Staying in touch with kiddos during the pandemic
October 23, 2020 5:42 PM   Subscribe

I have 6 nieces and nephews between the ages of 3 and 7. My heart hurts being unable to see them all this year. Help me think of creative and realistic ways to stay in touch.

We do occasionally FaceTime/Zoom and (according to their parents) they like that, but as anyone who has tried to entertain kids through a tiny screen knows it’s not really that natural. When they already have to do it for school, I think everyone is sick of the little screen. My ideas so far have been

* Play collaborative video games with them that use voice chat. This works OK for the older one (we played some Stardew Valley) but open to ideas for more games.
* Writing them letters and sending them little holiday-themed gifts in the mail.

... but that’s all I’ve got for now. Any good ideas, ways to feel like we still have a fun relationship despite not being able to play in person?
posted by stoneandstar to Human Relations (12 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add: if you have ways to make the little screen more fun, those are very welcome!
posted by stoneandstar at 5:46 PM on October 23, 2020

Best answer: I have the opposite problem. My three year old never gets tired of FaceTime and will ask to call my mom at least three times a day. I’ve actually started using FaceTime as a babysitter while I get stuff done around the house. She didn’t really care for it when it was a group activity with me, her mom, and her brother, but once I let her hold the phone and walk around, she realized she could walk around and show off her life, and that was a game changer.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:57 PM on October 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: My daughter (5) loves being read chapter books over zoom by her grandparents- for like 1-2 hours at a time. Also crafting together, like doing play-doh or doing the same craft kits- similarly an hour or more of fun.
posted by rockindata at 5:58 PM on October 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Write to each one of them every week. Send them note cards and self addressed stamped envelopes so they can write to you. Drawings in lieu of actual writing is, of course, more than acceptable. Make this a routine so they expect the mail and can rely on it. Put all seven notes in the mail every Monday.

If you can, illustrate your notes with little drawings, preferably badly done ones. The drawings of you doing the things you report in your letters will be a huge hit, even if they can't tell the doggie you petted from a hat. They don't draw very well either, you just have to keep up with their ability. If your drawings are bad enough simply label the impossible to figure out bits. Dog --> Cake --> Buttons on my coat -->

Written content is way more important and effective than little presents. Kids want attention, not things.

Send them things that relate to their lives and interests. So if one of them is complaining about school, send them a bad drawing of them crying while sitting on a pile of school books, and a second picture of them happy because it is after school and they are playing. Write short stories about them where they are the hero of the story. "Once upon a time Sophia found a lost prince in the backyard... (and returned him to his parents the king and queen who gave her a crown to thank her.)"

Send them gifts where you get one and they get one, for example a matching pair of red mini gloves which will fit in a bubble envelope, and when they wear the red mini gloves they will think of you, and when you wear your adult sized red mini-gloves you think of them. Write and tell them you wore the red mini-gloves and thought of them.

Do activities at the same time on line with them, such as watching cartoons. You may run out of things to say to a four year old, but if you both watch the same cartoon and drink cookies and milk while you do it and can chat over Zoom you are having together time. "Oh no, the rabbit isn't going to get away!!!" Talk about the cartoon with them while it happens and afterwards.

Send them colouring books and keep a matching one and colour at the same time as them.

Send cards to their pet or stuffed lovey, included with the note card for them.

Read to them either on the little screen or send them a recording of you reading.

Send them e-mails, c/o their parents with attached pictures that might amuse them.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:01 PM on October 23, 2020 [21 favorites]

I have been reading to my nephews using Get Epic (a digital library of kids books)—I call them through Zoom and then share my screen so that we can both see the pages as I read. Get Epic is a subscription thing, but not that expensive, and I pick a selection of books ahead of time and then let them choose which one(s) they want to read. It’s been fun!
posted by pie_seven at 6:03 PM on October 23, 2020

Best answer: Make up stories, send them, serially, on postcards. Getting mail is super-exciting. Send them coloring stuff; print some for yourself; zoom and color together. Calls can be too question-y, but if you both do an activity; it's a little like hanging out together. Zoom dance parties.
posted by theora55 at 6:18 PM on October 23, 2020

My five-year-old tells my sister endless stories about their toys and stuff, or reads to her. There's no real "entertaining" or conversations as an adult might think of them, just kind of stream-of-consciousness narration from the kid. My sister mostly just makes supportive noises or sometimes shows little things she has that fit into the stories. I leave up the "gallery" view so the kid can watch themself/the toys, which they also seem to like. Sometimes they do also play "what's missing?" where a number of objects are laid out and then the camera is blocked and something gets removed from the scene, which the other person then has to name. Remove more things at once to make it more challenging, or use fewer total objects to make it easier.
posted by teremala at 6:24 PM on October 23, 2020

Best answer: My eight year old niece and I watch drawing videos on YouTube together over FaceTime. We both just turn the video on separately rather than trying to coordinate a watch party, and we chat while we follow along and draw the things and then we compare drawings at the end. She likes these videos from Draw So Cute, but there are many examples.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:45 PM on October 23, 2020

I send mine postcards with riddles and jokes and the them to call me for the punchline.
posted by trixie119 at 7:54 PM on October 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

My niece and nephews (ages 7, 5, and almost 3) were really liking playing cooking show with their grandma over video chat. They would pretend to make something with their play kitchen toys, and grandma would comment on and pretend to eat their creations. In the past, they've also liked taking the phone/tablet on a tour, and playing hide and seek by hiding it under the bed. That last one is maybe not as fun for the adult on the other end of the video call, though.
posted by abeja bicicleta at 8:08 PM on October 23, 2020

Best answer: My family gets together over zoom to play picture bingo with the kids. Is there a game they like that you could buy a copy of and play over zoom?
posted by dogmom at 8:19 PM on October 23, 2020

Best answer: Don’t underestimate the appeal of laser-focused individual adult attention for a kid who usually has to share it! Although she’s much more meh about family FaceTimes, my 8 year old niece likes to FaceTime us without her parents or grandparents around because she can show us her drawings and tell us stories and (most recently) teach us how to write Chinese characters. To her, it seems childless aunties and uncles like us always have endless amounts of time and patience when the other grownups in her life are busy!

For more structured activities, she likes playing the Pictionary type game on the House Party app (I think it’s called Quick Draw).
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:23 PM on October 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

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