Besides living at a distance from grandchildren, what do you think is the second biggest barrier to seeing grandchildren? According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Grandparents Study, it is busy schedules.

What if I told you there was a free app that helps with busy schedules and also makes you feel connected to your grandchildren from a distance? It can’t teleport you to your grandchildren (I wish!), but it can make you feel closer to them.

It’s called Marco Polo. It’s described by the creators as a video walkie-talkie.  Unlike other video chatting apps, you don’t need to be ‘live’ with the other person, so you can video chat back and forth, even if your schedules don’t match. 

I love the stated purpose of this company: helping people feel close.

It was founded by a husband and wife team with children, living at a distance from grandparents.

What will you love about it?

  • It’s really easy to use. Download it to your phone or tablet (from Itunes Apple Store or Google Play) and add your grandchildren (or their parents) as contacts. Once you’ve done that, you just press ‘Start’ to begin recording a video message and then ‘Stop’ when you are finished.The beauty of it is that they can respond when it works for them. But it still feels like a continuous conversation.
  • All of the videos are saved in succession. This is a BIG advantage because you end up creating this beautiful video library of conversations with your grandchild. And you can review these sweet video messages all in one place when you need a ‘grand fix’.
  • You can create a ‘group ‘chat’ with multiple family members participating. If you have grandchildren in different locations, they can all be in the same group video chat. This helps all the cousins to stay connected as well.

I  love how this Nana uses Marco Polo for ‘Nana’s Book Club’. She reads a few lines from a storybook and asks her grandchildren questions about the story. This is such a wonderful way to engage because it is short and sweet, she gets to be part of story time, and she asks them questions that they can respond to when it works for their family.

How can you get the most from using Marco Polo with your grandchildren?

Many of the ideas I share in the Ultimate Video Call Sheet: How to Keep Your Grandchild’s Attention on Video Chats will work really well for engaging grandchildren on Marco Polo video chats.

But here are a few considerations to get you started:

  • Take your grandchild on a tour of somewhere special to you (your garden, your house, your favourite coffee shop). Ask younger or older grandchildren to send you a tour back. This could be of their bedroom, toy room, college campus or favourite place to eat. It’s a great way to show an interest in their lives, no matter their age.
  • With younger children, play the ‘Where am I?’ game. Video yourself in your garden, at work, while out at a coffee shop and give them a few hints.  Kids love this guessing game and will very likely send you a guessing game back. We played this game with some grands in our life. My son giggled hysterically with all the guesses they made about where he was (we were at the dentist!).
  • Teach them something that will connect you culturally. We are using it to teach my son the National Anthem for Canada. We are expats and left Canada about 3 years ago. Who better to teach him this than his Canadian grandparents through video?
  • Even with babies, this app is fun. You will end up with a video library, all in one spot, with all the latest babbles and cooing. It’s a wonderful library of connection to have available at your fingertips! This can be as simple as recording a game of peek-a-boo by placing your finger over the camera and then coming back with a grand BOO.
  • Some grandparents in our community are expecting grandchildren. If this is you, it might be fun to start using it with your daughter/son before baby arrives. It will hold a video ‘record’ of the pregnancy and will become part of your routine so will be much easier to continue using once your grandbaby arrives.

The key to using this app with any age of grandchild is to ask them questions that are active and require them to ‘show you something back’.

I really hope you have some fun with Marco Polo and enjoy it as much as we do with our long distance family.

Happy Connecting!

The Long Distance Grandparent