How to be the BEST long-distance grandma

Hi, my name is Joy and I blog at xoxo Grandma.  I’m a mom to four adult children and a grandmother to five with a few more on the way.  My closest child lives precisely 1,342 miles away from us. The furthest, my son’s family, lives 19+ hours away via a few plane flights. Someday, we hope to live closer to each other but until then, Facetime, Skype and a lot of flights are part of this grandma’s life. I love creating fun things to send or take to my little ones.

Every Saturday morning, my husband and I spend a lot of time on Facetime or Skype. We usually start our morning talking to our son’s family and then between the other grandchildren’s naps, we try to talk to each of our daughters.

We’ve noticed during these virtual chats that our grandchildren will say “hello,” but after a few minutes they’re bored of staring at a screen and want to do something more fun. Can’t blame them, right? The problem is, we don’t tire of talking to them quite as quickly, so we’ve had to learn to be creative with our virtual time. So, here’s a little peak into our tried-and-true tactic to extend these calls.

Last Saturday, my two-year-old granddaughter asked, “Grandma, read me a story.” Well, this totally melts this grandmother’s heart. I went into my bedroom where I keep my prized collection of children’s pop-up books and grabbed a few and proceeded to read. Soon I could hear her older brother say, “Ella, I want to see the iPad too.”  For the next 25 minutes, my husband held the phone while I read and read and read.  At one point, my grandson said, “Grandma, I have that book.” He went and got it and I read to them from my book, while he played with the tabs in his book. Then we talked about the first time I brought him the book.  I had given it to him when his family was living in Sweden – a 23+ hour flight from our home.  

We’ve also noticed that our busy 17 month-old grandson will stop what he’s doing, if I say, “Do you want Grandma to read you a story?” The other day, he even went to his basket of books and grabbed the most recent book I had given to him and brought it to the phone so I could read it.  On Wednesday, I was reading him the story “ABC3D” and once I got to the last three letters of the alphabet, he quickly said, “x,y,z” and my daughter showed him zooming backward down his full flight of stairs.  I guess, one story was enough for this busy boy.  Whether one story or ten, this tactic has led to more screen time with my favorite kids.                                                                                       

So, what books work best to captivate them?  Today, I’m going to share with you three of my favorite children’s pop-up books that provide endless entertainment – all worth purchasing.  

1.    “ABC3D“, by Marion Bataille is a fun, creative alphabet pop-up book.  My four-year-old grandson calls this book, “the weird alphabet book.”

2.     “Knick Knack Paddywhack”  by Paul Zelinsky is another pop-up winner! This is one book my grandchildren all want to read again and again. It contains fabulous illustrations throughout this book, but the last three pages are my favorite.  If you have a chance, the first edition of this book is the best because it has a few extra amazing pop-up features in it.

Seriously, have you ever wondered what paddywhack means?  When I was a kid, I used to think it was a spanking. Sounds accurate, right?  Actually, here’s a little educational moment for you: paddywhack is a strong elastic ligament or tendon in the midline of the neck of sheep or cattle. Dried paddywhack is commonly packaged and sold as a dog treat. So, now you know.


3.  “The Wheels on the Bus” also by Paul Zelinsky is one of my all time favorite pop-up books. I’ve purchased this book for all my children to read to their children and now I often give it as a baby gift. I can’t even count how many times I’ve read this book. It will have your kids enthralled for a long time!

So, there you have it– my little secrets! This is how you extend precious time with grand kids  even when they’re thousands of miles away. What’s your child’s favorite book?

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  • B.

    Found you from xoxo grandma. I love these tips. I’ll be recommending them to others.ReplyCancel

  • Julie

    Great idea! My children enjoyed pop-up books as well. Some of my favorite memories with my children are from holding them for hours in the rocking chair and reading. I kept a handful of books in the van as well, and anytime we went somewhere, especially to grandpa’s house which was an hour away, they pulled out books and read out loud to us. That also sparked some good discussions. Sometimes we read books backwards with dramatic expression….so funny! They learned to love reading. We literally wore out some of their favorite books. I don’t have grandchildren yet but I think I will add one or two of your suggested books to my bookcase in preparation 🙂 Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • JM

    Great ideas! Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • Barbara

    I have found that the best way to iChat, etc. with the grandkids is to do it while they’re at the table eating..…….captive audience. It really works.ReplyCancel

  • Eileen German

    Is the book pictured abov the 1st edition of KnckKnack Paddy Whack? I’ve found 2 by Paul Zelinsky on EBay. Nowhere can I find something indicating which one is 1st edition. The other book has a boy petting a dog with a bone. Thanks.ReplyCancel

  • I’m so happy when I stumble over a great site like yours. Pleased to meet you.ReplyCancel

  • Tina Hyde



MyMommyStyle Meet Camille

Hello! I am Camille, a wife, mother of four, Disney obsessed, certified teacher, and reality optimist. Motherhood comes with its ups and downs, and I hope while you're here you'll find something that makes your #momlife easier!


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