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Those of us with the challenge of living hundreds of miles from our precious grandchildren are always looking for new ways to stay in touch. We send birthday and holiday gifts, we travel to see them when we can, and we have them invade our space as often as we can persuade them to come. But the fact remains that they live day by day away from us and we miss them. Let’s take a look at some ways to keep the connection with family fresh and real.

Keep in touch. Don’t underestimate the value of a weekly note or postcard. Send an e-mail, a tape recording, a “secret message” or whatever occurs to you to let your grandchildren know you are thinking of them.

Take note of their current “favorites.” If they love Spiderman right now, send some stickers, a new lunchbox or a pillow with that theme. They know you value their choices and care to please them.

Get with it and add a webcam to your computer. You can have regular online visits and see those wonderful faces at the same time. It keeps you in their thoughts and you stay current with their lives.

Give what you have to give! Are you great at math? Send little math games, questions, or brain teasers and wait for a response. Are you a chess player? Get the grandkids into a postal chess game. Are you artistic? Send art materials with simple projects and be ready to display them in your home. Are you a great cook? Send kid recipes for them to try or plan a cooking day together when you get the chance. Use your imagination to build a bridge to the grandchildren.

Plan annual events to anticipate together. Whether it is a yearly beach trip, or a week in the summer to “do the town” together, be sure to play it up each year with notes and calls to build anticipation. Kids love to look forward to an event—that’s half the fun!

Don’t let long periods of time go between contacts. Young children especially need regular points of contact to keep strong relationships with grandparents. Be sure you have current pictures of the grandchildren and send pictures of yourselves for them to keep. Pictures of times together should be taken regularly.

Monthly surprise packages can be assembled and sent inexpensively and are a terrific way to build anticipation and keep the fun alive. You can fill them with small toys, games, or activity materials. They can even be as simple as a letter with hand-drawn pictures or a postcard from your most recent travels.

One enterprising set of grandparents designed a computer webpage just for their two granddaughters. Using a template program they set up a page where they can send letters, post coloring pages, games and even educational material such as information and activities on animals. Are you up for the challenge?

As always, when you take a little time and share something of yourself, the dividends those actions pay will be well worth the effort. It is difficult to be far away from those you love. Make the most of any opportunity you have to spend quality time with the grandkids, and if you can’t do it in person, send a little piece of yourself via the mail or computer. Remember children enjoy humor and surprises. They love to wonder what will await them next. They love to be loved by their grandparents whether they are present with them or sending their love across the miles!