Monday, August 5, 2013

Staying Connected with a Toddler Long-Distance

My family lives 13 hours away from us in St. Louis.  It has always been hard to be so far away, but it has been especially difficult since Sophie was born.  I grew up within an hour of all my grandparents, so I couldn't even imagine Sophie not being able to see my parents often.  We travel as much as is possible, but I'm incredibly thankful for the technology that helps the miles seem so much closer.

Sophie and I Skype with my mom almost every morning.  We finish our breakfast, get dressed and then talk to Grandma.  She is always excited to see Grandma's face pop up on the screen (I think Grandma is usually pretty excited to see Sophie too).

I have always admired my mom's creativity, but being a Skype Grandma has taken it to a whole new level!  Sophie definitely knows who her grandma is and has a special relationship with her.  Obviously deep conversations are a little bit challenging at this phase in Sophie's life, but my mom manages to develop a relationship with her by playing via webcam.  Here are some of the ways my mom works to stay connected with a toddler over Skype.

Tea Parties
Skype tea parties are the most recent way Sophie plays with her grandma over Skype (and is also the inspiration for this post).  Sophie gets out her Laugh and Learn Tea Set while my mom busts out her real china set and they pour each other imaginary tea.  Sophie will offer her cup to my mom, who graciously pretends to take a sip and then ask for more, please.  They have even dressed up for the tea party!  My amazing mom pulled out a floppy beach hat and a boa and Sophie wore her own hat for the occasion.  I managed to snap this picture, which will probably be one of my favorites for a long time to come.  (Props to my dad who also modeled the floppy hat and boa in order to get a giggle out of a certain little lady!).

So I know it's hard to see, but Sophie is pouring some tea for Grandma, who is holding out her tea cup...seriously precious.

Peekaboo was probably one of the first games they played together over Skype, but it continues to be a favorite.  It has now advanced to Sophie closing and opening the iPad case to hide from Grandma, but this was one they were able to play the old-fashioned way even when Sophie was much younger.

Read a Story
Sophie loves books.  Some mornings we get on Skype and Sophie goes straight for her book bin.  She sits on my lap and we read the book, being sure Grandma gets to see the good parts! (Mostly Sophie's face - but my mom will sit and listen to the story as many times as Sophie wants to read it!)  Other times Sophie has sat looking through the books, "reading" them to Grandma.  As Sophie gets a little older, I'm sure we will be able to extend this to Grandma reading Sophie picture books over Skype, but we haven't tried it yet. 

Visit the Pets
My parents' dogs start barking every single time my mom starts talking with us over Skype.  Sophie hears them barking and loves when my mom turns the camera so she can see the "Dogs, woof woof".  She gets very excited to see them, and knows that they are part of the family, too.

Show and Tell
Sophie loves to show off her toys and seems to know just what she wants to show Grandma when we Skype.  We laugh because it seems like most days she says her hellos to grandma and then immediately crawls away to find something to show her.  Of course my mom acts like whatever it may be is the most amazing object she's ever seen, which just delights Sophie and makes her proud to show off.  Lately, Sophie really wants to "play Tot School" when we are talking with my mom.  So we toddle over to the Tot School shelf and bring Grandma right along with us!

Narrate her Play
Whenever Sophie shows my mom a toy, my mom acts like she's been just dying to see that toy - "A red block!  My favorite!"  She will narrate Sophie's play, much like I do when we are playing one-on-one.  She'll count blocks as Sophie builds a tower, talk about the color of the shapes Sophie's holding up, taste imaginary soup, or ask about the items she's pulling out of her play purse.  

Sing Together
Sophie LOVES music.  She loves when Grandma sings with her, because she knows all of her favorites.  They sing "I'm a Little Teapot", "Itsy Bitsy Spider", and "Baa Baa Black Sheep".  Now that she's older, Sophie will do the motions independently while Grandma sings, but when she was younger, I would help her out and sing on our end as well.  Usually Sophie prefers to conduct the music while my Mom sings.  My mom is such a good sport, because when Sophie sings a song once, she wants to sing it at least three times.  

One-on-One Time
Usually, when we talk in the mornings, I haven't had my breakfast yet.  Once I get Sophie playing with my mom, most mornings I go to the kitchen and fix my toast while my mom "watches" Sophie.  (I can see the living room where she's playing from the kitchen - no worries).  This really started when Sophie was first starting to have separation anxiety and would get upset if she couldn't see me.  We found that if she was talking to Grandma (or rather, Grandma was talking to her), she wouldn't get upset, and I could have two minutes to put butter on my toast without help!  This gave them some special one-on-one time without me interfering and gave me a much needed momma moment.  It still works even now, when Sophie is very mobile and likes to follow me wherever I go.  

Virtual Tickles
One of the sweetest little games they've come up with is for my mom to "tickle" Sophie.  This one requires a little bit of assistance from me.  My mom will move her hand toward the webcam with "tickle fingers" and talk about how she's gonna get Sophie's toes, and then I'll do the actual tickling.  Sophie thinks it's hilarious (as all tickling is) and Grandma gets to experience her sweet giggles.  For a while we would play this game any time Sophie's toes came into view on the camera.  She doesn't usually sit still long enough for that to happen anymore! 

One of the most important things my mom does to maintain her relationship with Sophie is the fact that she is willing and makes herself available to Skype with her so often.  Grandma is a special part of our morning routine.  As I said earlier, we are fortunate enough to be able to chat almost every week day.  Usually once a week, the other family members are around to say hello as well.  Sophie knows my family because of this incredible technology and their willingness to act silly into a webcam.  She doesn't have any issues when we do finally get to see them in person, because they are already familiar to her.  

How about you?  What ideas do you have to maintain a relationship between your little one and a far away relative?  

For tons more ideas be sure to visit these sites I'm linking to this week!
Tot School Tuesday at See Vanessa Craft
Tuesday Tots at Rainy Day Mum
Link and Learn at No Time for Flashcards
Show and Share Saturday Link Up at I Can Teach My Child
Trivium Tuesday at Living and Learning at Home
Tender Moments with Toddlers and Preschoolers at The Chaos and the Clutter 
Sunday Showcase at Learn Play Imagine
Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings
TGIF at 123 Homeschool 4 Me


  1. Such cute ideas.. and the pic of your daughter pouring tea to grandma is too precious! We'll have to use some of these ideas too, as we are also away from family. Our time on skype usually ends with one of the kiddos grabbing the phone and running away with it. ; )

    1. Haha! Thank you - it is probably one of my favorite pictues! Sophie likes to close the iPad as well - and she's just discovered the home button so we have challenges with that too! :)