Creative Technology Resources to Interact with Your Grandchildren
BY JERRY WITKOVSKY AND DEANNA SHOSS
If you are reading this article, you are in good shape for having some technology-assisted fun and connection with your grandchild. First, of course, because if you are a subscriber or reader of Grand Magazine, you are 100% committed to learning more and being the best grandparent you can be. Secondly, because with the ease of clicking a link, you can engage in amazing, creative interaction with your grandchild online, whether you are side-by-side or across the country from each other.
“If your grandchildren have been on screens all day for school, they may need a break before connecting online again.”
We’ll start by accepting that in person is better, and that it aches not to be together in person with grandchildren. In the spirit of mindfulness and living in the present (and the assumption that geography and COVID concerns may keep you physically separated) this article is about how to make it meaningful to connect via technology: From overcoming anxiety about learning new technology, what works best for children at different ages, and ideas for tech solutions you can use now.
Tips for Communicating with Grandchildren Using Technology
“Let your grandchildren take the lead on how to communicate, and let them teach you how to use devices,” says Lisa Ehrlich, M.Ed. and Manager of Outreach and Community Education at Response for Teens in Skokie, IL. “If your grandchild wants to make funny faces using filters, but not talk, play along. Or, if a kid wants to take you through the house to show you something, but the zoom movement is making you motion sick, close your eyes and ask them to tell you when the wild ride is over, says Lisa.
Lisa also recommends scheduling time to connect online. If your grandchildren have been on screens all day for school, they may need a break before connecting online again. “If a teen doesn’t want to be on video, send memes or notes back and forth via text. Ask them what they have been into lately,” adds Lisa. See more in these guidelines by age for technology from the American Academy of Pediatrics—note they differentiate time that is interactive—aka with grandparents–from passive screen viewing.
Ideas to Use Today!
Lisa recommends thinking about the fun things you do together and makes it zoom or facetime friendly:
- Art project? Baking project? Send materials and do it together.
- Karaoke over zoom.
- Fashion shows (“We create themes like Project Runway,” says Lisa). Grandparents can participate or judge!
- Plan a scavenger hunt that has the kids finding meaningful things for them.
Here are other platforms and resources for using technology to interact together:
- House Party can be used on a phone, iPad, or computer
- Bingo Maker allows you to make a bingo card
- Netflix Watch Parties will help you set up a watch party for Disney, Hulu, Netflix, and HBO. It is better than trying to turn the movie on at the same time because it is synced and will pause for everyone watching when one person needs to get up (for the bathroom, perhaps). It opens a group chat function so you can chat during the film. My suggestion, though, is to also have at least one device that you can facetime or zoom on. That way, you can talk rather than chat.
We also checked in with Barbara Maldonado, who teaches digital media to adults at General Assembly and is In-House Agency Client Services Manager at Caterpillar. She’s also a beloved aunt who is always looking for new and exciting ways to engage. Here are Barbara’s ideas, including museums and animal sanctuaries that you can visit together, albeit from afar:
Duo for FaceTime (Allows both iPhone and Smartphone/Android to communicate by FaceTime)
Family Shared Experiences
The MET Children’s Virtual Programming (membership required)
Animal Sanctuaries on Instagram (a few of more)
Technology can help you stay connected, diminish feelings of isolation, and provide mutual support across the generations of the family. Beyond connection, how can you magnify your relationship—with Zoom family meetings, social media, long-distance game playing, cloud collaboration, and more?
We hope these ideas help and invite you to share what’s worked for you here
Jerry and Deanna are co-authors of the forthcoming book, Where Two Worlds Meet: A Guide to Connecting with Your Teenage Grandchildren, coming June 2022.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
DEANNA SHOSS is the founder and CEO of Intercultural Talk, a digital, intercultural, and real-life marketing agency that helps “second actors” navigate today’s communication technologies to support their goals. And she’s the host of Intercultural Spark, a weekly live broadcast on Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn featuring interviews with people about the spark inside them that drives them to spark change in the world with their mission-driven businesses and life projects. Shoss speaks Portuguese, Spanish, and French and is a certified Body Pump instructor. Learn more at interculturaltalk.com.
What ideas have you implemented in your family? How do you unleash your creativity and unique gifts to transform your family? Please share it with me at email@example.com or here https://www.grandparentsunleashed.com/jerry-witkovsky-grandparents-advocate/
Author of The Grandest Love and a long-time social