A Skype-ing Grandma

Skype with family members who live far away.The other day I chatted with a good friend who used to be a professor here at the university where I work.

She told me how she absolutely loves Skype — and then she shared how she uses it.

After chatting with her, I checked out my posts here on Grandma Ideas and realized that I had mentioned Skype before but I haven’t really explained it.

Shame on me.

I’ll tell you all about it. But, first let me tell you what Grandma Patsy does.

Grandma Patsy has a three-year-old granddaughter that lives in Texas.  The distance from Utah to Texas is huge.  Travel is long, arduous, and expensive.  But with Skype, grandmother and granddaughter can be a vibrant part of eachother’s lives.

Grandma Patsy told me that using Skype, she is able to read her granddaughter a story, play games, sing, and dance.  She said that recently she was ‘playing’ with her granddaughter (holding up the toys so her granddaughter could see and then ‘playing’ with them according to her granddaughter’s instructions).

Right in the middle of the play, her granddaughter suddenly dashed away from the computer screen.  When she came back, the granddaughter had a tutu on.  Then, she looked at her Grandma (on the computer screen) and said, “Grandma, where is YOUR tutu?”  Grandma Patsy hurriedly found an impromptu tutu and put it on.  They danced together even though they were over one thousand of miles apart. (Boy, I’d be hard pressed to find a tutu at MY house . . . )

“I was in the privacy of my own home so it didn’t matter how silly I looked,”  Grandma Patsy said.  “Nobody saw me except my granddaughter.”  How delightful!

How can you use Skype? Please keep in mind that young children have a short attention span and might have a hard time focusing for very long.

Let me count the ways. (Thought I’d throw a little reference to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. . .) Consider using Skype to:

  1. See Halloween costumes before your grandkids go trick or treating
  2. Read a bed time story to a grandchild
  3. Sing songs and do nursery rhymes with grandchildren
  4. Play together with a grandchild
  5. See your grandchildren dressed in their new school clothes before they leave on the first day of school
  6. Wish them Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or happy birthday/Ground Hog’s Day/Flag Day, Labor Day/Easter/or whatever!
  7. Color pictures together
  8. Play dress up together
  9. Have a virtual tea party together
  10. Have cookies and milk together
  11. Discuss how school is going
  12. Prearrange to watch a movie then discuss it (or read a book and discuss it)
  13. Send your grandchild a packet of things to make (like paper foldables) and after she makes them she can show them to you through Skype
  14. Give sewing or piano lessons or teach them how to cook

The idea is to think of things that you would normally do if your grandchildren lived close by and then see if you can do it virtually using Skype.

Now. For the technical things.  Skype is a free program that you download from the Internet.  With Skype and a microphone, you can ‘call’ computer to computer and have conversations for free.  If you have a web camera, you can have a video chat where you can see in addition to hearing the person to whom you are talking. You can find web cameras for under $100 either online or places like Staples or Office Max.

Go to Skype.com to download the software.  When you start the program, you will need to set up a name and password for yourself.  Follow the rest of the set up directions.  They are easy.  Trust me.

Then, you’ll need to share your Skype user name with your granddaughter (or your son and daughter if your granddaughter is too young to know how to set it up).  Your granddaughter needs to install and set up Skype on her computer, too, and let you know her Skype name.  Once you have Skype set up, create a contact with you granddaughter’s Skype name.  And she needs to add you as a contact in her list.

Here are some good users guides that can help you get started. It’s easy. Honest. Trust me on this. Once it’s all set up, the hard part is over.

Then, designate a time when you can both log on to Skype and enjoy some time together.

With a few simple clicks of a mouse button, you can connect with your loved ones far away and be a fun part of their lives and strengthen your relationship with them.

Have any of you used Skype?  Please make a comment and let me know how you have used it.

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