Category: Grandparents

11 Fun and Useful Apps for Expat Families in 2022

11 Fun and Useful Apps for Families in 2022 by Vincent van de Noord

Do you ever feel like your family is missing out on the life of your child? I know I do. When I was young, I saw my grandparents often because they lived very close by. Naturally, we developed a very strong and loving bond.

Nowadays, my family is living further apart. My son can’t hop on his bike to see his grandparents, so we need other ways to stay in touch. Luckily, almost everything can be done virtually these days. We’re still waiting for technology but kisses and hugs, but my son is saving them up for the moments my family is together in real life.

Finding the right apps can be a chore. We know because we sorted through many of them. To help you, we’ve made a list of 11 apps that you could use. Some are free, but most are freemium (you can try it out, but have to pay to take full advantage of the app).

Each of these apps offers something different and can help you build a virtual connection with your family. So that when you are together in real life, it will be as if you were never apart.

We’ve sorted them into categories. Let’s dive in!

The best video calling apps

For live video calls, these are great options.

FaceTime (free)

Apple’s video calling platform is great for live interaction with your family. You can use it on an iPad for an extra-large screen, and it offers funny animal filters that you can play around with.

It’s only available on Apple devices. You do have the challenge of finding the right time, and depending on the creativity of your family members it will be a conversation with the child or just the adults talking.

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/facetime/id1110145091

Zoom (freemium)

Zoom really took off during COVID. It works very well as a tool for video calls, but it’s built for business communication, so there is no playfulness unless you bring it yourself. The free option is limited to 40 minutes.

https://zoom.us

Alternative:

You can also use Google Meet, which is free to use.

The best messenger apps

If you want to send messages, these are the right apps for you.

Marco Polo (freemium)

Marco Polo is a great option if you want to have video chats with your family. It works by sending short videos back and forth, which makes it more suited to use for young children. It’s designed for close relationships and is relatively easy to use.

What it doesn’t offer is content or activities to get the conversation going. As a parent, you often still have to initiate the contact.

https://www.marcopolo.me/wellbeing/

WhatsApp (free)

I don’t think this one needs an introduction. With approximately 2 billion (!) users, WhatsApp is the most popular mobile messenger app worldwide. It’s great to share messages, videos, and photos. You can also create a group for your family.

The downside is that it’s a very generic messenger built for adults, and your videos and photos are easily lost in your message history. And let’s not forget it’s owned by Meta (formally Facebook), a company that isn’t well known for its privacy standards.

https://www.whatsapp.com

Signal (free)

Signal is privacy friendly alternative to WhatsApp. It offers similar functionality, but its focus on security and privacy can make it a better choice for users concerned about their data (and of course, that should be everyone!).

https://signal.org

Best photo & video sharing apps

If you primarily want to share photos and videos, these apps could be great for you.

Google Photos (freemium)

This is a popular platform where you can store and organize all your photos and videos and share them with your family. You get some free storage, if you need more you have to buy an additional subscription.

Google Photos offers a great photo-sharing platform. However, for some people (myself included), sharing private photos of my child with Google feels uncomfortable.

https://www.google.com/photos/about/

Tiny Beans (freemium)

Tiny Beans is a platform with lots of content for parents. They also offer an app that allows you to share photos of your child with your family and track their milestones.

It offers great ideas for parents, but they don’t facilitate two-way interaction between loved ones and a child. It’s perfect for keeping your family in the loop but less suited to building a relationship with loved ones.

https://tinybeans.com

Best family games

This is our favorite category. It’s not just sharing videos and messages, but really playing together. Being playful is important for a child’s development, and its also a lot of fun!

Together (freemium)

This is a family video chat focused on grandparents and grandchildren that lets you play little games and read books together in a video call. It offers games like chess, checkers, and memory. You can have 3 free calls, after that you will have to buy a subscription.

https://www.togethervideoapp.com

OK Play (freemium)

This is a bit of an odd one out because it’s not about connecting with loved ones remotely, but about playing games when you’re together. But because it’s also about creating a connection, I wanted to point this out as well. As a parent, definitely give it a try and play together with your child.

https://okplay.co

Caribu (freemium)

Caribu lets you do fun activities together in a video call. For instance, you can read a book or create a drawing together. You can start for free, but to make the most use of the app you will need a subscription.

It can make video calls more engaging and playful, but you still have to find the right time. As a parent myself, I know that can be a challenge!

https://caribu.com

Peekabond (freemium)

Peekabond is a family app that combines the best of video messaging, photo & video sharing, and family games. It’s built with children in mind and designed to be easy to use for all ages. You can share videos or play little games with loved ones. It helps grandparents and grandchildren to build a deeper relationship, with activities that grow with the age of the child.

Download Peekabond

A final word

I am a proud father and co founder of Peekabond. All the apps we’ve mentioned here could help your family to feel closer. Building a meaningful relationship always requires effort. I’ve found that many families really WANT to have a closer connection, but it’s hard to maintain in the daily hustle of life.

This is the challenge that we want to solve with Peekabond. Create a virtual place where you can be together as a family, without adding more work on your plate as a parent.

I invite you to try Peekabond, hope to see you there soon.

About Vincent

Vincent is a father and co-founder of Peekabond, living in the Netherlands. He loves designing beautiful products and wants to use his skills to make (at least) 20 million people smile. When he’s not working on Peekabond, you can find him doing outdoor activities or spending quality time with his family. You can find more about Vincent here

Join Us at Peekabond

Anieke Lamers, our CEO created Peakabond at the onset of Covid-19. A mobile app to help global families bond with young children remotely. Inspiring families to create playful and engaging moments with young children.

Asynchronous video connection and inspirational science-based content suggestions. Allowing families and loved ones to share small moments and build better bonds. Every play experience is designed with care and approved by child development experts. Always age appropriate. Always private and secure, never showing ads. Our intention is to build a movement that connects families across borders and over generations. To try storytelling activities at Peekabond go here. 

Use Relationship-Centered Storytelling to Nurture Strong Relationships with Children at a Distance

Use Relationship-Centered Storytelling to Nurture Strong Relationships with Children at a Distance by Kerry Byrne

(Repurposed with permission from The Long Distance Grandparent blog)

When my grandmother Pat was diagnosed with cancer and given months to live, she decided she was going to get her ears pierced. I was 13 at the time and my mother and I took her to the shopping center in the rural town we had recently moved back to because my mom ( a single mom to 3 kids no less) was her primary caregiver.

We shared a lot of moments in those last few months but this one stands out because my grandmother was in a wheelchair by then and she felt uncomfortable about it.

I remember her feeling this way.

But it’s also memorable because she shared some rather strong language when that gun actually pierced her 65-year-old ears!

Truth be told, our family – sometimes to a fault, relies on comic relief to cope with challenging situations.

This coping mechanism is part of me, my history, my sense of belonging – and the resulting stories are also a part of me.

The memory of taking my grandmother to have her ears pierced and how she shocked and made the person who was holding that piercing gun – and anyone in ear shot – laugh.

These stories matter.

And while our family collectively shares this story from time to time, I believe there are moments when you need to be the one capturing these moments along the way.

Why capture special moments from your perspective?

Yes, the parents might take photos of you together, but then the photos are on their phone, not yours. They might tell them stories about you together, but it will be the parent’s memory of it, not yours.

I want you to preserve your relationship with your little one at a distance. 

If you are going to work this hard to nurture a strong relationship with young children in your family, I want you to capture it for them.

If you are reading this, I’m going to assume you are a grandparent/grand-aunt/uncle (or parent) who knows that nurturing strong bonds from a distance requires extra work and effort.

In my membership for long distance grandparents and webinars, I teach grandparents how to plan, partner, prepare, play and preserve for connection. These are the 5 pillars of the framework I developed based on evidence from multiple disciplines – and through my own research interviews with long distance grandparents and parents.

And while I share a lot of ways to prepare and play, preserving for connection is just as important to nurturing meaningful relationships.

There are so many ways you can preserve stories about your relationship

How to create relationship- centered storytelling?

There are two steps to create a beautiful family centered story for your little one:

Step 1: Get in the photos: One of the easiest to start with is using photos you take of your moments together to tell a story. Instead of only taking pictures of them, be sure to get in the photos with them. Whether you take a silly face selfie with them, a photo of you reading stories together or screenshots of celebrating their 21st birthday together on Zoom. Taking photos of you together is an important way to preserve your relationship.

Step 2: Use the photos in step 1 to create a postcard or a photo book. Alongside the photo, share a short story about the moment you captured.These moments, whether in-person or on a video chat – are your relationship. This is where relationship-centered storytelling comes in. Point out the colors in the photo, a smell that was present, a noise in the background and of course, tell them how you felt in that moment.

Concluding Thoughts

Storytelling experts tell us that using lots of sensory details helps children remember.

Put your relationship at the center of stories you preserve and share these gifts with your little ones at a distance. 

I hope you will tell them lots of stories – and I’ll share more ways to do this as I learn more.

But let’s start with the stories only you can tell: The experience of those grand moments you are creating together.

Happy Connecting!

About Kerry

Kerry Byrne holds a PhD, and although she originally started out wanting to be a child psychologist, she became a research scientist in the area of aging and care. For over 20 years, she has published, presented and collaborated on numerous projects and initiatives to improve the experience of aging. She believes in the power of intergenerational relationships within families to create a more caring and less ageist society. Kerry is the Founder of The Long Distance Grandparent, a mission-driven business helping grandparents build strong bonds with their grandchildren from a distance.

Try Peekabond

Anieke Lamers, our CEO created Peakabond at the onset of Covid-19. A mobile app to help global families bond with young children remotely. Inspiring families to create playful and engaging moments with young children.

Asynchronous video connection and inspirational science-based content suggestions. Allowing families and loved ones to share small moments and build better bonds. Every play experience is designed with care and approved by child development experts. Always age appropriate. Always private and secure, never showing ads. Our intention is to build a movement that connects families across borders and over generations.  To try Peekabond go here.

The Story of Kerry from the Long Distance Grandparent Community by Anieke Lamers

Starting a grandparent club as a parent

I remember the first time I met Kerry it was April 2021 and I immediately knew she was very special and we immediately had a connection. I didn’t prepare well for the call then and somehow expected a grandmother to appear so when I saw her face I was surprised and blurted out: “wow you are so young to be a grandmother!?” 

She smiled and corrected me saying: “I’m not a grandmother but I’m a mother who wants her children to have a strong connection with their grandparents”. This hit home for me immediately being an aunt of a little girl in Australia and I felt immediately connected to her.  

We have a shared vision that children – now more than ever – need a solid foundation and family, no matter the distance 

We’ve kept in touch since and it was such a pleasure catching up with Kerry this time with my cofounder and Chief Scientist/P.h.D. Alyea Sandovar who also relates because she is an aunt of little ones in America. We have a shared vision that children need their family, now more than ever – no matter the distance between.

So how did The Long Distance Grandparent start?

As a mother living abroad with her husband in Dubai and Houston, she knows the pain of being away from family back in Canada and England. Kerry shared that her father is now 81 years old and she really wanted to help her children Finn and Charlie and their grandparents build a bond. 

November is grandparent season in Dubai and UAE

Living in Dubai she noticed how many expat families were missing their family at a distance. The total expat population in United Arab Emirates has in 2022 come to 8.84 million, which constitutes approximately 89% of the population (Source). It is next to Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Singapore among the top 5 countries with the highest share of expats in total population. Kerry noticed that November seemed to be the “grandparent season”. That is, the time of year when the weather is beautiful and the beaches are filled with grandparents visiting their grandchildren in Dubai. She saw an opportunity and the “Grandparent Interview Project” was born. 

Letting go of the grandparent you want to be

Kerry interviewed many grandparents and found out many of them were experiencing a lot of grief of having to let go of the “type of grandparent they thought they were going to be”. This is often paired with a lot of emotional complexity. Grandparents worry they will not be able to nurture a meaningful relationship with their grandchildren because of the distance. Being a trained scientist and caring at heart Kerry saw a role to help grandparents because she knew how possible it was to have strong relationships, no matter the distance between.  And this is how the LDG community started in 2019, which now has about 2000 members from all over the world. 

LDG & Peekabond collaboration

The LDG community receives weekly inspiration about how to connect with grandchildren at a distance through fun, practical and meaningful suggestions. For instance, she encourages grandparents to be intentional about the mail they send and to prepare for the time they spend on video chats together.  Snail mail is an especially powerful way for grandparents to connect because children love it when something arrives especially for them – and it’s unlikely that anyone else in their lives is taking the time to send mail.  Kerry also hosts webinars throughout the year for long-distance grandparents. Stay tuned because we might co-host a webinar between Peekabond and LDG at some point. Kerry started The Long Distance Grandparent Society, an online monthly membership program, as a way to help grandparents move towards more fun and meaningful connections with their grandchildren. It’s an amazing community of engaged and intentional grandparents who know that nurturing bonds really does involve going the extra mile. The paid subscription costs $20 per month or $200 for a year. In the membership and through her free weekly newsletters specifically for long-distance grandparents, she focuses on practical, but fun and meaningful ways to build bonds with your grandchildren.

Background

Kerry Byrne holds a PhD, and although she originally started out wanting to be a child psychologist, she became a research scientist in the area of aging and care. For over 20 years, she has published, presented and collaborated on numerous projects and initiatives to improve the experience of aging. She believes in the power of intergenerational relationships within families to create a more caring and less ageist society. Kerry is the Founder of The Long Distance Grandparent, a mission-driven business helping grandparents build strong bonds with their grandchildren from a distance. 

Grand plans for the future

Kerry has grand plans (pun intended) to grow her membership and help more grandparents through a series of workshops, speaking engagements and e-books.  In the US, Since 2001, the number of grandparents has grown by 24%, from 56 million to 70 million in 2019. By age 65, 96% of Americans are grandparents. Over half of American grandparents report living at a distance from at least one grandchild (Source: AARP) Four in ten grandparents work, contributing to their strength as a significant market force (Source: AARP).