at the point where they can call him up on the phone or make him an elaborate card for his birthday.
Some say that distance makes the heart grow fonder, but first there needs to be a foundation to build that all-important grandparent-grandchild relationship on. To that end, finding creative solutions to help foster an early connection is absolutely worth it. “Involving faraway grandparents with a new baby reinforces that feeling of family and source of love, and also allows bonding to happen at an early age,” explains Tesse Struve, owner of Millennial Mom Coaching in the San Francisco Bay area.
If you want to start cultivating those relationships but aren’t sure how to do it, these ideas are a great start. They’re easy for everyone, fun for baby and set the stage for meaningful relationships that stay strong—even at a distance.
The voice-visual combo is, hands down, the best way to stay connected when you’re far apart. The key is to treat your chats like in-person visits. Schedule them at a time when baby is likely to be upbeat and alert—like after a nap or feeding, and have a loose plan of how the conversation will go.
Since a lengthy heart-to-heart probably isn’t baby’s thing right now, keep the meetings short and sweet and invite grandparents to come prepared with an engaging activity. “They can play peek-a-boo, read a book, sing songs or grab some puppets or toys and hold them up to show the baby,” Struve says.
Baby might lose interest in the chat or start to get antsy—and that’s okay. Remind grandparents not to take it personally (babies have short attention spans!) and make a plan to chat again soon. “The important thing is that you keep trying, because the more they see their grandparents’ faces and hear their voices, the more they’ll recognize them,” says Struve.
Invite grandparents to send physical snapshots of themselves, their home or neighborhood, their pets and their favorite activities. Look through the photos with baby regularly, and point out the VIPs, Struve recommends.
Of course, you can return the favor and send lots of photos of baby too. Put them together in a book with keepsakes like a hand or footprint, suggests Tara Vellella, MA, BCBA, owner of Aloha Parent Coaching in Kahului, Hawaii. Too short on time (or energy) for a scrapbooking project? You can upload photos and create beautiful books on Artifact Uprising; have the final product shipped directly to the recipients—in this case, Grandma and Grandpa.
Ask grandparents to write letters to send to baby. “Good old snail mail is always fun for all,” Vellella says. (Seriously, when was the last time you got anything other than a catalog or bill?) Read the letters aloud to baby as they arrive, then tuck them into a special box for safekeeping. They’ll be thrilled to have the mementos to reread when they’re older.
Ask grandparents to send out nature-based objects from their neck of the woods for your little one to explore. “My parents are in Wisconsin, so they will send a box with maple leaves, birch bark and deer antlers for baby to touch, since we don’t have those things readily available by us,” Vellella says. “It’s a great sensory activity for baby and a fun way to show them where Grandma and Grandpa live.” As your little one grows older and starts exploring their own outdoor surroundings, they can begin to collect objects to send back to their grandparents too.
Share the highlights of baby’s month in a quick email or snail-mail letter. Don’t overthink it or pressure yourself into making it long or perfect; just write a quick intro (from baby’s point of view, if you’d like!), and list out the big milestones or favorite activities that have happened over the last few weeks. Not sure where to start? Try something like this:
Just wanted to fill you in on some of the fun I’ve been having now that I’m 7 months old.
- Favorite activity: It’s a blast swinging in the baby swing at the playground.
- Favorite book: I love reading Goodnight Moon before bed.
- Favorite food: I tried my first bite of avocado toast. Yum!
- Milestone update : I’m starting to feel excited about crawling, but I’m not quite there yet.
- Field trip: I went to the zoo and saw a giraffe. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it!
That’s about it for now. I’m so excited to see you when you visit next month.
Sure, putting something like this together involves a little bit of work. But if there are other important family members or friends living far away, you can keep the whole gang updated by sending the same monthly digest to everyone. (Also, you’ll probably get teary-eyed looking back on them in a few years.)
Next time grandparents ask for a holiday or birthday gift idea, suggest something customized that baby can learn to associate with them. “My parents made a customized book where they inserted the baby’s name into the book and it was dedicated to them from the grandparents, and every time we read the book we would say who it’s from,” Struve says.
Other ideas: Recordable story books allow grandparents to record themselves reading so baby can listen to them tell the story, while recordable plush toys make it easy for grandparents to capture a personalized message for baby.
If you’ve got tech-savvy grandparents who use Spotify, ask them to make a customized playlist with songs for baby. It can be a general compilation of their favorite tunes, or they can curate themes like bedtime or bath time music if they’re feeling extra enthusiastic. And if baby has some songs they already love, you can put those on a playlist for Grandma or Grandpa too. It may sound silly, but hearing tunes like “Rubber Duckie” or “Baby Beluga” will be a sweet, welcome reminder of the little one they love and can’t wait to see in person soon.
About the experts:
Tesse Struve is the owner of Millennial Mom Coaching in the San Francisco Bay area.
Tara Vellella, MA, BCBA, is a board-certified behavior analyst and the owner of Aloha Parent Coaching in Kahului, Hawaii.