As we have figured out ways of staying connected with our grandkids who are 2,000 miles away, my husband and I have definitely “made it up” as we go along when it comes to video chats. After all, I never saw a relative or friend Skype or FaceTime with their grandchildren. No one had tips to pass along to us. We were on our own in figuring out how to make video chatting work.
I bought an iPad purely in the hopes that we could FaceTime with Baby Charlotte right from the start. How we wanted to see that precious face – asleep, awake, we didn’t care! Just let us look at her darlingness and we’d be happy!
My instinct told me we had to come up with a way to make video chatting as easy for the new parents as possible. If it wasn’t too much of a hassle, perhaps they would let us FaceTime often! Hmmm. More thinking led to this conclusion: I knew that if we started a FaceTime session, our very polite son and daughter-in-law would never be the ones to say, “Well, we gotta go …” But long FaceTime sessions would be hard for busy parents so they might avoid video chatting at all.
Brainstorm! I decided to tell our son and his wife that whenever they “had five minutes,” we would love to FaceTime just to see the baby, whatever she was doing. Let us watch you change a diaper! We’d love it! Or to just see her kick her little legs while she’s lying on a quilt? Grandparent bliss.
My husband and I stuck to the five-minute limit. When we would video chat, at the end of the five minutes, even if everyone was having fun, one of us grandparents would say, “Our FaceTime is up. Throw us a kiss, honey!” By us ending the FaceTime after five minutes, the parents were much more likely to let us peek into their lives frequently, even if just to show the darling in a new outfit.
It worked! Our son and his wife didn’t hesitate to call us and say, “Wanna FaceTime with Charlotte?” because they knew they themselves weren’t committing to 20 minutes or a half-hour of us cooing at the baby. “Sure, we’d love 5 minutes!” we’d say.
Of course as Charlotte grew and was joined by two more siblings, the 5-minute limit was abandoned. We entertain and engage the kids and the parents usually do other things (pay bills, unpack groceries, catch up on emails) during our FaceTime so longer sessions work well for everyone. Most of our sessions are long (many are easily over an hour) but that’s the way we like it, although it might be too long for other grandparents.
Good times to Skype or FaceTime with a baby.
You need to convince the parents of how important it is for you to just see the baby! Then, your oohs and ahhs and heartfelt appreciation will help your cause.
We found these are especially good times to FaceTime or Skype with a baby (but it’s up to the parents!):
- During tummy time! You can keep the baby entertained during tummy time, a position many babies don’t like.
- When the baby is lying on the floor, kicking at the overhead objects on a play mat.
- Bath time is fun, if one parent is holding the baby and one parent is holding the Skype or FaceTime device.
- When the baby is in a highchair.
What YOU can do during video chats.
- Talk to the baby, not the parents. Don’t be bashful! Tell the baby how you love him or her.
- Sing a song, such as “You Are My Sunshine” or “I Love You a Bushel and a Peck.” Maybe have two or three that you use regularly and the baby will come to associate them with you.
- Recite a few nursery rhymes. Babies love the cadence of the words. My friend Peg gives a copy of Richard Scarry’s Best Mother Goose Ever at every baby shower. We used the one she gave me at my baby shower to recite nursery rhymes on Facetime and then, when we visited, used Charlotte’s copy that was at her house.
- Smile a lot!
- Make sure the image the baby sees on his or her device is a close-up of you.
- Play peek-a-boo.
- Use the same catch phrase frequently, to connect the “video you” with the in-person you. I naturally say, “Oh my!” about so many things, including when I was FaceTiming. I was thrilled that when I was visiting in person and the three grandchildren, each as babies, looked at me with “knowing” eyes when I would say, “Oh, my!” They each connected the “video me” with the “in-person me!”
- If you play a musical instrument (i.e., harmonica, violin) that’s easy to play during a video chat, treat the baby to a small sampling.
- Consider saying goodbye in the same way every time. “Goodbye, my little pumpkin!”
What do YOU do when you video chat with your grandchild? Share a tip with us in the Comments section below.