It’s a whole new world when it comes to play groups in the time of COVID-19 quarantine. Instead of worrying about shoving the laundry behind closed doors (that’s standard prep…right?) and offering snacks, I’m accepting invitations through my email for my five-year-old and three-year-old to be available for a Zoom call. Weird times indeed.
I know my kids have missed their friends more than I could have even imagined, so when the invitations to let them at least see and talk to friends came up, I accepted without a second thought. But then…I wondered how it would work. My kids have never done anything like this before. Sure, they’ve said a few words to family through FaceTime on holidays, but they’ve never held up a whole conversation with their own friends through a screen. As a WAHM, I’ve been on plenty of video chats to know that they can sometimes be awkward experiences, so how would my kiddos react to it?
I have asked the moms in our very own Orlando Moms Collective Village what they have done to make virtual playdates for fun for everyone, and they came through with some amazing tips and ideas!
1. Show and Tell
An old standby but a guaranteed good time for kiddos of all ages! Let everyone know to bring something special to the playdate. Then, each child can take turns showing off their prized possession.
2. Virtual Scavenger Hunt
Depending on the ages of the kids participating, this can be as simple or challenging as you want with varying levels of parental involvement. Take turns calling out a description (e.g. something blue, something round, something with a 6-letter name) and each kid finds something in their home that matches the description.
3. Make/Build/Craft Along
A little project can go a long way in making a virtual playdate feel more exciting and purposeful! Whether they are building with Legos, modeling with clay, or creating friendship bracelets, kids of all ages love to share experiences and teaching or learning something with friends. My kindergartener recently discovered that her friends also like to finger knit, and they were giddy to work on their crafts together.
All kids love being silly for their friends, and what could be better than a virtual charades party? Animals, fairy tales, Disney characters, and super heroes are all great categories to get your group started.
Tips For Success
- If little ones are too interested in wiggling away from the screen, put them in their highchair with something to keep their hands busy while they see their friends.
- Familiarize yourself with the video chat platform you will be using. Many offer different virtual backgrounds, viewing setups, and other ways to make the most of the experience.
- Think about the space they need for their virtual playdate. Sure, it’s all on the computer, but they might get into a spontaneous cartwheel contest and need some appropriate space (not that my kids kicked over a tray of craft supplies or anything…purely hypothetical).
- Lay out your rules and expectations before the call according to their age and how they are typically allowed to use technology. Are they allowed to share screens when using your computer? Can they move your computer? Will you be staying in the room with them?
- Encourage your older kids to use online games they already play to socialize with their friends regularly.
- Set up a parents-only chat to socialize with your friends too! We are all working hard to fill our kids up with love, time, and attention, but don’t forget to check your own cup as well. A casual chat with friends can be just what you need to feel a bit back to normal.
With a little prep, your kid’s virtual playdate may just be almost as good as the real thing. Just don’t forget to shove the laundry out of the background (some things never change!).