Technology for Grandparents: Tips for Living Far Away from Grandchildren

Young woman using tablet to video call grandparents - Technology for grandparents - Adventures in NanaLand

Young woman using tablet to video call grandparents - Technology for grandparents - Adventures in NanaLand

**UPDATED: February 2022**

Are you living far away from grandchildren? And do you hate it? You’re not alone! I hear every day how there are so many grandparents living far away from grandchildren. . .and yes, they hate it! So, if you’re one of those grandparents, I’m willing to bet that you are always looking for ways to connect with those long distance grandchildren.

We have a modern garden full of technology that even we seniors can use! There are cell phones, computers, tablets, and all the software that is available to make use of those great things! I’m happy to say that much of it is user-friendly technology for grandparents and allows us to chat “in person” with those we love. Well. . .as much as video chat is “in person.”

However, there is one little caveat. . .we aren’t digital natives. And that, my friend, can cause a few weeds to spring up in our garden. So along with all the tech comes the frustrations. . .some from the tech itself and some that are just related to the fact that we are using tech to keep in touch.

Toddler on cell phone - Living far away from grandchildren - Adventures in NanaLand
(I have some Littles that just LOVE talking on a cell phone. I think it makes them feel grown up!)

Let’s get weeding. . .

How Do You “Chat” When Living Far Away From Grandchildren?

(Just as a disclaimer, I am not representing any of these companies nor am I getting paid for any kind of review. I have added some links so you could read more about each one. I should also say that this is NOT a comprehensive list. There are many alternatives out there. These are just the ones that we have used personally. . .and they’re FREE!)

Skype. . .well. . .

Skype is by far one of the most well-known video chat options but not used as often anymore. Zoom has become the leader over the past couple of years. However, if you’re still using Skype and it’s working for you, great! However, it’s been one of the most frustrating options for us as of late! It seems we’ve had more and more issues trying to use it successfully. Have you had problems with it too? It definitely has had some glitches recently. So, If you have experienced some issues trying to use Skype, I have some other user-friendly alternatives for you!


I’m starting with this one because it is well known. If you are an Apple junkie, then you are probably already familiar with Facetime. This one is a great alternative IF both ends have an Apple device. Apple does NOT make a Facetime product that works on Android or Windows. But, for iPhone, iPad or any Apple product, Facetime is a great solution!


This one’s a newcomer to the scene. . .and my new favorite. . .Welcome Zoom! At first glance, this seems to be for business only, but it’s a great tool for us grandparents as many of us have learned! Downloading Zoom and setting up a meeting is so much easier than you may think. Plus, there are security measures that you can put in place to keep your get together with your grandkids safe and private.

There are two option for Zoom accounts – paid and free. Of course, free is the best, right? One of the drawbacks is that you can only do 40-minute meetings with the free account. However, one thing that most people don’t know is that the 40-minute restriction only applies to meetings of 3 or more computers. That means that if you are connecting with only one grandchild (or one family of grandchildren), you can talk and share as long as you want – no time limit!

Facebook Messenger for Kids

Just to be clear, I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I’m sure I’m not alone on this one. However, to video chat, Messenger offers a great solution whether you are on a phone or a computer. The good news is that it is accessible on all devices – Android, Windows or any Apple product. You can either jump on or use the Facebook Messenger app.

But. . .what if your grandchild is too young to be on Facebook?

A really good solution to that is to use the Facebook Messenger app for Kids.  The parents download the app and they have total control over who their child is talking to. Putting the child’s name as a contact does not create a Facebook profile for them so it’s safe. However, once they are in there, your grandchild will show up in your contacts and you can video call them or visa versa.

This app comes with cute little graphics that they can put up on the screen that gives them hearts, happy faces, crying eyes, etc. They can do fun things while they talk to you. You know how kids love to see their own faces on the video chat!

Grandparents using smartphone - Technology tips for grandparents - Adventures in NanaLand

Google Duo

This one is not well known but has been great for us! It works on all phones. It’s a lot like Facetime, but not limited to Apple devices only. You just download the free app and you’re ready to go! It’s pretty self-explanatory and easy to use. It has the capability to do a video call or send a video recording. This is the app I recommend the most for those living far away from grandchildren.

Google Hangouts & Meet

You only need to have a Google account to access Google Hangouts. Previously, Google had announced that Google Hangouts will be transitioning to Google Chat & Google Meet. However, it looks like Hangouts is still available. Google Meet is functional and is as easy to use as Zoom. It works much like other video chat applications. You just need a device with a camera and a microphone.

Marco Polo

I saved the best for last, we LOVE Marco Polo! This is an app for your phone – both iPhone and Android. It’s free and really easy to use. (Although, they do have a paid option now – not needed in my opinion.) After you install the app on your phone, the app will start giving you suggestions for people to add based on your contact list in your phone or your Facebook friends list.

When you see your Contacts list (the little head with the circle around it at the bottom of the screen), there will be a blue or purple rectangle next to each contact’s name. The blue rectangles say “Invite” and purple rectangles say “Chat.” The invite rectangles mean that the person does not already have the Marco Polo app and you can invite them to install it and chat with you. The chat rectangles mean that the person is already on Marco Polo and you can immediately send them a video chat message.

Marco Polo is not a face-to-face video chat, but instead a way to send short videos back and forth. So, you record a video and then it’s the other person’s turn to send you one back. The person can be watching live while you are recording the video and add reactions like a “thumbs up” or “smiley face” or a “heart.” There are other options available with the paid version.

We have had some great conversations back and forth with our grandkids! They LOVE this app!

Marco Polo app logo

(There are definitely others like Viber or What’s App, but I personally haven’t used those much. However, you are welcome to try others and leave us a message in the comments about what works or doesn’t work for you!)

Whatever program you use when you’re living far away from grandchildren, just make sure you talk to them regularly. You can build a close relationship. . .even across the miles. Here are some tips to make things go a bit smoother while chatting with those cute little grandchildren. . .

6 Tips to Video Chatting with Long Distance Grandchildren

Little boys looking at cell phone - Living far away from grandchildren - Adventures in NanaLand

Papa and I love to video chat with our Littles, and it’s the highlight of our day or week! Through lots of trial and error, we have found some things that make our video chat conversations more productive and enjoyable.

Let’s talk about some of the tips that will make things a bit smoother during a video chat call:

1.  Time of Day

Pay attention to the time of day it is for your grandchild. When you’re living far away from grandchildren, you may not know their schedule very well. Don’t try to talk to them if they are in a rush to get out the door to soccer practice, if it’s nap time, or close to a meal time.

Hungry, tired, cranky kids are pretty hard to satisfy. Remember that if you try to talk to them and it seems like it’s a bad time, just arrange a different time, and don’t take it personally.

2. Attention Span

Judge the attention span of your grandchild based on experience or perhaps the suggestion of their parents. Don’t be disappointed if the call doesn’t last as long as you hope. One source reports that you shouldn’t expect your grandchild’s attention to be more than one minute per year of age up to about 6 years old.

I have had a bit better luck than that. My long distance grandchildren are a bit active and energetic, but I can keep their attention longer than that. Hopefully, you can too. Just don’t expect too much! (Well, that is unless you are like Papa. He will do anything for a laugh and to keep the attention of the Littles!)

Man with screen stickers making him look like a girly sheep - Living far away from grandchildren - Adventures in NanaLand

3. Look into the Camera

This one is really hard. Are you like me? Looking at yourself rather than straight ahead? I’m worried that my hair is wonky or that you can’t see my whole face or that maybe my bra strap is showing. Ha ha! I’m still trying to train myself to look into the camera and not at myself in the little square video in the corner.

Looking directly at the camera helps you make eye contact, well. . .kind of. . .with your grandkids. One thing that has helped me is to move that little video window somewhere up near the camera lens. Just try to look into the camera as often as possible, because it will appear as though you are looking right at your little person.

4. Use a Laptop, Tablet or Cell phone (if possible)

This allows you to move around and play games with your grandchild. You can change the scenery or point out things in your surroundings. Small children may get distracted by the keyboard or mouse on a desktop computer anyway. So, encourage your grandchild to be on a portable device as well. The only exception to this is if you are doing something on the computer together like a game or painting a picture together. Those things are sometimes easier on a desktop computer.

5.  Be Prepared

Because you can play a game, do some cooking, or create something together, be sure you have all your materials ready to go and available. You don’t want to risk your grandchild losing interest before you even get started. And trust me. . .it only takes a few seconds for your grandchild to get distracted.

6.  Always Sign Off with Something Special

Always sign off with hugging the computer or blowing kisses or just high five the camera. You can even make up something that is special between you and your grandchildren. It’s fun to have your “own thing!”

Whatever it is, don’t forget to do it EVERY time. It will give your grandchild some consistency and they will know that it is the end of your time together. Plus, when you’re living far away from grandchildren, you need all the little extra special things you can have to help build those relationships.

So, whether you are living far away from grandchildren or across the street,. . . get talking! “Weed your technology garden” with these suggestions and cut the excuses.

When you get the hang of it, leave a comment below and tell us what do you that makes things easier when you video chat with the grandkids!


Cookies & Milk for Everyone!



9 thoughts on “Technology for Grandparents: Tips for Living Far Away from Grandchildren”

  1. I try to chat with grandkids at least once a week on Alexis. The problem I find is they compete with each other to talk to me. They are 3 and 6. After awhile it develops into chaos. Then on Alexis there is a way to change the screen into something funny. My granddaughter is more focused on pressing all the buttons. I was thinking of getting a timer of some sort so I can talk to one at a time. Does any one else have this problem?

  2. Thank you, Jill. My daughter and grandson live nearby, but we have been avoiding contact since March due to Covid-19. My grandson is 12 and his mom chose to keep him home to take classes on Zoom while other children went back to school. He is struggling, but losing momentum in participation and studies after Zoom each day. Mom is working 3 days a week and he is monitoring himself. He wants to play Fortnite and would exclusively if given the chance. Mom restricts him and I am brought into the issue because I take his game home when he is in trouble. My tech skills are limited these days, but I would like to find ways to make him feel good about his tech abilities and find some interactive games that we could play together online. Any suggestions? Annie

  3. Grandma Patty

    Thank you for the great ideas! We have 12 grandchildren that live away; from 90 to 450 to 6,000 miles away (2 live in Italy). So timing is definitely important! I love the free puzzles/codes/ projects that I can print out and mail. I’m going to try the codes to send secret messages! Sending mail back and forth from a foreign country takes much longer than to those in the same country, but I think it will work. We use What’s App for our calls to Italy since we don’t have the same phones (iPhone and Android). We can send videos also on What’s APP. Thank you again!

    1. Patty, I’m happy you are finding ways to connect with those grandchildren! Wow! All 12 live long distance? I’ll admit that it’s more work to keep those long distance relationships strong but oh so worth it! Thanks for sharing your ideas with us!

  4. I FaceTime once a week with both of my Grands it is usually 1-2 hours. I let Dad chose time of day. I prepare several things in advance. I try to have fun and incorporate learning as well. I taught them how to make bread. During that time I told them about the history of bread. I read scripture where bread was mentioned in the Bible. I talked about the science of bread how the yeast worked. We did Math as I was adding ingredients I had them tell me how many 1/4 cups of flour etc. I had six different silly hats and when I would bring a new ingredient I would where a different hat. My littlest went and got a hat. We have made no bake cookies together. We have done the hockey pokey together. Simon says. We have each been ballerinas. We have read books. We both have are you my mother and go dogs go so we each had a book and I would read one page and she would read the next. We played frozen 2 monopoly and tick tack toe. We played play dough and legos together and watch each other build. I have 4 grandchildren and I sent each one a pen pal letter and have enjoyed getting their letters and will forever keep. I can’t wait to be with them all again but this really helps. We Zoom, Skype and FaceTime it just depends on situation.

    1. Wow! That’s awesome fun! What a creative way to teach about bread and things related to it. The beauty of all of this is that the kids don’t realize that they’re actually learning something.

      Way to go, grandma!

    2. Wow! You are awesome! This GiGi wants to grow up & be like you.

  5. Thank you so much for the wonderful ideas, Barbara! My Husband and I (Poppa & Nonna) live on one side of the U.S., and our precious Granddaughters live all the way on the other side. These are wonderful and creative suggestions – thank you again for sharing!

  6. Absolutely correct. Grandparents can easily connect with their children using tools like Skype, R-HUB HD video conferencing, Webex, Facetime etc. These are easy to use and provide quality video calling.

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