How to Help Kids Get Better at Video Chat

During the pandemic, parents learned one thing: young children are not good at video chatting. We may have already suspected this based on occasional disastrous FaceTime or Skype calls with a family out of town. But then we ended up in this reality where all the time is online, where video chats seem to be much more important, and yet kids are still just terrible at it, despite all the extra practice.

In the end, they will learn to do this better simply because they get older, have fewer distractions, and tend to speak better. In the meantime, there are a few tactics you can try to tune your little ones to Zoom’s success.

Choose the right time of day

You do not take your kids to the grocery store 20 minutes before nap time or to the playground when they are hungry, because several times you did this, you realized your mistake right away , and promised to be more careful in the future. The same rules apply here.

If your child is hungry, moody, absent-minded, or even more energetic than usual, they probably won’t feel good about calling Zoom. Schedule calls when they are most likely to be the calmest, happiest version of yourself. For older babies and toddlers, bathing may even be a good option if you have a tablet or laptop that you can sit on a chair (far enough away from splashing water!). Even if they’re not overly chatty or talkative, grandparents will love to watch the little one splash around.

Help them create a “question box”

Adults may think of this as a set of “icebreaking” questions, but the difference is that icebreaking questions are most often used only at the very beginning of a meeting or event: on the first day of school, during breakfast for a work retreat. , Something like that. They make people talk, shatter their nerves, and help the group make connections.

The difference with the question box for video chat is that you can opt out of it when you see something starting to fall apart. Work with the kids ahead of time on a collection of fun or silly questions: If you could be any animal, who would you be and why? Who is your favorite Disney character? If you could have any animal as a pet, which one would you choose? What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

If they can help you ask questions, they will be more interested in participating when you bring the box.

Make a (short) agenda

You don’t have to make a list of 10 topics to cover during your phone call, but with young children it is helpful to have some structure. Prepare a “show and tell” with your loved one in advance, especially if the person they are calling is also younger.

Or plan an activity for them to do with the other person, or just do while they are talking. It may be easier for grandparents to talk to the children while they sit at the table and paint, because they are naturally a little more calm and focused during this activity. You can also have books nearby or some of their recent work to show off in a pinch.

Separate siblings

If you have two (or more) young children, and they both want to see and talk to your grandmother, and now spend the entire video call trying to elbow each other away, it’s time to separate them.

If you have multiple devices, install them in different rooms of the house and start a three-way call. Physical separation might be enough to take the edge off and let them chat more naturally.

Keep it short

Regardless of what you do or how strategically you try to be strategic, sometimes kids will just want to make silly faces or rude noises while the person on the other end tries to ask them about their day.

The key is to remember that this is normal for them – they are small children! Small children who are going through very strange times. So call short: they don’t need a 45-minute conversation with Aunt Sara every other day. Five or ten minutes here or sometimes is all we can ask of them, and that’s enough.


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