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6 Tips for Using Skype With a Baby

Ever since my mum left for Malta after her first grandmotherly visit, leaving us bereft and wondering who was going to do our laundry, we have had regular video calls with each other; Mum on her desktop and me on mobile.

'I have the perfect mother-in-law,' my husband announced in his wedding speech. 'She's kind, fun, caring and generous.

'And,' he said, 'She lives in Malta.'

As a new mother, it's been both a blessing and a curse that my own mother lives abroad. Brilliant, because my husband and I have had time and space to grow as a new family, which means making our own mistakes as well as making our own decisions.

But it's terrible too, sometimes, because we miss her. And, though she would drop everything to fly over if we needed her, a four-hour flight seems a bit extreme just because we're a bit hungover.

What hasn't suffered, however, is her relationship with her first and only grandchild, and we have Skype to thank for that. Ever since my mum left for Malta after her first grandmotherly visit, leaving us bereft and wondering who was going to do our laundry, we have had regular video calls with each other; Mum on her desktop and me on mobile.

Both my mum and son have taken to the technology seamlessly. Grandma will happily gaze at her screen watching Grandson crawl around the floor before bath time. Grandson will squeal with delight as Grandma hides under her desk and jumps out again to play Peepo, and the latest development is seeing my 13-month-old baby both kiss the phone and offer his beaker of milk to the screen for Grandma to 'drink'.

My auntie is brilliant on Skype too: I was once even able to do all the washing up while she sang nursery rhymes to my son as he sat in his highchair.

'We do it with the in-laws in California every Sunday,' says Celia, who has a nine-month-old baby. 'We just prop up the phone and let them get on with it.'

While it helps for babies to get used to relatives' voices and faces, it can sometimes get confusing.

'My mum's friend lived in the US and had her main relationship with her grandchild through Skype,' says Amber, whose baby is two months old and yet to interact properly with her uncle, who lives in Japan. 'When he was nine months old, she came to the UK to meet him for the first time and when she walked in the room he looked really shocked and immediately looked at the laptop. It was as if he thought she belonged in there.'

But, just as our grandparents weren't immune to hearing the sound of a hand over the phone receiver while we were coaxed over to speak to them, our parents are not spared the true feelings of our children either.

'We FaceTime our families in Scotland and Suffolk which my two-year-old loves,' says Sara. 'But when he's had enough he abruptly says, 'OK, Bye!' and hangs up.

So here are our 6 tips for video calls with a baby:

1) Mobile is often the best medium on the baby-side. Computers and their tempting buttons can be too distracting for a little one, and could lead to an early cut-off. iPads and tablets are great when you want to prop it up and leave them to it, but are too cumbersome for hand-held calls and can prompt calls to watch Peppa. You can also link up your TV to Skype, which might be better for toddlers and older children.

2) Don't feel pressure to have a conversation, it's just as valuable for relatives to see the baby doing his or her normal activities such as having bath or eating breakfast, as it is for them to have a full-on face time.

3) Bedtime stories are fun over Skype. If you have the same book on both sides, grandparents can read the story and describe the pictures, while you turn the pages for your baby to see on your end. If timezones don't work out well for you, you can swap video messages, or try an app like Gingersnap, which allows grandparents to buy and feature in a story which you can then play to your kid in waking hours.

4) Take some time to work out best angles and positioning so that your baby can see the speaker clearly. Eye contact is important, so they should try to get close to the camera, and work out eye-lines so it's as close to normal contact as possible.

5) Make it fun and colourful. Relatives can use toys, puppets and games such as Peepo or 'Where's the...?' to engage the baby. Again, make sure they position the camera in a way that the baby can see everything he or she is supposed to.

6) If baby is getting distracted, switch the camera view so they can see themselves. Works every time.

:: This article was originally posted on TantrumXYZ, a site for design-conscious, tech-savvy parents.