When I moved from Chicago to San Antonio, there were a number of wonderful reasons to make the move… great church, great San Antonio weather and culture, bilingual environments for the boys. There was one horrifying reason to not make the move: serious distance from grandma and grandpa. Though it was a heartbreaking and difficult decision to make, we decided that we would make the move, trusting that we would find creative ways to make the best of the situation.
My boys (now ages 3 and 2) have been talking to grandma and grandpa on Skype nearly every morning since we moved here two years ago. Here are some of the games and activities we’ve played. As the boys grow older, and as we come up with new activities, I’ll post future editions of this.
1. Have a Skype Birthday Party – We do this for everyone’s birthday. Here’s how it works. We set up an appointed time on the birthday to have the party. Even if Grandma and Grandpa can’t come to our house, we can still decorate our kitchen, bake a cake, and eat cake at the same time, over skype, with Grandma and Grandpa. We light candles and everything. We have a basket with our reusable felt birthday banner and party hats so we’re ready for a skype birthday party at a moment’s notice. We do this for cousin’s birthdays as well. The key is to make it a party feel in our own house and build it up. The kids love it.
2. Play “Do what I do” – Grandma and grandpa say “Can you do this?” (and then they pat their heads) or “Can you do this?” (touch your nose.) From an early early age, the babies learned that they can interact with Grandma and Grandpa via the computer.
3. Have a routine or special thing that only grandma and grandpa can do – I think this varies depending on what your child is passionate about. For our (weird!) boys, it’s the garage door. They love watching the garage door go up and down. So guess what? Grandma and grandpa (for a time, until they grew out of it) would take the computer over to the garage door and open it and the boys would watch it go up and down. They loved it, grew to count on it, and it was a special connection for them.
4. Do something the same, together, like eat a banana – One day grandpa said “Oh, you’re eating a banana? I’m going to eat one too!” Now Clayton sometimes says he wants to eat his banana “the grandpa way” (Meaning he has to leave the peel on as he eats it and pull down the peel as he gets closer to the bottom. The “non grandpa way” is to peel the entire banana in advance.)
5. Do some sort of demonstration – Today grandma made a smoothie, over Skype and the boys watched. She set up the computer in the kitchen and asked the boys how she should do it. Should she put in 5 strawberries or 10?
6. Keep a pad and paper by the computer, ask grandma and grandpa to draw things and hold them up to the computer – “Grandma, draw a circle and a sun!” or “Grandma, can you draw a smiley face?” Simple, but they love it.
7. Take Pictures – On PCs there is a way to take a picture via Skype (I don’t know how my mom did that, because I use Mac.) On a mac, we just take screenshots. The picture quality isn’t half bad! Grandma and Grandpa have a whole file of pictures they’ve taken of the boys on Skype.
8. Send mail through the mail and open it on Skype – This is fun, because the children can see the same object on the other side of the screen come to their house. When the mail comes, give it to the children when they are talking on Skype to grandma and grandpa and have the experience of opening it up together.
9. Play peek-a-boo – We did this when the boys were babies. There were two ways we did it, one was for grandma to “cut” the video feed and just talk with the audio and then turn it back on. The second way was for her to just have a blanket available at home and cover her head (traditional peek-a-boo.)
10. Read a story over Skype – So easy, and so sweet.