How To Be A Great Virtual Grandparent (2021 Update)

How to be a great virtual grandparent

My parents are well versed in being long distance grandparents, because four of their grandchildren live in Sydney. They never expected though that they would need to be virtual grandparents for their grandkids closer to home.

As lockdown continues, I’ve taken inspiration from them and other friends to compile tips on generation bridging activities and how to be a great virtual grandparent. We hope you find this article on things to do on a video call with kids helpful for keeping your family connected.

How To Cope With Not Seeing Your Grandchildren

First of all though, let’s acknowledge that virtually connecting grandparents and grandchildren is easier said than done.  It requires a level of attention and discipline from the younger generation which isn’t always easy (they don’t always want to sit still and engage do they?!) and this can upset long distance grandparents. And make it stressful for the parent who is trying to help and please everyone.

Don’t put pressure on the situation. Some days, the technology won’t work or little ones won’t be in the mood to talk. Accept that this happens and move on. Use our top tips below on how to be a great virtual grandparent, and hopefully the next time you all sit down ‘together’ virtually, it will go smoothly! Read on for how to connect with grandchildren during lockdown.

Grandparents can have such a positive impact on their grandchildren. The founder of our favourite accessible clothing company, The Able Label, was inspired by her grandmother’s struggle to get dressed independently. See our pick of these stylish yet functional clothes which help adults get dressed easily here

Virtual Grandparent Activities With Young Grandchildren

Virtual Gardening

Teaching grandchildren how to garden can be done remotely – and you don’t even need to get their hands dirty.

Virtual gardening with grandchildren

Choose some colourful and easy to grow plants (such as sunflowers and snap dragons) and plant them in portable pots while the kids watch on FaceTime. Then you can have weekly video calls to check how the plants are progressing and the grandparent can water the plant in front of them.

Asking questions about ‘their plant’ (such as how much water should it have, counting the number of leaves, talking about the colours of the petals or making plant labels) is a great way to keep their interest up and educate them. Use small pots – they are a good gift for the grandchildren when you next see them.

And if they turn into budding gardeners, this book of mud-tastic activities for kids called ‘Plant, Sow, Make & Grow‘ is a sure-fire lockdown hit. You might not be able to do it with them but you can talk about what their muddy hands achieved afterwards!

Gardening can get harder physically as you age – but that doesn’t mean you need to put down the gardening tools. Read our tips for keen gardeners who are getting older. This expert advice is from our physiotherapist Nancy and gardener Claire Vokins and will help people keep enjoying the garden throughout their life.

Gardening Starter Kits For Grandchildren

There are some great gardening starter kits if the grandchildren are interested in gardening.

For beginners, choose quick spouting seeds (such as sunflower or cress) so that little ones can see the results quickly without too much waiting around.

Child friendly mini gardening tools are a good idea for them to get involved. They will build their sense of independence as well as their movement and motor skills. We like this Little Pal’s Children’s Gardening Kit which contains a trowel, fork, bucket, gloves, plant markets, pots and popcorn seeds. Get it from Amazon on next day delivery.

Read A Bedtime Story

While there’s nothing quite like grandparents and grandchildren reading together, technology can really help.

Book a night and read them their favourite story over FaceTime or Zoom. Or if they’re old enough to read, then send them a selection of new books and get them to read to you.

For reading with younger grandchildren, we like the Yoto Player. It’s a screen free speaker which only plays the audio you want. Grandparents can record messages, stories or more and these can be played to the grandkids via audio cards in the player when they’re going to bed. Or, it’s just a great present for them, with the Yoto coming with stories such as The Wimpy Kid Collection and everyone’s favourite The Gruffalo.

If you want some inspiration for activities to keep the grandparents entertained at home when the grandkids are busy, then read our article on activities for the elderly. There are ways to stay engaged mentally and physically – enjoy!

Ways To Make Grandchildren Laugh

Making the grandchildren laugh must be the best part of being a grandparent. Get them thinking that granny is funny by trying out these easy tips.

Use A Silly Prop

Grandparents can use props to add some theatre to the video conversation and hold the grandkids’ concentration. Make a toddler laugh by using a banana as a pretend phone, or make their elbow squeak. All you need to do is hide a squeaky toy in your hand, and pretend to squeeze their elbow when you hold it up to the screen. 

FaceTime Effects

This is one way to keep grandchildren entertained on the phone! Use free FaceTime effects to add emojis and animojis to the video. Turn each other into their favourite animojis (the monkey is a personal favourite!).

How to get effects on FaceTime

How To Get Effects On FaceTime

  1. Connect on FaceTime
  2. In the bottom left hand corner of the screen, press ‘Effects’
  3. Choose the effect you want. It will appear on your screen, so for example you can turn yourself into an animal

Read, Draw, Watch And More

We almost jumped for joy when we heard about Readeo (my mum told us about it – she in turn had heard from a friend so the news is spreading fast!). Started by a man who was struggling to keep a video call with his son and parents going for longer than 30 seconds (know the feeling?!), it combines a video call with reading a favourite book. Choose from over 200 popular stories and both can access the book on screen to read together. Your family can all try it for free for 14 days, and then it’s a few pounds a month.

Caribu is a family-friendly video calling app that makes long distance grandparenting easier. A great way to make grandchildren laugh, it’s currently free. Download the app and use it to collectively read, draw and play games. There are stories read by celebrities (which may appeal to the parents more than the grandchildren or grandparents!) and games on activity sheets such as spot the difference. A great interactive way to keep playing together.

Virtual Cooking

My nephew Toby loves to host ‘Toby’s Kitchen’, offering up a menu and his favourite foods to choose from – even if the person on the other end of the line can’t taste it! If your children are like Toby and love to cook, here are some intergenerational activity ideas.

Send ‘Recipe Of The Week’ Postcards

This is a fun thing for grandparents to send to grandchildren – and something they can keep in a memory box or recipe book!

Write an easy recipe on a postcard (biscuits, cupcakes, a smoothie) and send it to the grandchild weekly. Then agree a time with the parent when you will both make the recipe of the week, and do it on video call together.

If you’re baking, finish the video call when the sweet goes in the oven. Call back half an hour later and compare the results!

You could even send them a blank recipe book to collect and keep the recipes in. The recent winner of Masterchef Professionals was just 25, and inspired by his grandfather – so don’t unerestimate the importance of sharing kitchen stories together!

We love this junior chef recipe book which is blank for their creations. You can also share your favourite family recipes with them to write down there for posterity.

Vegetable Superhero

It’s competition time! Challenge the family to create a superhero out of a vegetable. We made ‘super fennel’, complete with goggly eyes, crown and cape. Not only is this fun, it encourages children to play with healthy food.

How to be a great virtual grandparent

Create A Virtual Family Photo Album

This is a great way to virtually connect grandparents and grandchildren without having to rely on real-time conversations (which can sometimes be difficult).

Upload and share daily photos and videos, so proud grandparents can track milestones when they can’t see them (and look back at them whenever they want). We like the free and secure app Tinybeans for this.

Get Musical

Make some noise virtually with DIY instruments. Get creative together and make drums out of tin cans and a balloon, an ankle bell bracelet or a tambourine over Zoom. Then ask them to come up with a song which they perform for you. This article has more DIY musical instruments inspiration.

Little Artists

This is something both remote grandparents and grandchildren can do – and show each other the results. We made Elmer the Elephant’s out of old milk cartons, glue and tissue paper.

How to be a great virtual grandparent
How to be a great virtual grandparent

Virtual Grandparent Activities With Older Grandchildren

Cook-a-long Together

If you’re missing eating meals together, then organize a virtual cook-a-long. Use a meal delivery company and deliver the raw ingredients and recipe to both households. Then cook it and eat it together. A great way for grandparents and grandchildren to stay together when apart.

We like Mindful Chef which has a great selection of recipes to suit all taste buds. Choose their family recipe box (with recipes like beef meatball bake with roasted fennel and cashew chicken korma and black rice). All recipes are maximum 20 minutes hands-on prep time and each box comes with the right amount of ingredients to make each dish. Find out more about Mindful Chef here.



As you get older, it becomes even more important to follow a nutrient-packed diet. We’ve written about how and why a healthy and balanced diet is key as you age, check it out!

Virtual Magic

Virtual Magic Show

Prepare to be amazed, virtually! For something different, book a magician for your own virtual magic show. We like magician Darren Delaney – his interest in magic started when he got a magic kit for his 9th birthday, so he understands kids’ interests in magic.

Darren has created an online magic show via Zoom. You can book this interactive virtual magic show (a great idea way to connect with family across the country, whether grandparents are near or far).

Kids Magic Kit

Magic is a great long distance activity which helps grandparents to stay connected with the grandkids.

Send them this Marvin’s Magic magic kit and then prepare to be dazzled with the vanishing rabbit illusion, rising cards and other tricks (it’s also a great activity for them to learn in ‘school’).

Or if they prefer to learn from reading, this book of magic tricks with everyday objects is a good option!

Encourage Curiosity Daily

Grandparents seem to be a source of all knowledge. Take advantage of this and encourage curiosity amongst the grandkids with an extra-curricular ‘knowledge power hour’.

A generation bridging activity that shares information, grandparents and grandchildren can virtually connect at a pre-arranged time and discuss whatever is on the grandchild’s mind. From history to geography, science to art, it’s a great way to discover new stories and interests together.

Online Games For Long Distance Family

We know that grandparents are big fans of indoor games – and even more so when they can play with their grandchildren. This can be done virtually too!

Word Games

The Alphabet Challenge can be played over the phone even – so works if your grandparent is technologically challenged. Choose a category (for example cartoon characters or cities) and try to name something for each letter in one minute.  It’s ever so slightly educational but also fun!

Another word based online game is wordscatter. Like an online version of Boggle, players have to find as many words as they can from a selection of 25 words within a few minutes.

Other classic games to play online with long distance grandparents include Charades, Simon Says and 20 Questions.

Virtual Board Games And Playing Cards

Challenge them to classic games like backgammon, cribbage and go fish for free at http://playingcards.io/. This resource allows you to select a game, invite as many people as you please to your link, and get ready to play. Best of all, it’s free and requires no screen sharing.

Conclusion

How to be a great virtual grandparent may be a new experience for many families. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available which can help generation bridging activities and keep the family connected. We hope you found this useful.

And thanks for dropping by our site. ElWell is run by two friends, Nancy and Jessica who are passionate about providing information and support to people looking after older parents. Find out more about us.

FAQ

How can I be a great virtual grandparent?

How to be a great virtual grandparent may be a new experience for many families. Our top remote grandparent tips include:
–       Virtual gardening
–       Read a bedtime story together
–       Send recipe of the week postcards and cook together
–       Learn magic skills and perform a virtual magic show
–       Play online games
–       Encourage curiosity daily and share knowledge on specific topics

How do you stay in touch with long distance grandchildren?

Follow these tips to help build a bond, no matter how far apart you live. And read our article for more inspiration. Virtual gardening (planting seeds for them which you can gift them next time you see each other), reading bedtime stories together, playing online games and having art competitions.

What do you do when you can’t see your grandchildren?

Long distance grandparents can connect with their grandchildren online. There are great generation bridging activities which can be done virtually. Read our article for tips on being a great virtual grandparent.

What can grandparents do online with grandchildren?

There’s lots of online ideas for grandparents to do with grandchildren. Virtual gardening (planting seeds for them which you can gift them next time you see each other), reading bedtime stories together, playing online games and having art competitions.

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