Top tips for a vaguely successful video call with kids

We are not pros at video calls. At all. But with life being altered so substantially thanks to the pesky coronavirus, we are embracing video calls wholeheartedly as a way of staying in touch with our loved ones.

As unexperienced as we may be at video calls, the kids take this to a whole new level. They don’t understand how to stay in camera shot so frequently disappear off screen. They constantly talk over each other, or over the person speaking to them in the call and jist don’t listen. Hmm, kids not listening, who’d have thought?

My husband has been finding video calls to family members with the kids also present, particularly stressful. We have made some improvements over the past few weeks though so I thought I’d share some of the ways we have found for making the most out of video calls with the kids.

1. Give yourselves space

On our first video calls we had the laptop set up at the dining room table with us all trying to sit in front of it. I’m not sure why but it felt like the right place to be. It wasn’t Trying to cram 2 adults and 2 children basically onto 2 chairs wasn’t great. The kids fidget all the blimmin time so there was elbows in face, we got headbutted, they constantly wanted to move so were clambering over us. It wasn’t fun.

We tried a few combinations of this before I came up with the crazy idea of putting the laptop on the coffee table in the living room. Sooo much better. Yes it means we are a bit smaller on the screen for people to see, but really, do we need to play count the pores anyway? Removes one element of discomfort and stress at least!

2. Make it fun

Kids don’t really get the whole conversation element of video calls, or ours certainly. The shout at the screen, both talking at once, disappear off to do something else and it can be generally hard to keep them engaged. So we’ve tried a few things to help them have fun and interact with the family members they are missing out on seeing at the moment.

We played a fave board game in our house, Cheese Bandit (we got this from Father Christmas a couple of years ago and it is a great game for kids, just FYI) with my parents and it was so fun. But when we tried to play it with my brother and his wife, the kids weren’t feeling it, so you have to try different things and see what works I guess.

Playing Cheese Bandit

We’ve also played Guess Who, my parents have the game and so do we so at least we have a board each and that worked quite well.

The best thing so far though has been playing Pictionary as all you need are pen and paper. To start with I just wrote the names of some films that the kids know and their relatives would also know. I held up the name in front of the camera for the relatives to draw so the kids could guess, then on our turn we held our picture up for them to guess. It was really funny and kept the kids really occupied!

The list of films only lasted so long but to be honest it doesn’t need to be films, we’ve moved on to just drawing things, and honestly getting a 5 yr old to draw something like a banana can lead to some fun too!

Not sure what we will try next but trying to keep it fun and interesting to help the kids stay engaged

5. Have something for them to do

This obviously relates to the above as they are kept busy by playing the games. But even when you aren’t playing games I’ve found it helps if they have something to keep them occupied. Leo was playing Lego the other day while we were chatting to my folks, and he would chip in now and then but was generally happy playing. Liberty didn’t have anything to do so whined most of the time haha

This also helps if on a video call with their friends. Again with young kids not being the best conversationalists, having a few toys with them that they can show their friends/family can help them think of something to talk about. Liberty on a call to her friend was showing her some of her Disney princess dolls for a while. The conversation then moved on to the point where they were showing each other their feet, but you know, they are 5 haha.

When Leo was on a call with a couple of his friends he was shooting bits of Minecraft Lego at the screen which got them started talking and eventually they were blowing raspberries and talking about bottoms, again usual 7/8 yr old behaviour.

4. Be realistic

They are kids, at the end of the day. Even in normal times they shout and scream and talk when other people are talking and make it difficult to hear your relatives speak. There’s a certain amount of accepting that it won’t always be plain sailing, I think.

We try to have some video calls in the evenings so it can just be us and grown ups to talk about things a bit more, or after a game we let the kids go and watch TV or something so we can have a grown up chat.

Who knows, by the end of this we may all be pros at video calls! Of course I am looking forward to being able to see our loved ones in person again as soon as we can…. but I am grateful that we have the technology to see them virtually in the meantime.

How have you been getting on with video calls with kids? Any tips?

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