Best way for semi-unsupervised very mobile five-year old to video chat
June 20, 2020 10:26 AM   Subscribe

What’s the best hardware solution to let my five-year-old video-chat with grandparents that allows for mobile, active play, moving between spaces, etc.

During lockdown, our little boy *loves* to video chat with his grandparents. It works great!

They tell him stories, talk to him. He also engages in real play. Like – we’ll make a fort out of pillows, and he’ll take the computer into it and go in the fort with his grandmother, run and jump off the couch, stuff like that. We are nearby when he does this, but sometimes in the next room or whatever. Part of the joy of this is it gives us a bit of a break from childcare.

We are currently doing this with a laptop, which introduces a few challenges:

- When he goes far from the computer, my parents sometimes have trouble hearing him. (This is the main problem)

- I am in constant fear that the computer will get broken, as he, say, brings into into a fort with him and jumps around. (This is a somewhat lesser problem: It’s an old spare laptop, he is mostly careful, but thee have been some falls and I’d like to worry less)

I wonder if there might be some better ways to do this?

- Maybe we could use a tablet that is cheaper and/or more rugged? We have a couple of android tablets kicking around, or could buy a new one if not too expensive. This seems like a great solution. But what I am not sure about is this: With a laptop, he can move it around the room with him, and has learned how to put it on an available surface and tilt the screen forward/back so he can be seen. I can’t figure out how to do this with a tablet. Is there some sort of stand or another arrangement that would allow for this?


- Might there be some way to make the sound more forgiving when we moves around the room? Maybe an external bluetooth speaker?

- Or maybe set things up more like a ‘meeting room”? Like set up a cam on the TV and connect a computer on that?

- Some other solution I am not thinking of? Maybe a dedicated video-chat device?

I’m happy to spend some money on this – his time with grandparents is very valuable and rewarding for all of us.

Any suggestions much appreciated!!
posted by ManInSuit to Technology (8 answers total)
 
There's a whole universe of kids' tablet cases that do just what you suggest in your first bullet. We have one of this type but there are other styles too. My kids' daycare center had the classroom tablets in those with clear screen protector stickers on the screens and it seems the tablets survived prolonged exposure to 25 four year olds so hopefully your kiddo can't do too much damage.
posted by potrzebie at 10:47 AM on June 20, 2020 [3 favorites]


We bought an iPad and a kids case precisely for this at the start of lockdown. It works great. This is the case we use. It’s fine. It would be better for this use case if the stand bit was a little wider, which would give it more stability on beds and couches. But it works ok! I don’t think you need a special audio setup at all.
posted by caek at 11:01 AM on June 20, 2020 [1 favorite]


I know amazon has a dubious rap, but they have both very cheap normal tablets ($50, typically, $40 right now) that you can case up, and rubberised kid versions. They're sad in the cpu department, but video chat has been working on phones for probably ten years at this point so I don't think they'll be incapable, and they have low res screens but your child probably doesn't have refined tastes. I'm thinking here that there's a risk of breaking it whatever you do, so one option is to spend on something you wouldn't be too sad to see break, and if you compare it with an iPad it's about a fifth the price.

If you do go that way, Amazon Fire has a walled garden of apps, but you can easily break out of it by installing the google play store app. (It's a low and decorative wall, I presume.) And since it's Android most of your favourite video apps should be available, with the obvious exception of FaceTime.

If you don't like paying Big Bezos, perhaps looking at that lineup will inspire you to find other similar devices. Cheapo Android tablets are a reasonably large market segment.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 11:19 AM on June 20, 2020 [1 favorite]


These look great! I wonder if anyone has a suggestion for a kid-friendly case/stand that provides more stability and mobility than the ones linked to here?

I'd love one that:

a) has a big base (so it won't topple over when put on a couch or a pillow)

and/or

b) has a range of motion that allows the screen and camera to point at downward angles. (My child often sits at a chair in front of the dinner table. He is small, so the cam needs to be pointed down to see him)

(a laptop, for all its disadvantages, does both these things....)
posted by ManInSuit at 1:20 PM on June 20, 2020


I use a cheap acer Chromebook for this. My three year old carries whoever she is talking to everywhere she goes. It has been knocked off the couch countless times and she’s been using in this manner for roughly the two years she has been mobile.
posted by stormygrey at 3:50 PM on June 20, 2020


If you have room, a used music stand is a great place to put a laptop or tablet.
posted by theora55 at 9:23 AM on June 22, 2020


We got a kindle fire 7 kids edition. It was cheap ($120 in Canada) and comes with a 2-year "you drop it, we replace it" warranty. So far he seems to love it. He can run all over with it and get into all kinds of trouble.

(It took some work to get all the distracting crap off it, as it comes set up with an endless stream of icons for content)
posted by ManInSuit at 7:18 PM on June 25, 2020


Also, to solve the "grandma can't always see you" problem: We also set up a laptop in the corner that sees the whole room, and have that one join the zoom meeting in its own window. So when he puts down the tablet to run around for a bit, she can still see him.
posted by ManInSuit at 1:08 PM on June 27, 2020


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