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Turn boring video chats with kids into great bonding experiences that are fun

Video chat with child

Video chats with our kids and grandkids can be great fun, but my neighbor Susan tells me that her chats are not much fun. With a little effort you can turn boring video chats into a great bonding experience that children will enjoy. I’m going to tell you how.

Millions of families are benefitting from video chats to stay connected. I discovered video chat in 2010, Skype was 7 years old, and Facetime was just being released. Today we have many other video chat apps, including Zoom, Google Duo, and Facebook. Video chat is an extraordinary tool for parents and grandparents who are separated from their kids or grandkids.

Research has shown interactive chats are the most effective for building family bonds. An interactive chat consists of both action and communication. The action is what makes it different from a telephone call. When you interact with children, they become motivated to listen, watch what you are doing, and participate. For example, playing peek-a-boo is an interactive game that young children are enthusiastic about playing during a video chat.

After a decade of using video chat, I learned what makes chats with children fun and effective. I suggest the following:

  • Check with parents to select the best time to chat with infants and young children. New parents are often tired, and kids at any age when tired, hungry, or frustrated will not enjoy chatting. Talk with the child’s parents about the call length that is comfortable for both the parent and the child. Call at their convenience and do not overstay your visit. Prior to a chat, consider sending a simple text or making a phone call to ask when the best time to chat would be.
  • Know what children enjoy at different ages and stages of development. Ask about the child’s skills, preferred activities, and favorite toys. In addition, learn about age-appropriate activities at your local library or by using Internet resources like the CDC website. We know that infants respond to sound and touch. If the touch cannot be yours, a parent can hold the baby or stroke an arm while you are talking. A baby can learn to recognize your voice, even if you are not with the baby frequently. Toddlers like action, puppets, games, and demonstrating their new skills such as using pull toys or combing their hair. School age children have many interests that can be enjoyed during a video chat. Share jokes and riddles, read a chapter book together, play hangman, share a collection, sing songs, or play musical instruments.
  • Remember the attention span of young children is short. A two-year-old will be attentive for about 4 to 6 minutes. A four-year-old, 8-12 minutes. By six years children can enjoy chatting 12-18 minutes. You can often extend attention with interactions. Playing with puppets and props like dinosaurs, action figures, or stuffed animals promotes interaction and interest. Activities will draw a child’s attention to the screen. Positive responsiveness such as smiling, clapping, and praising extends attention span.
  • When toddlers stop engaging in a chat you can enjoy observing. Younger children sometimes leave the chat to play with toys on their own. Do not take this personally, instead ask the parent to adjust the position of the webcam so you can observe the child playing in the room. If you continue chatting with the parent, it is likely that the child will return to the screen to share a favorite toy with you or to rejoin the conversation.
  • Children love repetition. Once a child moves from one age to another, do not hesitate to go back to activities that they enjoyed when younger. Kids love returning to favorite songs, games, jokes, and books. My school age grandkids still enjoy showing me their favorite stuffed animals and action figures, and I share familiar toys that I collected for their virtual visits.
  • Teens prefer technology. Email, text, and video chat are the ways teens communicate today. Parents and grandparents who are separated from teens need to learn to use this technology. Being a good listener, without feeling like you must suggest solutions, works best with teens. Discussing books, movies, and the environment are all topics of interest to teens. Teaching skills like knit, or crochet, playing musical instruments together, or talking about investing and selecting a stock to follow might be a good connection with your teen. Video chat with each other while hiking, walking on the beach, or fishing, to share what each is doing.
  • Ask good questions. The secret to great conversations with children and teens is to ask questions that will produce more than a yes or no answer. Some examples include: Who made you smile today? What do you like most about school? Did you catch someone doing something funny today? I see that you lost your tooth…tell me about it? I feel sad about that; how do you feel? What can I do to help you?

Video chat has given me the opportunity to see and communicate frequently with my grandchildren who live a long distance away. Being able to watch those children grow motivated me to help other parents and grandparents to learn about the magic of video chat.

Lillian Tibbles, PhD is a grandmother, a retired family therapist and the author of three books about video chat with kids. Her latest book is How to Have Fun with Kids and Grandkids Using Video Chat.

How to have more fun at Christmas using Video Chat

With social distancing in place and travel restricted, video chat is a great way to share the Christmas spirit with family , especially kids and grandkids. As a result of the COVID 19 virus many grandparents haven’t seen their grandchildren this year and won’t see them this holiday season. You can assure that you won’t be one of those grandparents if you use video chat. Here are some ideas for holiday fun.

Holiday Decorating

Help decorate the holiday tree with a grandchild by sending ornaments and watching as kids place them on the tree. You can also watch as stockings are hung. Using a mobile device, tablet or phone, tour your home and show others your tree and decorations. Are there outdoor decorations that would be fun for you to share? Children quickly learn how to use a mobile device and are excited to show you their decorations and holiday art.

Visit with Santa

Kids are discovering how much fun a visit with Santa can be using video. In fact, parents are learning that some younger children are less apprehensive about talking to Santa when they are in their own home and on their parent’s lap. You can schedule a live, personal visit with Santa visit by using one of the apps in the Google play store or Apple store. Online check out hiresanta.com to learn more about virtual visits.

Holiday Gift Exchange

Have you ever sent a gift to a child and then wondered what they really thought about it? When we send gifts to our grandchildren for birthdays and holidays we always request that they be opened during a video call. It is especially helpful for young children to see who sent the gift. For grandparents it’s priceless to see the child’s response and share their excitement.

Be prepared, as the reaction to your gift may not always be what you expect or hoped for. I once set pajamas that I thought my two-year-old grandson would love. What I learned was that the stickers on the package were much more interesting to him than the gift. As a result of seeing his reaction, I added stickers to other packages that I mailed and, I didn’t send clothes to my other grandchildren until they were older and could enjoy the gift. It wasn’t long before dinosaur pajamas were a big hit.

As children get older they often like to pick out their own clothes. You might consider having a catalogue sent to children so they can select items that they like. I often do this with the Lands End Children’s catalogue and my school age grandchildren. The package is placed under the tree until the next video chat when we can be with them virtually to open the gift.

Fun Holiday Activities

Sing holiday songs together. Email the words to your favorite songs and enjoy singing with others. If you play an instrument join in. A family holiday concert is a fun way to celebrate. Read holiday stories such as The Night Before Christmas, Bear Stays Up for Christmas or The Christmas Star to grandchildren. We often purchase holiday poppers and open those at the end of a meal. Kids enjoy the activity and the small toys inside the popper.

Share a Holiday Meal

Add a tablet or other mobile device to your holiday table and share a meal together. Plan the time when you can join your family virtually and share favorite holiday stories. Plan the menu so you are sharing some of the same traditional foods. Demonstrate how to prepare a favorite traditional recipe or bake holiday cookies during a chat.

Lillian Tibbles PhD is the author of 3 books about Video Chat with Kids.
Her latest book How to Have Fun with Kids & Grandkids Using Video Chat is available
in both digital and print format.

Celebrate Thanksgiving with Grandchildren and Video Chat

With Thanksgiving 2020 fast approaching many families are concerned about getting together while the Corona virus remains a threat. A family video chat is a fun and safe ways to celebrate this holiday. Get creative with one of the many video chat apps like Zoom, Skype or FaceTime and enjoy being with those you love during this important holiday.

Here are some suggestions about video chats and celebrating Thanksgiving:

  1. Discuss Thanksgiving as a holiday that not only remember the pilgrims and Indians celebrating a harvest, but  an opportunity to explore the importance of thankfulness and gratitude.
  1. Share a virtual meal together. This celebration can be the day before or after the official day and still be a special event.
  1. Before the holiday children can talk about menu items for the celebration dinner. Involve children in discussing traditional Thanksgiving foods as well as sides and desserts they might suggest.
  1. Consider a video chat the morning of the holiday so children can see part of your meal preparation. With a portable device such as a phone or tablet you can demonstrate how you make a special dish or what you do to prepare for the meal.
  1. Have children share art projects related to the holiday either before, or on the holiday.
  1. Encourage children to participate in a special toast or prayer to start the meal.
  1. Lead a discussion about what gratitude is and have each participant, both children and adults, come prepared to share what they are grateful for or to talk about special times and people they experienced this year.
  1. Read children’s books like the Thankful Book by Todd Parr or Happy Thanksgiving Curious George by H.A. Rey.

Times are difficult for many families. Taking time to warmly and deeply express appreciation for kindness and benefits received can help us stay positive.

Lillian Tibbles PhD is the author of 3 books about Video Chat with Kids.
Her latest book How to Have Fun with Kids & Grandkids Using Video Chat is available
in both digital and print format.

Grandparents Day

The Best Grandparents Day Gift

Schedule a video chat for Grandparent’s Day and send some love across the miles. Grandparents enjoy watching young children grow. Seeing a new baby and the hearing the baby’s early sounds is heartwarming to grandparents. Cheering little ones on as they attempt first steps, show off new skills like standing, walking, or pretending to talk on a telephone, can be the highlight of their day.

School age grandchildren can display pictures they have painted or drawn. Lost teeth are a wonder to the child, fun for them to share, and will delight grandparents when they see the new toothless smile. Kids like to tell jokes, and everyone enjoys a laugh, be prepared with a new joke to share during a video chat.

Most of all, grandparents enjoy hearing about what their grandchildren are doing. Older children can take a few minutes to share what sports they enjoy, what they are learning, and what they are reading.

If your parents or grandparents have not experienced the joy of a video chat, this book is a wonderful gift to help them to learn how to chat. Most computers, tablets and phones come with the applications they need to chat. If they haven’t used the app take the time to teach them how.

So many of our parents and grandparents are isolated this year. Schedule a chat for September 6th and send some joy across the miles.

Lillian Tibbles PhD is the author of 3 books about Video Chat with Kids.
Her latest book How to Have Fun with Kids & Grandkids Using Video Chat is available
in both digital and print format.

Show & Tell With Grammy and Video Chat

Show & Tell is a fun activity for video chat. “Let’s call Grammy, it’s her turn to Show & Tell.” This was a delightful request from my two school age grandchildren who love to play Show & Tell during a video chat. And it was my turn. I was gardening when they called, and I had just chopped off the top of a Ti plant. I knew exactly what they would enjoy seeing and hearing about.

I fired up my video chat app with one hand while holding a 3-foot cutting from the plant in the other hand. I relished the cheers and laughter when the kids spotted the large plant. The Ti plant has bold, colorful, foliage with streaks of pink, purple and green, it is impressive. We chatted about the plant, where it came from in my yard, how tall it could grow, and lastly, what I was going to do with it. I was going to plant it in a pot.

Some of our family’s best video chats were an old-fashioned Show & Tell session. A grandchild comes home from daycare or school with a work of art or a newly completed project and my daughter will suggest they call Grammy so she can see it. Another child might score a goal in a soccer match and call to describe the feat. If parents can take a few minutes to share the child’s excitement with other family members there is a lot of energy and good fun in the call.

Some advice to grandparents……if parents (especially working parents) know that they can make a quick video call to you, rather than have you expect to chat for a long time, they may do it more frequently. You will enjoy seeing the excitement in the child’s facial expression and well as hearing their voice. Over the years we have found that although longer calls with our adult children and grandchildren are wonderful, many of the shorter calls have been great fun!

What can you share with your grandkids?

Lillian Tibbles is a grandmother and author of 3 books about Video Chat with Kids.
Her latest book How to Have Fun with Kids & Grandkids Using Video Chat is available
in both digital and print format.

Enjoy July 4th With A Video Chat

The 4th, as the holiday is sometimes referred to, is often celebrated with family events. This year, with the Corona virus present more families than ever are separated from their loved ones. Independence Day is a national holiday celebrating the date that the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence. Although the separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776 the document providing for the legal separation wasn’t finalized until July 4th.  Although there is some debate about whether the Declaration of Independence was signed on the 4th that is the date that appears on the document.

Create new traditions that connect you with your family across the miles. Wave or display a flag when you say hello when making a video call. Talk about celebrating the country’s birthday and play or listen to patriotic music. With social distancing there are fewer parades, picnics, and sporting events that the child may be participating in, or that you can share with the child. If you can capture an outdoor event like a parade, or fireworks do it from a distance and share on a tablet or phone. For older children and teens create a trivia game with facts about this period in history.

Read History for Kids: The Fourth of July for Kids by Ian Fraser, or The Fourth of July Story by Alice Dalgliesh, The Night Before the Fourth of July by Natasha Wing or F is for Flag by Trudi Strain Trueit, or any of the over 50 books written for children about this holiday.

One of my favorite video chat visits was listening to and watching my grandchildren’s excitement in describing the parade that they had just attended. They proudly displayed the beads and candy thrown from parade floats and waved small flags. Seeing the excitement on their faces was priceless. If their parade has been canceled this year, talk about what they recall about parades they have attended in the past.  If they were able to attend an outdoor event ask what they did to stay a safe distance from others and why that is important this year.

 Lillian Tibbles is a grandmother and author of 3 books about Video Chat with Kids.
Her latest book How to Have Fun with Kids & Grandkids Using Video Chat is available
in both digital and print format.

Video Chatting with Kids Hands Free

Trying to hold a phone or tablet doesn’t allow for much action when video chatting with kids. Innovative stands, mounts and devices can free your hands for interactive video chats that are easier and more fun.

We know that interactive chats are best for building relationships with kids and for learning. Your hands need to be free for interactive calls. Think about puppet shows, showing pictures in a book that you are reading, and teaching a child to knit while using your tablet or phone. The child will also need their hands free to play with you or learn a skill.

When using a desk top computer, or laptop on a desk, it’s easy to be hands-free. There are tablets like the Microsoft Surface Pro computer that have the stand built in and covers for the iPad that can support a tablet. 

Consider a basic bed tray table for adults or children who are bedridden. There are also bed and floor stands made specifically for computers. Stands for your existing tablet or phone are available in many sizes, and in a variety of materials and prices. Explore the multilevel soft pillow stands, and goose neck phone and tablet holders. 

Finding a stand that works for you is a snap. There are reviews of these products online to help you make a decision about what is best for you. Search online for bed tables, bed trays, tablet stands, and phone stands.

Enjoy playing with grandchildren without having to balance your electronic device.

Lillian Tibbles is a grandmother and author of 3 books about Video Chat with Kids.
Her latest book How to Have Fun with Kids & Grandkids Using Video Chat is available
in both digital and print format.

How to Have Fun with Kids & Grandkids Using Video Chat

What are interactive video chats and why are they important for developing close bonds with children and grandchildren? The newest and most comprehensive book about video chat with children answers that question. Learn how to have fun while keeping children safe online.

Video chat is free, fun, easy to use, and one of the best ways for parents and grandparents to enjoy time with children who are miles away. This book is full of practical advice about how to make the best video calls, with over 100 suggestions for video chat activities with kids from infants to college age.

Video chats take place online. Danger is lurking as we see children under the age of two who, by watching parents, quickly learn to swipe the face of tablets and telephones to gain access. Learn about parental controls and privacy settings that will help you to keep your children safe online.

Learn about the “tech talk” and when you should start teaching children about internet safety. Know what  you need to teach your school age children and your teens to protect them. This is essential reading for parents who want to keep children safe online.

Discover

  • How interactive chats strengthen family bonds with kids
  • Why experts call video chat good screen time
  • Fun ideas for chats with all ages, infants to teens
  • Ideas for celebrating special occasions, birthdays, and holidays
  • How to stay connected after divorce
  • What you need to make a video call
  • The importance of Internet safety for children and adults

Lillian Tibbles is a grandmother and author of 3 books about Video Chat with Kids.
Her latest book How to Have Fun with Kids & Grandkids Using Video Chat is available
in both digital and print format.

5 Tips for Interactive Video Chat with School Age Kids

Engaging kids in a video chat can be a snap with a little preparation and a few fun, interactive activities. An interactive chat is one where there is action as well as communication. Interacting, rather than just chatting with children motivates them to pay attention, to participate, and to learn.

Start all chats with children and grandchildren by checking in with the parent. A  text or telephone call, confirming if it is a good time for a chat, will make your call welcome and more fun than chatting with a child who is tired, or hungry.

  • When communicating with school age children, talk to them in a mature manner as they will become insulted if they think you are treating them in a babyish way.
  • Sharing jokes and riddles is a favorite activity that will produce smiles & laughter. Consider purchasing a children’s joke book. Some of my favorites are Get the Giggles by David Bronwen, Laugh Attack by Highlights, or one of Rob Elliott’s Laugh Out Loud for Kids books. Try this one: What kind of bird has to wear a wig? A bald eagle.
  • Using a pad of paper or white board, play hangman selecting words that the child can easily identify. My granddaughter had recently lost her first tooth. Our word to spell that week was “tooth.”
  • Share objects found in nature that the child would see if they were visiting you. Shells, stones, plants, and a snakeskin are all of interest to children.
  • Reading is interactive if you use exaggerated expressions, sounds, ask questions, or take turns reading with the child. A chapter book during several video chats works well with older school age children.

Don’t forget to blow some kisses toward the screen at the end of the call. You can almost feel the affection headed in both directions.

Lillian Tibbles, PhD  is a grandmother and author of 3 books about Video Chat with Kids.
Her latest book How to Have Fun with Kids & Grandkids Using Video Chat is available
in both digital and print format.

Building Strong Bonds With Kids During The Corona Virus

My grandchildren and I have been socially distancing for the past 10 years. It wasn’t because of a virus. Two of my grandchildren live 3000 miles away from me and always have. A third grandchild also lives in a different state. Today the Corona virus has separated many families and I want to let you know that developing strong bonds with children is possible when using video chat.

There are many video chat apps that will connect you to the children you love. Whether you use Skype, FaceTime, Google Duo, Facebook, or Zoom you are only seconds away from developing strong bonds. It’s easy and it’s fun. If you are not chatting with kids get started today. Children love to see a face as well as hear your voice.

Interactive chats build relationships. An interactive chat is one where there is action and communication between two people. Children become motivated to pay attention, to participate, and to learn when you interact with them. If you play an echo game and repeat a baby’s sounds, he will be draw to your voice. Toddlers love to play peek-a-boo. Using a scarf to hide behind or moving away from the camera and then popping back delights young children during a call.

Reading to a child and discussing the book, or having the child make the sounds of animals or vehicles in a story is fun and interactive. Show and tell is one of my grandchildren’s favorite interactive activities. Sometimes I do the showing, presenting an object like a shell that I have found on a walk. The children love to show me books, toys, clothes, and sports equipment. One of my grandson’s wanted to show me how well he had learned to throw a football and we were both excited as it flew across my computer screen.

Start today and have fun building strong family bonds!

Lillian Tibbles is a grandmother and author of 3 books about Video Chat with Kids.
Her latest book How to Have Fun with Kids & Grandkids Using Video Chat is available
in both digital and print format.