Staying close to family across the miles You’ve just had a great summer visit with your sister and her young kids, and the cousins really started to bond. Or, you flew back East to visit your parents and your preschooler just got a big dose of Nana and Grandpa. How do you keep that bond alive? Here are some ideas on staying close across the miles.

Make a face time date each week

Now, more than ever, we can be there virtually for one another. By using Face Time, Google Hangouts, Go to Meeting, Skype, etc., you can see your friends’ and family’s faces, read their expressions, and hear their voices. It just might be the next best thing to being there with them in the flesh. Plan a set day, set time, each week to connect, even if it’s just for a few minutes. If this seems challenging, resort to the phone and put it on speaker so everyone can join in.

Send texts, photos and emails regularly

Don’t wait for big moments to share your day with your long-distance loved ones. It just takes a minute to send a photo of your baby sleeping or your toddler making a goofy face. Giving a personal update of your daily activities, beyond Facebook, makes it feel like your family is more a part of your daily lives—and your kids will grow up with the good habit of maintaining constant contact with the ones they love.

Create photo books, puzzles or calendars of family events

Keep that summer beach trip alive in the middle of winter by creating a gift of the best picture and giving it to your family and friends at holiday time. With a calendar, you can feature each family in the group on various months. Feature their photo on their birth month for extra meaning.

Send surprises, even when it’s not their birthday

Celebrate little life victories by getting in the habit of sending unexpected gifts. Your nephew was just named room captain for the week in preschool—send a paper crown. Your brother got a promotion—send home-made glitter-filled cards from your kids. Your parents moved into a new townhome—frame some family photos or your kids’ best early artwork to spruce up the place. The same goes for sending care packages when someone in your extended family or friend group is going through a challenging time.

Play games and read books together

Ask your parents to record a bedtime story for your kids, and have it made into a book so that your kids hear their grandparents’ voices when they go to bed at night. Or, get the same book and read it together virtually. There are several gaming apps where you can play games with friends or compete across the miles. Try competing with Monster Hunt on your Apple phone with young kids, or setting up a family fantasy sports league or Words with Friends for older kids. If that seems complicated, simply play 20 questions over text with cousins while driving to school or winding down in the evening.

Take a treasure hunt together

Deem Sunday at 2pm treasure hunt time and send each participating family group a list of items that they have to find across their own town. They get one hour to go around and find the five or so items, taking a picture to show each victory and texting it to the group. The family that wins gets bragging rights, complete with a celebratory, “we won!” photo.

While being apart from your family and friends can be hard, with effort, you can keep the ties strong through the years, ensuring you are a part of each other’s lives through all moments, big and small.