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How to Get the Most Out of Video Chats Between Kids and Extended Family

It doesn’t have to be awkward. We promise.

Margo Gothelf and Sarah Burns

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There's no such thing as a non-tech savvy grandparent, especially when a grandchild is in the mix. But while the technology is amazing, sometimes you need a little more help than just seeing each other on screen. We've all been there — connection issues, conversation lulls, and kids of all ages not wanting to sit still. Make the most out of your chat on screen with some of these ideas and tips. Switch up the typical FaceTime and come prepared with ideas, games, and conversation tips that will make it feel like you are truly face to face. 

Let Each Grandkid Have Their Own Time

Getting your 4-year-old, 7-year-old, and 12-year-old to agree on an activity to do with their grandparents over video chat can be a challenge. At different ages, their interests and skills can vary widely, which can make connection...difficult, to say the least. Give each kiddo some scheduled one-on-one time with their grandparents instead. They'll appreciate being the center of attention, and it’s easier for Grandma and Grandpa to interact, too. 

Pre-Plan Your Set-Up

Your kid's attention span will only last so long, so make sure you're all set up and ready to go before you get the video chat started. The same goes for Grandma and Grandpa. Let them test out a few spots around the house that they know are good for long chats and have a strong connection. If you can only get your little one to sit for so long, the last thing you want is to be wandering around the house looking for a signal or finding a better chair to sit in. 

Prep Your Props

If you're reading a book, showing off some pictures, or playing a game over video chat, make sure you have all of your supplies handy and ready to go. The last thing you want to do is spend half your chat searching around the house for that random game piece or chapter book. 

Make Something Together

Just because you're a screen away doesn't mean you can't take part in the activities you would do if you were sitting side-by-side. Channel your creative side and ditch the small talk for crafts and activities. Call up Pop-Pop right before bed and have him read a book, FaceTime Grammy to make matching bug crafts, or get both grandparents in the kitchen to whip up some sweet treats to share...virtually.


It’s every grandparents’ sacred right to shower their grandchildren with attention and spoil them with fun. Just because they can't do it in person doesn't mean the unofficial tradition has to stop! That's where Kinoo comes into play. The augmented-reality video chat app reimagines how kids and far-off family spend time together online, with innovative, hands-on experiences delivered in a digital environment. Go fishing, complete a puzzle together, carve a sculpture, and bake cookies together. Combined with the Kinoo wireless wand, the app helps you feel together even when you’re not together, making unforgettable memories.

Play Online Games

Take family game night into the digital era with a screen share and virtually roll those dice. Play classics like Monopoly, Clue, or even Catan for the teenage crowd. For the non-tech-savvy, play distance-friendly board games like Battleship or Boggle. Turn game night into a regularly scheduled activity and start tournaments, or try out a new game each week

Do Long Term Projects

Starting a new hobby is great, but starting a new hobby with a friend right by your side is even better. Turn your video chats into a regular meeting to explore hobbies and do projects together. Write letters to service people together, learn how to knit winter hats and donate them to shelters, or build a nature collection to research and discuss together. Or explore new skills as a team: Start a recipe club and learn how to make bread, or learn a new language like ASL When you finally see each other in person, it will be extra exciting to show off the new skills IRL.

Dive Into Family History

Use the shared time online to learn more about the family — given the chance, younger kids are often hungry to learn about family traditions, distant relatives, and their family’s culture and traditions. Have Grandpa tell stories about relatives while you make a family tree with craft supplies, or bake along with Grandma’s secret family recipe in the kitchen. You could even sub a family story in for a book before bedtime to let the kids hear the life stories of relatives they never got to meet. 

Be Flexible and Know When to End the Chat

As much as we would like it to, sticking to a schedule doesn't always work out. So remember to stay flexible during the chats and know that sometimes you might have to end it a little early or reschedule altogether. You'll connect eventually, and have a much better time when everyone is in the right setting and mood for a nice long talk.