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CONVERGE | Community

How to Celebrate National Grandparents Day from a Distance

September 11, 2020

Time to get creative!


Since 1978, Americans have celebrated grandparents on the first Sunday after Labor Day. This year's edition of National Grandparents Day is Sunday, September 13.


While this holiday isn't as well-known as Mother's Day or Father's Day, it's still an important one, especially in the time of COVID-19. One of the joys of grandparents is spending time with their families, especially grandkids. Grandparents who live far away or who are practicing social distancing are likely missing that special interaction.


This year, National Grandparents Day may require a different type of celebration. With a little creativity, however, parents can assist children with activities to let their grandparents feel just as cherished. Here are some ideas.


Listen to Their Stories


Grandparents love to share stories about their lives. Even if grandchildren aren't able to snuggle up and listen in-person on National Grandparents Day, they can do so virtually, through video chats, or online services created to foster these connections.


The LifeStory Challenge is a digital platform that guides the user through the story of their life through six chapters of six questions each, and prompts the user to easily add photos, hear inspiring quotes and share the story with their families. Upon completion, they receive a hardcover, customized Life Story book. 


Shelley Winkler of Scranton, Pa., took the LifeStory Challenge with her 15-year old granddaughter, who lives in New York. Shelley had been isolated with her husband for two months when she started the process.


"It was such a wonderful experience," she says. "We did it over Zoom or sometimes on the phone. It gave me and my granddaughter so much to talk about. And I remembered things I had not thought about in years."


Grandy is an online platform that connects grandparents with grandchildren. After grandparents sign up (the first month is free during the pandemic), a grandparent concierge sets up a call and walks them through all of the features on the site and how to use them. 


“The Life Story feature provides a list of questions that grandparents can answer and discuss with their grandkids," says Jennifer Rhodes, co-founder of Grandy. “Photos can be added to it, and the Life Story report with photos is saved to the site so family members can see it at any time."


Create an “I Love You" Video 


Grandparents can't get enough of three words — I love you. If you can't be there to say them in person, consider making and sending a video.


Not sure what to say? You can get some inspiration from these videos made by adorable grandkids in Australia.


For grandkids who love technology, several free apps make it easy to compile and edit videos. These include OpenShotSplice and Wave.


Share an Experience


Doing activities together is one of the best parts of grandparent and grandchild relationships. You can still share those experiences with each other, virtually, through video.


Glynis Williams, of Louisville, Ky., missed seeing her grandkids, as they are all social distancing. Now they have a virtual date on Sundays at 5 p.m. and meet through Google Duo, a free video calling app.


“Each week, it's a different grandchild's turn to present the weekly activity to the group," says Williams. The activities are based on personal interests and hobbies, and have included a grandchild leading the group in painting on canvas, learning yoga and story time.


More activities that grandparents and grandkids can do together include:

  • Baking: Grandchildren can ask grandparents to share their favorite recipes and make them together through video. For more variety, Raddish Kids offers a virtual guide for a “bake date" between grandparents and grandchildren, as well as free printable recipes and table talk cards that keep the conversation lively and flowing. Even easier: Set up a monthly baking date (maybe starting on National Grandparents Day), and order a baking subscription box, such as the Mix Box for Homemade Bakers, for the grandparent and grandchild. This is a great choice for those grandparents who are quarantining and not doing food shopping. 
  • Games: For centuries, grandkids and grandparents have bonded over games. Luckily, many popular in-person games are available to play together online, including Yahtzee, Monopoly, chess, checkers, Clue, Battleship and dominoes.
  • Movies: This time, Grandma and Grandpa get to pick the movie! Grandkids and grandparents can watch the same movie on different devices, and then they can share their reaction. Grandchildren will be exposed to a movie they probably have never seen before, and grandparents can revisit one of their favorites.


Send a Meaningful Gift


For grandchildren who want to send an actual gift, consider helping them choose something other than chocolates, fruit baskets or other gifts that are consumed quickly. In this often lonely time, why not send a gift that makes grandparents smile every day?


LifeMaps are humorous, captivating, whimsical geographical drawings that depict key people, places, personal traits, defining moments and fond memories in the lives of the recipients. Recently, artist Ronnis Oher created a LifeMap for a woman whose husband was turning 70. Due to restrictions on large gatherings, she couldn't have a party for him but still wanted to do something special to mark his milestone. Grandparents don't need to be celebrating a major birthday to enjoy this gift. 


Looking for other heartfelt gifts? Etsy has a nice selection of personalized “family tree blankets" that remind grandparents of loved ones while keeping them warm, as well as grandmother jewelry that includes family member names and sometimes birthstones. Shutterfly offers a variety of photo book options.


Celebrating Grandparents


The uncertainty of the pandemic, especially its effect on older folks, makes this year's National Grandparents Day celebrations even more important. Some families are lucky enough to be able to spend in-person time with grandparents. Other families must cherish them virtually. 


Either way, now is the time to step up efforts to show love and appreciation for grandparents — not just on National Grandparents Day but every day.


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