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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Nana Goes Digital

By Kerrie McLoughlin

The pandemic has robbed many grandparents of precious time with their grandkids. But those nanas and poppas who have lived far away from their kids know that you don’t have to see your grandchildren often to play a huge role in their lives. Here’s how.

Do your research. Joy Candrian of the blog XOXO Grandma suggests: “When FaceTiming or talking on the phone, ask [grandkids] intelligent questions about their home, school, and the things they have done that week.” Also try watching the latest children’s movie on Netflix. Choose one you know the grandkids are going to see and then discuss the best parts together.

Read to them and play games. “Record yourself reading a book and then upload that recording to YouTube so your grandchildren can hear your voice and see you reading them a story. After you’ve placed your recorded story online, mail the book to your grandchildren so they can follow along while they watch your video,” shared Candrian. Here’s another idea: Buy a blank puzzle online, and then, if you are artsy, draw a picture on it. If not, write a message on it and color in some of the pieces. Your grandchildren will have a blast putting it together over and over. Online games like Words with Friends are also a fun and educational way to connect.

Recognize holidays and special dates. Keep track of important dates so you can be there for the big events. Set reminders on your phone or put them on your wall calendar so you can send cards or plan a video chat for birthdays, graduations, last days of school, proms, sports, spelling bees, and so much more. Candrian offers: “I think giving gifts is such a natural way to show we care, and giving a handmade gift [such as a quilt] shows we care enough to spend our time for those we love. Your grandchild may not understand that now, but as they grow older and wiser, your gifts should help them feel the love you have for them.”

Raise video chatting and social media to a new level. Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom make it so much easier to see their faces. They grow and change so quickly, so make weekly dates to do things like video chat while you are on a walk, or let them watch you bake something, or read to them. One way my 90-year-old grandmother loves to keep up with her grandkids and great-grandkids is to check out Facebook status updates and photos.

Display their photos. Make sure you have plenty of photos of your grandchildren around your home and send photos of yourself to them as well. Want them to get to know you? Mixbook makes it so easy to create photo books and books of stories from your childhood for them. Also check out the Marco Polo app for a FaceTime-meets-voicemail experience. Leave and receive video messages that can be forwarded to other family members and remain indefinitely saved on Marco Polo.

Try an in-person visit, if and when you are ready. In the age of COVID, everyone has different comfort levels when it comes to visiting in person. Our kids have one set of grandparents who, after five months, finally came over to our house for a socially distanced visit on the deck. Nature centers and parks are also great places for socially distanced grandkid-time. Some grandparents mask up and get hugs from their (masked) grandkids while others just feel like they can’t risk it, and stick to digital communication. If you are in the latter category, stock up on games and toys so that when the kids can finally come over, they have plenty of stuff to play with. 

Kerrie McLoughlin is the writer-mom of 5 kids ages 10–18 and blogs at