My newsfeed is filled with funny and sweet screenshots of virtual family and friend get togethers.
I keep joking that with 2 small children, my virtual social life is better than my real-life social life.
Except it’s not a joke!
Everyone is home and available to chat during times they would normally be out and about.
For instance, this coming weekend my calendar is filled with virtual parties and playdates.
As well, we planned a physical distance cocktail hour with our neighbours, who would normally be out at the pub on a Saturday night – not hanging out with two tired 40 somethings and their very spirited little boys!
But of course, nothing replaces the joy of face-to-face time with my family. I’m feeling the loss of that time together, just like you.
So in the lead up to a weekend that will be tough for so many because of cancelled trips and plans with grandchildren, family or friends, I put together a practical guide for having the most success at your virtual parties this weekend.
I’m calling it the 4 P’s of Virtual Party Planning because….well, to be honest, I’m not feeling the most creative at the moment!
It’s the content that counts – or at least that is what I’ve told myself.
I will jump right into it.
Be a Grand with a PLAN
Some families have a virtual groove going on already. They know what video application works the best for everyone, or the timing that works to connect with grandchildren.
But we are in the definition of an ever-changing period of time for families, so be sure to check in with your grandchildren (or their parents) to find out what works best for them. If you are feeling extra creative, head over to e-invites where they have several virtual invitations you can personalize and send to your grandchildren.
Also, do your best to ‘meet’ your grandchildren – and the rest of your family – where they are at online.
In our family, grandparents have learned to use Zoom (e.g., my 83 year old mother-in-law), House Party (a video chat app with games like Trivia, Pictionary and HeadsUP) and FaceBook Video Messenger (the face filters are way too much fun for all ages).
There is a company called GetSetUp that is offering free classes to learn how to use Zoom and other online tools.
You can always ask an older grandchild to help get you set up on any kind of technology. My 10- year-old niece taught me how to use the games in the House Party app!
Asking a grandchild for help has the added bonus of creating more time together virtually and helping them to feel useful. A true win-win.
Of course, you can always ask your grandchildren to meet you where you are ‘at’ online as well.
For instance, let them know you really want to stay connected and that you find it best to use FaceTime or Skype, or whatever is easiest for you.
PREPARE to Pivot
Lots of grandchildren are being asked to sit still and chat with not only you, but cousins, aunties and even classmates right now.
As you can imagine, they might be tiring of the whole ‘sit and chat to the video’ kind of interaction. This is when a little preparation can go a looooong way.
But especially for the younger ones, try these two games if things start to go sideways and they don’t want to sit still:
- Start a Bunny Hopping Competition. Ask them to hop on one leg, hop on two legs, hop with your eyes closed, hop with your hands in your pockets, hop with your hands on your head, hop from the kitchen to the couch, etc.). You can find other ‘active questions’ to ask your grandchildren here for video chatting.
- Prepare an Easter Themed Memory Tray Game: Show them a tray filled with various objects. It can be spring themed (Egg, worm, a flower petal) or just a general or silly group of objects (toilet paper, a fork, a packet of gum, etc.). Show it to them for 30 seconds to a minute (depending on their age) and then ask them to write down what they remember – or even just say what they remember and you write it down.Promising to send a prize is always a nice addition to any virtual game!
- Decorate your surroundings or your face. Most people will have a bit of lipstick on hand – why not create a bunny nose with it? Blow up a few balloons, hang scarves around the background. You can use whatever you have on hand.If you would like an example of my own willingness to look silly on video – check out the FaceBook live I did here several months ago about How to Make Video Calls with Your Grandchildren More Fun & Memorable.
PLAY and then Play some more
I’ve mentioned being prepared with a few games. Depending on how ambitious you are feeling, you can organize a virtual call centered around family games night.
There are SO many games you can play virtually together online and a lot of applications that can help to make it easier.
I am beyond excited about my latest find while doing the research for this blog: The Game Gal: Family-friendly games for you and yours .
Not only does this website provide TONS of ideas for games for families, there is a Word Generator that you can use to prepare a game of Charades, Pictionary, Get to Know You Questions (for kids too) and many more.
The Game Gal recently shared an article specifically for COVID 19 survival with games to play at home. If you scroll down to the bottom, she provides a list of links to games that work well for video calls.
Although a lot of parents are feeling overwhelmed with ideas for what to do with kids, I would risk it and send this one to your son or daughter. It is a goldmine of what to do and play during this time of physical distancing. And it’s super easy to navigate.
Better yet, do the work for them and go through the site yourself and pick out a few games that you think your grandchildren would enjoy. If the parents are truly overwhelmed right now, tuck the ideas away for your next in-person visit!
PRESERVE Your Time Together
Designate one of your grandchildren to be the official family photographer or videographer at your virtual event.
Treat it like any other visit and be sure to capture the time together.
You can also take screenshots or ask your partner to take pictures or videos of you chatting with your grandchildren.
Use the photos to create a postcard and send a Thank-you note to your grandchild for the time you ‘spent’ together. This can be homemade, or you can use TouchNote, a postcard making app that our family loves.
I really, really hope these ideas help you to have a fun moment with your grandchildren.
And please remember, you do not need to be a 3-ring circus – just pick one of the ideas and run with it, be willing to adapt on the fly depending on your grandchild’s level of interest and finally, keep trying.
Some days kids don’t feel like talking, so just say ‘I love chatting with you. Can we talk more another time?’. Think quality not quantity.
Kerry Byrne, PhD
The Long Distance Grandparent