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Bridging the Physical Gap for Families

When my older son was little, we lived within 20 minutes of all of our relatives – both sides of the family.  He spent the first four years of his life being immersed in extended family.  But, due to a job change for my husband, we ended up moving about four hours away, creating a huge gap in our families’ lives and our son’s.  We found a way, though, to keep family close while still miles away.

In our new home, we created a “family tree” wall.  We framed pictures of all of our relatives, each person with his or her own individual frame.  And, along the hallway leading to my son’s room, we hung these photos.  Each night, as my son finished his bathroom duties and headed off to bed, we said, “goodnight” to all of our family.  It was (and still is) a wonderful way to keep him in touch with those that were such an intricate part of his first few years.

As an alternative, take a group photo the next time a large number of family are together and frame this.  Keeping it in your child’s room will be a nice way to keep those family members close to your child.  It is a great way to keep loving faces familiar (and names, too).

Reaching Across The Miles

We were very blessed to live close to our extended family for the first four years of my older son’s life.  He grew up among grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and so many other relatives that a village really and truly raised him.  When he was four, though, our family made the decision to move several hours away.  It was a GREAT move, but we sorely missed our family.

There are several things we have done to keep in touch with our family.  And, when kids are young, it is important to keep those communication lines with family open and moving.  Children can benefit greatly from the influence of positive role models and close ties with family.  Children can learn how families and communities work and rely upon each other by being a part of an active and close family, even when they are physically miles away.

  1. Pick up the phone – especially if you have a great calling plan!  Use cell phones or land lines, whichever has the best “deal” and make it a point to talk at least once a week.  Grandparents and other relatives will love hearing about school and friends, and kids will enjoy remembering the great things that have happened during the week.  Another great phone idea is to put everyone on “speaker”.  Kids can be part of the greater conversation, and you can help nudge kids past the “Uh huh” and “fine” answers. 
  2. Smile!  Put a camera in the hands of your child and have him or her document a day.  Maybe a picture of breakfast, the school bus, or even a walk around the block are just the things the family wants to see.  Photos can be emailed or mailed; have your child either dictate or write a description of the photos to share with others.
  3. Go online – create a family website for family members to log on and check in with the family.  There are several hosting sites that are private.  Myfamily.com is a good source, and blogger.com can be set to private as well.  This is my personal favorite; my family has a blog, and it has been an invaluable way for our parents to share in the lives of our children.
  4. Encourage the grandparents (and other relatives) to reciprocate!  Relatives can read a favorite book over the phone to share with your child.  Or, ask them to send a note or postcard from time to time.  Children of all ages love getting mail, and a note every now and then will let your child know that they are thought of.
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