It’s not easy to connect with a three year old grandson when he lives 1000 miles away. Talking on the telephone might go something like this:
Daddy: “Say “hi” to Grandma.” Grandson: “HI-I-I!” Grandma: “Hi, sweetheart. How are you?” Grandson: “HI-I-I!” Grandma: “Hi! I love you!” Grandson: “Wuv you, too. ‘bye.” Grandma: “Wait. What are you playing? How’s little brother? What did you….” But he’s gone, leaving daddy to answer all the questions.
The temptation is there to send mountains of gifts through the mail, hoping they’ll love the item and connect it with the love the grandparent included in the sending. Susan V. Bosak, who wrote “How To Build The Grandma Connection,” writes this:
Giving gifts is part of the magic of the grandparent/grandchild connection. You don’t have to give big or expensive gifts. Gifts just need to be thoughtful and given with love.
The most important cautions are: don’t overwhelm your grandchild with too many gifts; don’t try to buy their affection; don’t go against their parents’ wishes; and never buy a big gift or one that will require special care or arrangements (e.g. pet, trip) without first consulting parents. You may also want to stay away from clothing since children’s sizes and tastes are so variable.
Good advice. So how can grandma connect with her far away little boys in a way that will help them “know” who she is when they finally see each other?
Ten Ways to Keep Electricity Running Through the Airwaves
- The first instinct is to send gifts. But per Bosak’s advice, ask mom what he needs first. Order it online and have it sent directly to your grandson.
- If a birthday is coming up, start a few months ahead and gather smaller items in a box, wrapping each one separately for one huge birthday unwrapping extravaganza he won’t soon forget. Decorate the box, too.
- Think educational. If you know he likes insects and other creepy-crawly things (and which little boys don’t), a butterfly net is easy to mail. Include a list of all the things he could catch to look at (and release alive), which you can then talk about on a phone call. This will help him be observant, and may help grandma keep him on the phone longer.
- Do not send anything techie. That’s a no-no, because grandparents are supposed to be all about helping them see and enjoy the real world. Believe me, they don’t need grandma’s help to learn technology. A more likely scenario would be the grandchildren teaching her, which could be another fun way to connect (fun for the grandchildren).
- Ask his grandpa what he enjoyed when he was little, and then find the retro toy. Tell your grandson this is what boys used to play with, and how much fun it will be to play like Grandpa. This construction set looks like fun.
- Make something with your own hands. This can be anything from clothes to toys. Pajamas are super easy, and at three years you’ll be able to find lots of fun fabric for appliques or all-over prints. You know how the flannel yard goods say it is not safe for children’s sleepwear? One “sew-gramma” said, “I just tell the parents of the recipient not to set the kid on fire.” The manufacturer’s concern is too much air between the fabric and the child’s skin, because the 100% cotton flannel has no flame retardant built in. Even pajama patterns from big companies say, “this pattern not intended for sleepwear.” Okay. Let’s use common sense here, and read labels with caution.
- Another fabric idea is a solid, light-colored flannel square marked with Sharpie into “x and o” lines. Cut colorful x and o pieces from flannel to play the game. With the Sharpie write Grandma on the Xes and his name on the Os. Flannel grips flannel, so little hands will easily be able to attach the pieces.
- Something my boys spent hours with was a neighborhood printed on fabric. You can order a road map rug here, then send a different matchbox vehicle every month for ongoing reminders of that grandma in Arizona.
- Classic Books. I’ve been keeping my eyes open for “Pickle Things,” and when my ship comes in, I will gift each of my grandchildren with one. Our grown children still recite pieces of it now and then. “Pickle in, pickle out. Pickles from the waterspout.” If your three year old doesn’t like books (seriously, is there any?), find an interactive book they can’t help but love.
- Send little things in the mail every little bit (which is my goal, but not my accomplishment). These can be little things that fit into a regular price postage envelope, like a balloon with a message he’ll see when it’s blown up. A homemade go-fish card game, or a picture cut into a puzzle. If you’re not into making, the Target Dollar Spot usually has some fun things.
Wow, this is fun. I could probably even find a few more ideas.
Now, let’s do it!