Video Calling With Kids


girls. kids, skype, facetime, video call, computerWe all want our children to know our family and friends, even those who live far away. Whether across the state or across the world, internet video calling is the way many families connect. Most of my family lives on the west coast, and we are lucky to visit once a year. Video calling makes far-away aunties part of my children’s world. It is one of the gifts of the internet age.

But how do you make the most of video calling?

It’s easy to hold your beautiful baby up to the computer’s camera for the new uncle to admire, but when you have a cranky two year old, how can you make the call fun for everyone? After nearly seven years of wrangling kiddos in front of webcams, here’s what I have come to understand about video calling with kids.

1.  Prep The Crowd

Before a video call, discuss what you would like to share. Has something exciting happened at daycare? Did someone learn a new song? Taking a few moments to brainstorm for the conversation can ease the weirdness of the call situation. It gives you all some ready material. I find it helps to talk through what I am going to say as well. The kids see their news as part of the family discussion. “I’m going to tell Grandma about my new coat. What else will we tell her?”

2.  Go Mobile

If your video calling setup can go wireless, take advantage! My favorite family video calls have happened when the camera has a child’s-eye view of the world. Bring the laptop or tablet to the toy box, and let your kid share their space and belongings. Take a bedroom tour, show off the craft table, wander around the house – mobile video calls give your kids the freedom to share their life in a way long distance calls never could.

3.  Show and Tell and Do

In addition to the “Show and Tell” of video calling, consider what your kids can actually do. Try a round of Go Fish, holding the cards up to the camera so Grandpa can “play” the hand. Host a cross-country dance party. I have also had fantastic unplanned calls, where I buzzed a family member so they could watch the kidlet at play with her dollhouse. She was engrossed in her game, and it gave the family member a chance to see her when she is not “on” and performing for the camera.

4.  Technical Difficulties

When the connection is fuzzy, let it go. You can pick up the visit another time. Talking to a frozen screen, or reconnecting dropped calls is frustrating. I usually give it two or three chances before I pull the plug, but any more fiddling leaves my kiddos annoyed and restless. It is better to resolve tech problems with no children waiting on the outcome.

5.  Make Traditions

Traditions help kids connect with relatives they see infrequently. Sing a song together, recite a rhyme, tell bad kid-friendly jokes – all these things give kids something to look forward to in each video call. This can be especially helpful connecting with a parent who travels frequently.

6.  Happy Goodbyes

What is the best duration for a child’s video call? Take goodbye cues from your child’s attention span. Five minutes of fun with grandpa is much better than ten minutes of sullen squirming. If a child loses interest in the call, let them walk away. You can work on building their enthusiasm for longer interactions.

What makes video calling fun for your family?

*Some resources for Video Calling

Google+ Video Hangouts

Which video calling software does your family prefer?

baby, computer, skype, facetime, video call
photo credit: Mark Evans


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