We haven’t seen our grandkids in Minnesota in seven months or our grandkids in Boston in four months. With travel restricted and social distancing in place, it is going to be a while longer before we see any of them face-to-face!
Not the situation we or anyone else want.
But fortunately, technology can help us out!
Over the last three months adults 50+ have discovered any number of ways to stay connected, be creative, and caring with their younger charges. Whether grandparents and their grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or simply older adults and their younger friends, technology has become even more essential allowing people to connect with each other.
And the good news is that you don’t need to be a techno-wizard to make these connections happen or use any of these activities. If these ideas stretch your tech skills a bit, all the better. Maybe grandkids can help their grandparents with some tech lessons. But most of these ideas require skills that many of us already have.
What equipment do you need?
While you can certainly use your computer to do many of these activities, a smartphone or tablet may be easier, more flexible, and give a better result.
Most devices will allow you to phone, text, send email, and many have apps to use video calling where you are both seen and heard. On an iPhone or iPad, FaceTime is a built-in video conferencing system but both ends of the conversation must be on an Apple device. For other types of phones or tablets, Skype or Zoom apps make video calls and meetings possible. When trying to get larger groups together, Zoom is the go-to format. For some of the activities that require more movement, smartphones are the most appropriate choice simply because they are portable.
Let’s get creative—ways to connect generations
Here are some of our favorite activities, many of which have been used by one of us at BoomerTECH Adventures to connect with our grandkids and nieces and nephews.
1. Exercise Time. We’ve done a number of exercise sessions with our grandkids, giving their parents a break and giving the kids a chance to move about and get rid of some excess energy! Stretches, yoga stretches, dance parties, running in place, and exercises like jumping jacks, squats, and burpees work with all ages. My wife, Connie, often plays some energetic music on the piano for dance parties and general running around. Fun and good exercise for everyone, grandparents and kids.
2. Read stories. Why not share some new books with your grandkids, books that will catch their attention. The great thing about using a video call is that you can share the book with your youngster by simply holding the page up to the screen or focusing your iPhone on the page you want to illustrate. Of course, sharing books works both ways; why not ask kids read to grandparents or even other cousins? From Maine we like to share such classics as Make Way for Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, or One Morning in Maine. But reading an interesting story or article to (or with) older kids, is often a treat for them as well. How about something different. Try out some of the older book series that you might have read as a tween and younger teen: The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Chip Hilton, Tom Swift, and others.
3. Lead a tour. This one works as well on either end of the phone. Tours of your house, backyard, current projects (like gardening or building or cooking/baking). Set up to bake cookies on either end (I did this with my adult son last December) and we each were using the same recipe and sharing tips. And don’t forget to have the kids do the same. They can give you a tour of their house, and especially their room and how things might have been rearranged, a fort they built or an art project underway.
4. Share a meal and conversation. I love this one. Even if you are not in the same physical space, set up your iPhone or iPad so you can be seen and you can see the table and people on the other end. This works best with a small group of people on both ends, not more than 4 or 5 most likely. Enjoy a “normal” conversation, talking about your day, your activities, your thoughts while you enjoy dinner. You may want to do this a couple of times a week so that it becomes routine. Bon appétit!
5. Play games. A game like checkers or chess or anything not overly complicated (like some board games) will work just fine. Or even something like Hangman. No hurry, take your time and enjoy the back and forth of the game. In all of these connections, the focus is on the connection, and not on the game.
6. Celebrate something…anything! Birthday parties and holidays are, of course, de rigeur. But other lesser-known holidays that you may invent, work just as well. The actual planning with your grandchild for a “special” day to celebrate “the sky is blue day” or “warm enough to play outside day” or “our favorite dog day” can be fun in itself. Make lists, plan for decorations, snacks, and special games you design yourselves.
7. Make a photo album. On your smartphone you can easily share photos back and forth. Make a plan for a photo album where you each can share photos of pets, art work or even the fort that your grandchild built in the living room.
8. Write letters, notes, stories, plays. Have younger grandkids dictate to grandma who can type out the dictation and send it right back to be read and shared. Write joint texts to other family members to stay in touch. Cousins love to receive notes from other cousins.
This should get you started at connecting with those precious grandchildren and nephews and nieces. Each of these activities offers you and them the opportunity to make a deeper connection than just a 10-minute phone call with the adult playing 20-questions and digging for responses.
Enjoy your time together online and keep connecting so that when we can actually see each other face-to-face, we will have developed and even furthered our relationships.
And let us know in the comments section what YOU are doing to stay connected to your grandkids.
For more ideas for grandparents, read Becoming a Technology-Savvy Grandparent