Grandparenting: Bonding with Grandchildren

Grandmother reading to her toddler granddaughter

Grandparents can play a special role in your child’s life. They’re uniquely qualified to be friends, mentors, and guides, offering a sense of connection and tradition. Whether grandparents live nearby or faraway, they can support and enhance your role as a parent — even if spending time together in person isn’t an option these days. 

No two families are alike, and grandparent-grandchild relationships come in many different styles. Trust and respect grandparents to find their own ways to relate to and interact with your child — and be sure to encourage their bond.

How To Bond With Grandparents From Far Away

Whether grandparents and grandchildren are separated by miles, or they’re unable to see each other in person due to COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines, here are some ways to help them connect:

  • Use FaceTime, Skype, Messenger Kids, Marco Polo, or similar technology to communicate on a regular basis. Being able to see grandparents makes the interaction more concrete, especially for the littlest ones.
  • Take video chats outside so they can go for a walk “together” — they can show each other their surroundings and anything interesting they see.
  • Bring back the pen pal relationship. Encourage your child to write notes or draw pictures to send to their grandparents — and vice versa.
  • Take photos and videos of your child doing different activities — riding their bike, swinging on the monkey bars, shooting a basketball — and send them on a regular basis.
  • Ask grandparents to record songs, lullabies, and bedtime stories to be shared again and again. 
  • Send grandparents small mementos, such as your child’s artwork or crafts.
  • Establish special traditions like virtual Friday night ice cream dates or Saturday morning breakfasts. 

How To Bond With Grandparents in Person

If your parents — or your spouse’s — live with you, help them maximize the time they have together, in-person, under the same roof. Many grandparents enjoy leisurely playing with their grandchildren, but might need a few suggestions. Encourage grandparents to introduce games from their childhoods, such as hide and seek, jacks, jump rope, marbles, hopscotch, and others.

Some children enjoy simply talking to or participating in everyday routines with their grandparents, such as working in the garden or making a meal. Grandparents can also pass on family traditions and history as they share stories or look through photo albums with your child. 

Grandparent Activities for Infants and Toddlers

  • Reading stories
  • Going for a walk
  • Playing with water
  • Stacking toys or blocks

Grandparent Activities for Preschoolers

  • Cooking or baking together, especially a favorite family recipe
  • Working on simple art activities such as playdough or watercolors
  • Reading stories
  • Board games
  • Exploring nature
  • Visiting a children’s museum (keeping social distancing and other guidelines in mind)

Grandparent Activities for School-Age Children

  • Playing board or card games
  • Doing art activities like sculpting with clay, Origami, or watercolors
  • Visiting a museum or zoo (keeping physical distancing and other guidelines in mind)
  • Learning a skill such as fishing or gardening
  • Working on a puzzle

Building Relationships Through Open Communication

A lot has changed since your parents were parents themselves. You might have different ideas about discipline, food, safety, or sleep. Express appreciation for grandparents’ efforts, while, at the same time, respectfully sharing your parenting values and priorities. Be clear about non-negotiables, such as car seat usage or movie viewing, but give them slack on other things. Children are adaptable and can adjust to different ways of doing things.  

Strong family relationships can be a source of joy for everyone involved! 

Additional Resources on Bonding with Grandparents

  • Your mom or dad was a blessing when you returned from maternity leave – providing excellent care for your child in a way that only grandparents can. But you may not have that level of support forever. Consider the benefits of an early childhood education program and how you can smoothly transition your whole family when it’s time.
  • Whether your parents live close by, your spouse’s parents live out of state or some combination of both – it can be tricky to ensure that everyone feels included in your child’s life. Discover three tips for balancing time with both sets of grandparents.
  • Are you caring for your elderly mom or dad from afar? Elder care expert Sharon Roth Maguire from BrightStar Care speaks to the pragmatic side of long distance caregiving in this Bright Horizons podcast episode.

Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
Grandmother reading to her toddler granddaughter