So the world completely changed in the last few weeks and now many of us are physically separated from friends and relatives. Kids are feeling bored and upset at not being able to see their friends and loved ones.
But thanks to the ubiquitousness of video chat technology (such as Skype, Zoom, and Facetime), there are plenty of ways to keep kids engaged with loved ones despite physical distance.
Below are eight different games and activities your child can play virtually with friends and relatives using any video chat software.
I have already started using some of the ideas below to help my children keep in touch with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. These activities keep my kids engaged, plus they have built-in learning components as well.
Can you say “win-win!”?
This one was a big hit when my kids got to video chat with their cousins last week. Parents will need to provide a bit of support and structure, but all in all this activity is set up to be very appealing to kids.
The idea is to create a small list of items that can be found in the home. Both sets of parents need a copy of the list. (I texted it to my brother.) Parents on both ends of the video chat read the list to the kids at the same time, then the kids race to see who can gather all the items fastest. Kids collect the items and bring them back to the video chat to share.
We added a physical activity component as well, where the winning team got to pick a physical exercise (pushups, sit ups, jumping jacks, burpees, squats). Both teams had to do the exercise, but the winning team had to do half as many as the
losing other team.
Click the link below to download a free PDF file with ideas to get you started playing this scavenger hunt game. Feel free to swap out any items that you don’t think will work for your kids.
This is a simple game that lends itself well to playing with someone over video chat. This game can be played between kids or it can be played between kids and an aunt, uncle, or grandparent. We played this game with my mom this past weekend.
The idea is for one person to think of an object. It can be a person, place, or thing. The rest of the players work as a group and can ask up to 20 yes/no questions total in an attempt to guess what the object is.
I like that this game develops some great critical thinking skills among children. For example, if they know the object is a food, it may not make sense to start asking ‘Is it bread?’ ‘Is it an apple?’ ‘Is it broccoli?’ This approach is likely to use up all 20 questions too quickly.
Instead, it may make more sense to first narrow down the type of food by asking questions like ‘Is it a fruit?’ ‘Is it a dessert food?’ ‘Is it something we at often at our home?’ ‘Is it something we only eat at a restaurant?’
Fortunately / Unfortunately
This is a fun story telling game.
One person gets the game started by giving the first line of a fictional story. After that, people take turns telling the story, but sentences must alternate between starting with “Fortunately” and “Unfortunately.”
So the game may look a bit like this:
Person #1: Once upon a time there was a unicorn who lived in a beautiful meadow.
Person #2: Fortunately, the unicorn had plenty of friends to play with.
Person #3: Unfortunately, one of the unicorn’s friends got injured while playing a game.
Person #1: Fortunately, there was a doctor nearby who was able to help the unicorn feel better.
Person #2: Unfortunately, the doctor ran out of bandages for the unicorn’s broken leg.
Etc. etc. etc.
This game is funny, and it promotes really good listening comprehension skills among kids as they are challenged to add a sentence that makes sense based on what has already happened in the story.
This is a game that an adult relative can set up to play with their nieces, nephews, or grandchildren.
The adult should write a handful of questions on the underside of several sticky notes and place them into a square on a board or wall. The top side of the sticky note should have values, such as 100, 200, 500, 1000. If you want to stick to how the original Jeopardy game was played, have several questions in each category.
For example, you may have a set of questions on basic math facts, a set of questions about grammar, a set of questions about animals, a set of questions about foods, and a set of questions about your family’s history.
The adult should invite kids to select a category and point value. The adult then reads the selected question to the child. At the end, tally up the total number of points the child gets from answering questions correctly.
I would suggest having siblings work as a team to garner points together, rather than having siblings work in competition with one another, which all-too-frequently results in hurt feelings at the end.
Charades is a classic party game for all ages that involves acting out words or phrases. The objective is to get your team to guess the word or phrase using gestures alone; talking or making sounds is not allowed.
When playing by video chat, people on either end of the video should take turns acting out a word or phrase to see if they can get the people watching on the other side to guess correctly.
Click the link below to download a free PDF file with ideas to get you started playing charades. Feel free to swap out any items that you don’t think will work for your kids.
Pictionary is a game originally inspired by charades. However, with pictionary you do not act out words; instead, you draw them.
Take turns having people on either side of the video chat draw images for others to guess.
Click the link below to download a free PDF file with ideas to get you started playing pictionary. Feel free to swap out any items that you don’t think will work for your kids.
There’s also some great pictionary ideas here.
Can You Picture It? Game
This is a game that is good for older kids – at least age 8, but 10 or even 12 might be better.
With this activity, one person – the explainer – has an image in front of them. The other person – the illustrator – has a blank piece of paper and a pencil. The explainer must describe in great detail the image in front of them so as to allow the illustrator to draw it onto their paper.
While doing this activity, the illustrator cannot see the original image. And – importantly! – the explainer cannot see what the illustrator is drawing.
Once the explainer feels they have given the illustrator all the detail needed to complete the image, the explainer should share the original image and the illustrator should share the image they have created.
With young children, you can allow the illustrator to ask questions while drawing. For teens, consider upping the difficulty by putting a rule in place that the illustrator cannot ask any questions during the process. This forces the explainer to really put themselves into the other person’s shoes to give as much detail as possible.
Click the link below to download a free PDF file with some initial images the explainer can describe for the illustrator to copy. Feel free to create your own images as well.
What’s gone missing?
This is a simple activity an adult on one of the video chat can set up for a child on the other end.
The adult should select a handful of items from around the house – a pencil, spoon, napkin, cup, shoe, book, brush, etc.
Place several of the items in front of the camera. For toddlers, start with 2-3 items. For preschoolers, start with 3-4 items. For older kids, you can increase the number of items to 5-8. Have the child identify each item and try to remember them all.
Then have the child cover their eyes (or just block the camera) while one object is removed. Show the objects to the child again. Can the child identify which object has gone missing?
This is a great game to work on short term memory skills.
What other ideas do you have for engaging children with friends and relatives over video chat? LEGO Build Challenge? Singing duets together?
Leave a comment with your ideas so others can benefit from your thoughts!