Social distancing and self-isolating have become the new normal, but video technology has been bringing people together long before this pandemic.
Grandparents and grandchildren separated by long distances can easily keep connected with a video call – the challenge is to keep the young ones engaged.
Here are a handful of ideas for not only spending time with the grandchildren online, but entertaining each other and creating happy new memories while you’re at it.
Sing a song
Nothing gets children engaging with an activity like a singalong. The old classic nursery rhymes still play a big part in kids’ development, and you won’t need any musical accompaniment.
For older children, you can play a song over the video call or you can both press play on the same YouTube or Spotify stream simultaneously, if there’s a song they’ve taken a liking to.
If you’re blessed with the ability to play an instrument, a lot of music lessons are being conducted over video calls so you could attempt to impart some of your musical wisdom too.
“We find it difficult to keep our young one engaged with a video call as he’s too young to understand what’s going on,” says Cartmel Primary School teacher Ian Dunstan.
“Easy songs like ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ grab his attention and have him clapping along though, so we always include song time when video calling his grandparents.”
All kids love a good story, and it’s one of the most straightforward activities for a video chat. Keeping them looking at the screen and paying attention isn’t always easy though, so any pictures in the book or other visual aids and props will certainly help.
A good strategy is to buy two copies of the same book so that you can both read along together and you can help with any difficult words. Send it to your loved one in the post with a note asking them to wait to read the book until your next call.
It might not be the usual time that you’d chat, but it can make bedtime more enjoyable for children if it’s the grandparents reading the bedtime story.
Making art together
When you’re drawing or painting together, you’re spending quality time together. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t have many artistic skills, a simple sketch will fire up their imagination.
Know your way around a paintbrush? Treat it like an art lesson – video technology is such that you can watch every move they make and offer tips to improve their artwork.
If it feels a little impersonal still, an idea that will keep the interaction going is to challenge yourselves to draw each other.
Expect a lot of the artwork you make together to drop through your letterbox, and when the children can finally come and visit they’ll enjoy seeing their handiwork displayed on your walls or your fridge.
“It takes a little setting up in advance, but a scavenger hunt is a great way to spend time together,” says teacher Ian Dunstan.
“The grandparents will ask our little boy to find something in his toy box, and he’ll root around until he gets it right. For older children, you could hide things around the house and follow them with the tablet as the grandparents call out ‘warmer’ or ‘colder’.
“You can also make it into a game and both of you have to find something in your house beginning with ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ etc.”
Teach something new
School may be out for the summer, but a child never stops learning. Even when they’re back in the classroom this autumn, you can still use your time online together to teach them something new.
Jeff Winder, a primary school teacher from Lancaster, said: “A video chat on cooking is always fun and there are quite a few recipes that are simple enough to follow but provide endless teaching opportunities.
“For example, looking at weights and measurements relates to maths and following instructions strengthens reading and language skills, plus there’s always the added bonus of a delicious treat at the end.
“One of the recipes that children always enjoy (and so do parents) is making their own pizza. If you want to be adventurous you can make your own pizza base or just buy a ready-made one from the supermarket. Have fun with your child by exploring the different choices of toppings while talking about a balanced diet and healthy eating.
“And once the pizza is cooked and ready to be serviced, why not take this opportunity to quiz your child on fractions?”
For basic skills covering all subjects and activities, there are great resources online such as these printable flash cards.
Take a walk
A video call doesn’t have to be limited to sitting at the dining room table. A tablet or a smartphone is the ideal technology to carry around while you chat.
You may be many miles apart, but you can walk together and show each other what you spot – even make it into a game of I-Spy.