by Meg Flanagan
Truth time: it’s very rare that military kids are ever going to be stationed near their grandparents’ hometowns. Like, unless your parents happen to live near a major hub for your branch of service, it’s probably not going to happen. Ever.
In the 12 or so years I’ve done military life, the closest we’ve ever gotten to “home” is about 10-12 hours away when we drive. That’s going from the Mid-Atlantic to southern New England. The farthest? Oh, just Japan.
In the six years that we’ve added kids to the mix, we’ve had to come up with cute and creative ways to show love across the miles. Frankly, I’m not that crafty, so these are pretty simple… which also means you can easily DIY, too!
Give a sweet little squeeze, even when you can’t be there in person!
For this craft, you’ll need:
- construction paper, any colors
- thick ribbon
- glue or stapler
- On one sheet of paper, trace your child’s hands. Cut them out and decorate any way they please.
- With the ribbon, measure out a length that stretches from wrist to wrist, across the body. Cut.
- Glue or staple the ribbon to the base/wrist of each traced hand.
- Pop everything into an envelope and put it in the mail. It’s a hug-to-go!
My parents have loved getting these sweet little reminders of my kids!
2. Countdown Paper Chain
Getting ready to celebrate something big? We like to do fun countdowns when we’re getting ready to be together again, especially after a long time apart.
For this activity you’ll need;
- construction paper, cut into long strips
- pencil or pens
- stapler or tape
- Cut the construction paper the long way, making about 3-4 strips per piece. Make as many strips as you have days until your big event, plus one for the day-of, times two – one for you and one for the grands.
- Separate the strips into piles, one for your house and one for the grandparents’ house.
- On the grandparents’ pile, write down fun things you’re looking forward to doing, to-do items they’ll want to do to prep for your visit, or other milestones along the way.
- On your pile, write down your own to-do items, shopping lists, milestones, or fun ideas you want to talk about doing together.
- Mail the grandparents’ chain to them, well in advance so they can countdown with you.
- On the start date, pull off the countdown chain link together. You could FaceTime or just text each other to celebrate another day down!
We love to do a countdown, especially for grandparent visits or big milestones like holidays or PCSing. Adding to-do list items alongside of more “fun” activities keeps us on track with our prep while also creating lots of anticipation!
3. Baking Class via Facetime
When my kids are with my parents, they always do a cooking or baking activity together. Now that we’re separated again, they’ve been loving online baking together.
For this activity, you’ll need:
- ingredients for the recipe (will vary by recipe)
- kitchen tools
- tablet, phone or computer for video chat
- Before you start, do a little prep work. Talk to your parents or in-laws in advance and decide on a recipe you’d like to make “together.”
- After you’ve picked a recipe, gather the ingredients.
- Start your video chat with the grands and get cooking! Invite your child to try reading the recipe or measuring the ingredients, whatever they can reasonably handle for their age and maturity.
- Mix it up and let it cook.
- After it’s cooled, have a taste test via video chat!
This one is super fun to do with any traditional family recipes, like cookies or pies, things that are just passed down generation after generation or that have unique twists to them. We like to do this with my family’s favorite gingerbread cookies at Christmas!
4. Hold My Hand Mug
Nothing warms a grandparent’s heart more than holding their grandkid’s hand, other than a nice cup of coffee or tea. Making this mug is a fun way to combine both!
Full disclosure: I found the original idea for this on POPSugar!
For this activity, you’ll need:
- white ceramic mug
- Sharpie marker
- Grab a cheap white mug, like one from the dollar store.
- Use Sharpie markers, preferably ones that are like paint.
- Place your child’s hand on the cup, under the handle, like they are holding it. Trace in black.
- Once it’s dry, let your child decorate around the hand in any colors they want. Use the Sharpies!
- On the bottom, add your child’s name, age. and the year in Sharpie.
- Place the mug in the cold oven and then turn it to 350°. Bake for 30 minutes, leaving it in the oven until everything is completely cool. You can choose to repeat this process to really bake in the colors.
Remember this is handwash only, so pass the word along to your parents or in-laws. When you send your mug, you could consider including a bag of their favorite coffee or a tin of tea. Of course, plan to FaceTime them when they use their new mug for the first time!
- How to Grow Your Military Family’s Capacity for Empathy
- 6 Amazing Ways to Strengthen the Child-Parent Relationship During Deployment
- 7 Ways In-Laws Can Support Military Spouses
Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger and military spouse. She owns Meg Flanagan Education Solutions, an education advocacy service dedicated to serving families on the K-12 journey. You can find Meg on Facebook. Meg is also available as a freelance writer and personal education advocate!