15 Ways to Be Awesome Long Distance Grandparents

Very happy child getting mail from mailbox - Awesome long distance grandparent - Adventures in NanaLand

Very happy child getting mail from mailbox - Awesome long distance grandparent - Adventures in NanaLand

Have you ever wondered how some of these grandparents do it? I mean, their grandchildren talk about what awesome long distance grandparents they have! Well, I wanted to be like that too. It’s sad but true that we’re not totally awesome as long distance grandparents. . .yet, but we’re working on it. Yeah, Papa’s working on this one too!

“Being long distance grandparents is a bit more work and does take some planning, but it’s worth it to have a good relationship with the grandchildren you don’t get to see all the time.”

Just because you live far away from your grandkids doesn’t mean that you can’t do things with them. We live in a fabulous world of technology where interacting with those Littles that live too far to just drive over can be a breeze! If you want to spend the afternoon with them. . .Do it!

March 2020 Update: In light of all the Social Distancing requirements and Easter right around the corner, you will want to check out our latest post on Easter Games and Activities for Grandkids where there are many ideas for celebrating the holiday while maintaining boundaries.


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Here are 15 of our best activities that we like to do (or would like to try) as long distance grandparents:

Long Distance Grandparent Activity #1 – Become Penpals

Participate in two-way activities like becoming penpals, sending a continuous story back and forth, journaling, or just a series of questions you answer. My granddaughter and I were having so much fun being penpals that her younger brothers wanted to get in on the fun. They started sending me pictures with a few words on them. It was so awesome!!

Long Distance Grandparent Activity #2 – Include Them Anyway You Can

We try to include our long-distance Littles in some of the big activities that we do with our local grandkids. One way is to Skype or Facetime during the activity so that they can chat with us and the cousins. Another thing we do is send invitations to the ones far away even though we know they can’t make it. It’s always fun to be invited. We also send little party favors or momentos from the party or activity that we had.

Boy watching video on computer - Ways to Be an Awesome Long Distance Grandparent - Adventures in NanaLand

Long Distance Grandparent Activity #3 – Watch TV “Together”

You can watch a TV show “together” and then talk about it. That opens the door to share some excitement for upcoming episodes. . .more reasons to talk to each other! (This one will be a bit more exciting to me when they learn to like something other than PJ Masks or Japanese anime.

Long Distance Grandparent Activity #4 – Play Puzzles & Word Games

Our little crew loves puzzles and word games. One of our favorite things is MadLibs. I have found a couple of places online that we can create MadLibs for each other. As long distance grandparents, we can play just like we do with the Littles that are close by. We ask for certain types of words and then read the silly story to them. Then we change roles. My granddaughter from Texas loves to draw. I think the next time we play, I will ask her to send me a picture of the silly story we did together. I love to get mail from them as much as they love to get mail from me!

Long Distance Grandparent Activity #5 – Read to Each Other

You can read to each other. They can be picture books if you are on a video chat of some kind. Or you can read chapter books together. That gives you a reason to talk to each other often as you will both probably be excited to read the next chapter. This is our favorite book series – Kingdom Keepers. (If you’re Disney fans, you will LOVE this series. It’s a fictional series set in the Disney parks. Check it out and see for yourself!)

Series of books, Kingdom Keepers book series, books to read to grandkids - Ways to Be an Awesome Long Distance Grandparent - Adventures in NanaLand

Long Distance Grandparent Activity #6 – Play the Story Game

The Story Game is where you start a story with 3-5 words. Then, your grandchild needs to continue the story with just 3-5 words. Then you continue the story with the next 3-5 words. This game can get hilarious when your grandchildren run it completely off the rails in a direction that you just didn’t anticipate. . .especially with the little ones!

Long Distance Grandparent Activity #7 – Play the Rhythm Game

Play the rhythm game on a video chat. That’s where you choose a “4-beat” (ie. Slap your thighs, clap, snap with the right hand, and then snap with the left hand. Then repeat the pattern to the “beat” while you play the game).

Then you have to name objects in alphabetical order according to the subject you choose. For instance, say you choose to go on an imaginary picnic. The first person might say, “We’re going on a picnic. I’m going to bring apples.” (Say this in a 4-beat rhythm.) The second person has to build on that by saying, “We’re going on a picnic. I’m going to bring apples, bananas. The next person has to build on that by saying, “We’re going on a picnic. I’m going to bring apples, bananas, cake, and so on. You are “out” if you break the rhythm or miss one of the items in the list.

Long Distance Grandparent Activity #8 – Cook & Eat a Meal Together

Have you ever thought of cooking and eating a meal together online? My daughter-in-law does this with her mother. They will agree ahead of time what they are cooking and get all the ingredients needed to make the meal. At the designated day and time, they gather on Skype. They each fix the meal and talk while they do so. Just because you are long distance grandparents doesn’t mean that you can’t have a meal together!

This is a great way for parents or grandparents hand down family recipes to those who don’t live close.After the meal is fixed, the family sits down to dinner and prays together. The meal then consists of eating and chatting just as if they were all in the same room. What a great tradition this has become for their family! At my house, the kitchen is the congregation area. We do so much bonding there. . .sometimes a little too much. . .if you know what I mean! 😉

Long Distance Grandparent Activity #9 – Do Jigsaw Puzzles Online

Did you know you can do jigsaw puzzles together online? You can invite groups of people to join and do the puzzle. I haven’t tried this yet, but it sounds like something our little family would absolutely LOVE!!

Long Distance Grandparent Activity #10 – Use the Marco Polo App

Send quick video messages when time zones are just too far apart. You can do this through the Marco Polo app – It’s FREE! If you aren’t familiar with the app, it bills itself as the “video walkie talkie.” You can save the videos so that you can have an ongoing video conversation. Sometimes we have actual conversations, and other times, we just do SILLY!

Try it out! It’s awesome for long distance grandparents! We’ve been using for awhile now, and we love it!

Marco Polo app logo for long distance grandparents - Ways to Be Awesome Long Distance Grandparents - Adventures in NanaLand

Long Distance Grandparent Activity #11 – Send Secret Messages

Send secret messages through the mail for your grandchildren to decode. This will make you the best long distance grandparents of any fourth grader in their school. You can get some secret code ideas in our Printable Activity Packet for Long Distance Grandkids.

Long Distance Grandparent Activity #12 – Share Your Personal History

Share your personal history with your grandchildren one story at a time. This will be invaluable someday. As a matter of fact, it might be fun to put these stories into a video and put it on a private YouTube channel or burn onto a CD that you can share with your family.

Long Distance Grandparent Activity #13 – Record a Story

Make a recording (video or just voice) of you reading a story to the kids. Make sure you “do the voices” for the characters. I got one of those “Record-a-story” books with a Christmas theme, and Papa and I read and recorded the story. We sent it to our Texas Littles. Their mom told us that for many, many weeks, it was the favorite bedtime story. The kids requested it every night, because it was Nana and Papa reading to them. . . even though it was after Christmas.

Long Distance Grandparent Activity #14 – Plant Something Together

Send your grandkids a small planting set – pot, seeds, soil, maybe some small tools, watering can, gloves, etc. You keep some of the same seeds. When they get the package, plan a time to video chat and plant the seeds while they do the same. Every week compare your plant’s growth and see how they are doing.

Long Distance Grandparent Activity #15 – Send “Open When” Letters

You can send your grandkids “open when” letters. Mark some milestones during the coming weeks or months and write a letter to your grandchild for each of those times. Send them all at once and have a specific open date (and/or time). You can call them after they open each letter and tell them how much you love them.

Letters from a grandparent sitting on a computer keyboard - Adventures in NanaLand


That should get you thinking about connecting across the miles and building a closer relationship with your long distance grandchildren. Being long distance grandparents is a bit more work and does take some planning, but it’s worth it to have a good relationship with those sweet Littles that you don’t get to see all the time.

I would love to hear what kinds of things you do as long distance grandparents, because I would like to be better at this. Please let me know in the comments below.

Cookies & Milk for Everyone!

Nana Jill Signature with yellow flower




32 thoughts on “15 Ways to Be Awesome Long Distance Grandparents”

  1. So happy I found you here! I just became a grandma for the first time and we are 3 days drive apart …. it is going to be hard not seeing her like many grandparents are able to. I’m excited to try some of these ideas!!!

  2. deirdre

    My 5 grand kids ages, 6 – 17 yrs moved 12 hours away 4 years ago. It’s a very busy household and parents are stressed, a bit unorganized and aren’t able to set up regular times to FT me. The 3 boys aren’t much interested in FT or texting so I struggle to find a way to connect with them at 15, 10 , 6 yrs . The girls, 17 and 13, are a bit easier. I try to contact them every 2-4 weeks but often get no response!! Anybody have any tips for me – Thanks dedie

    1. That’s a tough one, Dedie! I notice as my long distance grands are getting older they too are sooooo busy! However, we do whatever we can to keep in touch even if it’s just a few minutes here and there. You may try just sending them the texts anyway even if you don’t get a response. It will let them know that you are there and that you are thinking about them. Don’t give up trying. Family relationships can be challenging, but are worth every bit of effort we put into them. Perhaps someone else will have some suggestions for you that have worked for them. Thanks for including us in your story!

  3. Barbara J Smith

    I have 6 grandchildren, same family. Ages: boy-12, boy-10, girl-8, boy-6, boy-4, boy-2 I live in OHIO, they live in Chicago. It is difficult to create a closeness because of the age differences.

    1. Definitely difficult to span the age groups, Barbara. . . especially when it’s long distance! The upside is that you could focus on spending more individual time with each child/age group. I think the most difficult is to combine the toddlers with older children. Because some of the older children like to help with younger children, I can do group activities when we’re on video chat. However, incorporating toddlers usually complicates things. I try to do separate activities for those littler ones. The bottom line is that it’s not always easy.

      Thanks for sharing your situation. Hopefully, others will share their thoughts also.

  4. Thank you for all the wonderful ideas. My grandkids have all moved away recently and so I’m looking for ways to connect.

    1. We’re glad you’re here, Elisabeth! There are so many wonderful ways to connect with our long distance grandchildren these days. It helps the distance seem not so big.

  5. We have a 5yo granddaughter living close to us and 4yo boy and 4mth girl living interstate. We visit often but it tears my heart out when the 4yo cries when we leave and then cries to his Mum and Dad that he doesn’t have any extended family living in their state. The parents both work and have no support from anyone. I love your suggestions but I think our grandson needs us more so we are in the process of packing up our home after living here for 36 years and moving closer to the two little ones. We will miss our older granddaughter but she is surrounded by family from her daddy’s side. We will visit her of course and she may be able to spend school holidays with us. No-one told me that when grandchildren are so far apart that it tears your heart in two… 🙁

  6. Stefanie

    I am a long distant aunt and one of the things I do with my nephews is we doodle and chat on the phone and send pictures back forth through Facebook messenger. They really seem to enjoy it!

  7. Margaret Davis

    Hi! I have never heard of some of the websites, thanks. We currently use Voxer.com to send pictures and videos. You can also use it’s a walkie talkie.
    I really appreciate this site and the time you have spent putting it together. We do more cell and speaker calls at this point, but I’m sure that Juna,5 and Ren,3 will enjoy all or more of these ideas.
    By the way I have a rather unique name that these littles use for me, and I LOVE IT! It is Baba Bunny. Their daddy is half Japanese and so the other grandma is Baba, but when I started wiggling my nose at Juna,(think…like a rabbit) she started calling me Baba Bunny!

    1. Oh Margaret, that name is precious! I think I’m a little jealous. Ha ha!

      So glad you found some fun new things to explore.

  8. Darlene

    I am Nanny to 4 of the most beautiful babies. Both my sons live far away and I have been trying to find ways to connect and do activities with the 5 & 7 year olds via the internet and I think you are the answer to my dreams. Thank you so much for sharing and providing these useful suggestions to those of us who are less creative? Your help is so appreciated. It may make me best Nanny in the world!

  9. Would like to suggest using readastorytome.com!

    We use it to read bedtime stories to our grandkids online and it’s completely free!

    1. Thanks, Dave! I haven’t used that website/app yet. I’m sure there are grandparents out there that will be super excited to try it.

      Thanks for sharing that with us!

  10. Would like suggestions for ways to connect on line with a 5 and 8 year old

    1. We do a zoom dinner every sunday night with a different game after dinner. The 8 year old is easy. Yatzee..pictionary…endless ideas for games. The 4 year old was trickier to include. We had success with a scavenger hunt where they had to find things to fit a category and share their finds. We also had success with snakes and ladders but we needed a second device to be set up over the game board. Tonight we may try mad libs as suggested on this website.

      1. Brenda, Can you give more details or info on how to do a scavenger hunt for out of state grandkids?

    2. Whiteboard fox is a fun, free interactive whiteboard with unlimited possibilities.

      1. Just tried it and that could be a lot of fun with the Littles!! Thanks for the sharing!

      2. I tried it and it required a subscription. Maybe something changed?

    3. Lori Outzen

      I just played a scavenger hunt with my 6 and 8 year old grandchildren. We came up with a list of natural things found in their yard. They took their list outdoors and searched for the items together. Then they called and shared with me what they found. Fun! I suggested they make a scrap book of their nature souvenirs.

      1. Lori, that sounds like so much fun for you and the kids! That’s a great idea about making a little scrapbook of their “treasures.” We need to be creative when it comes to long distance grandparenting, right? Thanks for sharing this!

    4. Online game sites, like YourturnMyturn.com or Tabletopia.com allow you to play one-on-one board games like checkers, chess, or even role-playing games, all online, for free! Enjoy each other’s company

      1. Love this! That helps grandparents who want to connect in other ways across the miles. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Elizabeth

    HI Evelyn and Isla!

    We miss you and would like to employ some of these ideas for staying connected with you.

    PIck out one you would like to do from the list in this site or think of one on your own and let Nana and Papa know.

    Nana and Papa Callahan

  12. Elizabeth

    HI Evelyn and Isla!

    We miss you and would like to employ some of these ideas for staying connected with you.

    PIck out one you would like to do and let Nana and Papa know.

    Nana and Papa Callahan

  13. Christie

    are there any online games with video that we can play together and see each other at the same time?? My granddaughter is 5

    1. Not that I know of, Christie. I play games with my grandkids by getting on Skype or Facetime and playing an actual game. We do story games, board games, trivia type games, etc.

      I usually let the kids have the game on their side. They can roll the dice for me, or read the cards, or move the playing pieces. I just tell them how I want to play that move. One of our new favorites is Disney Color Brain. It’s great for little ones if they know Disney characters pretty well. I just have the color cards on my side (which you can easily make) and my grandkids read me the clues.

      This way, we can still see each other and it’s almost like being in the same room. We have a whole post on Games & Activities to Play over Skype and other Video Chat. See if there are things in there that you can use with your granddaughter. Have fun!

    2. Carla Hoyng

      Caribu is great for that age. It’s free until the end of May

  14. Jeannie

    Hi I was trying to find the Marco Polo app and the one that popped up is called Marco polo- stay in touch-. Under the GET button it says in-app purchases. Is this the app you referred to above in activity #10?

    There is another Marco Polo app but it’s called World School.

    1. Hi Jeannie!

      I believe that you have the correct Marco Polo app – the one that says: Stay in touch. It should have the same logo that you see in the post. It’s NOT the one called World School.

      We use this Marco Polo app to send little videos back and forth and the kids absolutely LOVE it! I even have a little grand-niece that sends me videos when she is staying with her grandma – we are BFFs.

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