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 making 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 make video chatting as easy for the new parents as possible. If it wasn’t a hassle, perhaps they’d 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-love would never be the ones to say, “Well, we gotta go …” But long FaceTime sessions are hard for busy parents so they might avoid video chatting.
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. Watch her kick her little legs lying on a quilt? Grandparent bliss.
My husband and I stuck to the five-minute limit. 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 video chat after five minutes, the parents were 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 and say, “Wanna FaceTime with Charlotte?” because they 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, the 5-minute limit was abandoned as video sessions became longer and more interesting. (I write about video chats with toddlers and preschoolers in another post.) But as a new brother joined Charlotte … and then a new sister … and just last August, a new brother … we go back to 5-minute video chatting with the baby while still doing regular video visits with the older grandkids. “Want 5-minutes with Sebastian?” our peach-of-a-daughter-in-law will now text us and we always answer, “Yes” and scurry for our iPad.
Good times to video chat 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 use FaceTime, Skype, Google Duo, or Facebook Portal 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 washing 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. What a thrill to visit in person and have the baby — including Sebastain now — look at me with “knowing” eyes when I would say, “Oh, my!” The grandkids as babies each connected the “video me” with the “in-person me!”
- If you play a musical instrument (i.e., guitar, harmonica, violin), 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.
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