Tag Archives: video chat with children

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.

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.

Babies and Toddlers Are Learning During Video Chat

I love seeing and talking to my grandchildren with video chat. It doesn’t surprise me then that interactive video chats can also be a means for babies and toddlers to learn, and to develop and maintain relationships with others.

In the past, the American Academy of Pediatrics discouraged screen time for kids under 2 years of age. These guidelines were developed when the screen time was not interactive, but mainly prerecorded video. Watching video is a sedentary activity, inactive rather than interactive.  A prerecorded video cannot interact with the child viewing it. Children spending too much passive screen time were found to have poor language skills and often missed out on other activities that were important for development.

Skype, FaceTime, Google Duo, Facebook, Zoom, and other video chat apps provide for an interactive relationship. Lauren Myers, PhD and colleagues at Lafayette College have demonstrated that video chat provides for an interactive relationship with others. This is great news for grandparents and parents.

Children in Myers’s study quickly noticed the difference between live and prerecorded video. Children were more interactive with FaceTime live video, than with the prerecorded video used in the study. They learned social information, and they preferred and recognized someone they had met via video chat rather than the instructor on a prerecorded video.  They also learned cognitive information like new words and patterns.

The conclusion is that children will engage and learn from screen time interactions. Video chat can represent quality time with your children or grandchildren. 

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.