1. Share holiday storybooks.
Here's a gift that's better given before Christmas: holiday storybooks. My family's traditional favorites are Mr. Willoughby's Christmas Tree and Santa Mouse. Of course, you can't go wrong with a special edition of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
For long-distance grandparents, these books can be shipped directly to the grandchildren. A Hallmark Recordable Book is another option. Record the book before sending it off, or let the grandchild record it. A lasting record of those childish voices is a great gift for all.
2. Send cozy Christmas pajamas.
It's a shame to wait until Christmas to give children a gift of holiday pajamas. Give them early in the holiday season, and they will be able to enjoy them all winter. They will also be suitably garbed for those Christmas morning photographs. Footed pajamas are extra cozy. My oldest granddaughter loves them, even though she's well past the toddler stage.
If your grandchildren aren't nearby, order the pajamas online and have them sent directly to the grandkids. That creates another pleasurable experience--the delivery of a package!
3. Send a special family photograph.
Sharing vintage holiday photographs is another way to bring family members closer together. In Grandparenting at Long Distance, Selma Wassermann recommends that grandparents periodically send their grandchildren pictures chosen from the family archives. Of course, you won't want to part with your last copy of a photograph, but it's easy to scan a photo and print a copy. Grandchildren will especially like seeing photos of their own parents enjoying their childhood Christmases.
You don't have to be a long-distance grandparent to use this hint. Grandchildren love getting things in the mail, even if they live only blocks away.
4. Involve the grandchildren in charitable giving.
There's no time like the holiday season for a lesson about sharing with others. If your grandchildren live close to you, you can take them to pick out toys to donate to children in need. You may have noticed donation boxes in your area. If not, go to the Toys for Tots website and type in your location.
If your grandchildren do not live close to you, make a donation in their names to a charitable organization. Heifer International provides families in developing countries with livestock, poultry and other items to improve their standard of living. Gifts start at $20, and you can print out a card or send an email to announce your gift to your grandchildren.
5. Make a gingerbread mansion.
Making gingerbread houses with the grandkids is great fun, and it's really easy now that there are kits. If you're sending one to a grandchild who doesn't live nearby, I recommend the prebaked ones, as sending a kit that requires baking right before Christmas might send a stressed-out parent over the edge.
If you'd like to create something more lasting, there are gingerbread house craft kits that use materials such as cardboard or clay. They are not as toothsome, but they are a bit more durable.
6. Help out our fine feathered friends.
Christmas is also a wonderful time to remember the other creatures that share our planet. Your grandchildren will enjoy decorating a tree to serve as a feeding station for wild birds.
If your grandchildren don't live nearby, the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shops have bird feeders and bird food items for shipping. The knowledgeable workers will be able to advise you about what type of feeders and food are appropriate for your grandchildren's location.
7. Cook up some cookies.
It's easy for long-distance grandparents to share the fun of cookie baking with their grandchildren. While you're in the kitchen mixing up your favorite recipes, mix an extra batch of the dry ingredients, package in an airtight bag, tuck in a copy of the recipe and send off for your family to complete the job. Of course, you could always bake an extra batch and send it to them, but then their house wouldn't be filled with the special aromas that say "Christmas."
8. Select a seasonal ornament.Christmas ornaments are another gift that's better given before Christmas Day. Choose an ornament that displays the year, and you'll have a built-in record of Christmases past. Handmade ornaments are extra special. If you're buying ornament for long-distance sending, ornaments of wood or resin are the safest.
9. Snip out some snowflakes.
Have you shared the fun of making snowflakes with your grandchildren? Guide to Scrapbooking Rebecca Ludens shows us how to cut a six-sided snowflake, while Guide to LDS Rachel Bruner shares this printable paper pattern. If your grandchildren live far away, fill an envelope with paper printed with the snowflake pattern. It's a good diversion for long winter days, even after Christmas, when a craft that's easy and yet kind of magical will be appreciated by all.
10. Write a holiday poem.
A poem written especially for someone is one of the best gifts for giving and getting. If you've had experience writing poetry, you won't need much help. If you're a novice, you can still write special poems for your grandchildren. What's even more fun is to write poems with your grandchildren. If poetry intimidates you, try one of these Instant Poetry Forms. You are given the structure, and all you have to do is fill in the blanks. Create a tribute to a grandchild with "Some of My Best Friends Are Metaphors," or create a Christmas poem with the "Holiday" template. First and foremost, have fun.
If you're a long-distance grandparent, you can mail or email your poem to faraway family members.
11. Lift up your voices in song.
It's fun to sing Christmas songs with the family, but sometimes suddenly each member of the family is on a different verse. That's why you need lyric sheets. Many websites feature printable lyrics for Christmas songs. I like the mix of traditional and contemporary songs at BlueBonkers. If you're a long-distance grandparent, gather everyone around the computer for a Skype singalong, or just pick up the phone and serenade your loved ones.
12. Use technology to share a book.
Most grandparents' favorite way to read a book is curled up in a big armchair with a grandchild. For long-distance grandparents, that's not always possible, but there are other ways to share your love of reading. Thrifty grandparents can share a book over Skype. Ripple Reader is an e-book reader which can be downloaded for free on the computer. Books for the Ripple Reader begin at $4.99, and you can record them for a grandchild's enjoyment, or vice versa. Another possibility is Readeo, a site that facilitates grandparents and grandchildren sharing books over the computer. Guests can share the book of the month for free or pay a fee for access to more books.