My husband and I are lucky that we come from the same hometown in Ohio. It’s four and a half hours away from where we are, in Bloomington, Indiana (a bit longer when you count stopping to feed the baby). Our parents still live there, as do other family members. We have family in other Ohio cities, Boston, Orlando… Do you see a theme? They all live not-in-Bloomington.
When my little girl was born, I started thinking about this. We don’t plan to move anytime soon. Outside of traveling to visit, what could I do to help her build and grow relationships with them?
Here are five simple ways I’ve found to help little ones make those long-distance connections.
1. Photo Album
I’m starting off with my #1 favorite. My parents bought my daughter a soft plastic photo album for Christmas. They filled it with labeled photos of family members (including our dog). She completely loves it and pulls it down from her shelf to look at daily. It’s so sweet to see her begin to recognize their faces in the photos.
2. Special Books
My daughter’s grandparents have given her lots of books, and I always appreciate when they write a note inside. That note gives us a reason to talk about Grandpa and Grandma every time we read the book. One set of grandparents even recorded one of those read-aloud books for my daughter. I love that she can hear their voices just as if they were reading it to her in person.
A friend recently gave me another idea I can’t wait to try. Her mom has copies of some of the same books her one-year-old son has. She can read them aloud on Skype while he follows along and turns the pages.
3. Video Chat Dates
Skype and FaceTime are nothing new, but they’ve been so valuable to me! It’s wonderful to be able to video chat any old time, but consider setting up a standing date for a video chat. I’ve done this with a friend who lives a couple of hours away. Every Wednesday at 9am we make the time to connect, even for just a few minutes. Our babies love seeing each other and it’s been priceless to watch them communicate a little more each week. As my baby girl gets older, I plan to set up regular video chat dates with her grandparents. She can save up stories from the week and projects she’s done to share, kind of a virtual show-and-tell.
TinyBeans is a photo-sharing app where everything you share is viewable only by invitation. It features a family photo album set up like a calendar to encourage posting a picture each day. With both an app and a website, it’s simple for family members to participate, even without smartphones or Facebook. When she gets a bit older, I’ll have my daughter choose photos from our adventures to share. For now, it gives grandparents and other family members a sneak peek into our days.
5. Snail Mail
Even though my daughter is still a baby, she already loves getting real mail! Every time she gets a postcard or letter, we read it multiple times and keep it on the fridge for awhile. It gives us a reason to talk about what Grandpa and Grandma are up to, and before long, she’ll be able to write (or at least draw a picture) back.