Quality Virtual Time with Grandparents

Categories:: Home Life Technology & Kids Covid Resources

Zoom fatigue” is very real for us grown-ups, and we were used to staring at screens and making small talk all day even before the pandemic started—so it’s no surprise that young children are at the end of their ropes when it comes to video chatting. If your kids are hesitant about recounting their day to grandparents over FaceTime for the 100th time since March, have no fear: PSP members are here with tips on virtual activities with intergenerational appeal.


grandparent hands

One member asks…

“Has anyone figured out ways their kids can have quality time with grandparents/older relatives they can't be with in person? My kids adore their grandparents, but I can't force them to do anymore Facetimes where they get asked questions about their day. My six-year-old has instituted a chant: Hey hey, ho, ho/grown-up talk has got to go. What games or activities are intergenerationally appealing?”


Members suggest…

Singing, making silly noises, and showing off some skills:

“My mother sings my son to sleep in the evenings over FaceTime.”

My daughter also does singing performances and puppet shows to her!”

"In Zoom land, my mother-in-law has a bag of puppets she reaches into and pulls out various puppets with unique voices in 2-minute snippets to entertain my 13-month-old. He is super interested when she brings a new one on for the first time in a call, and points and laughs excitedly. It's been pretty hilarious to see both my MIL and FIL adopt puppet voices to try to get his attention, so good for parents too!

Another effective strategy is that my dad also makes blubbery noises with his mouth (think: lalalalalalala or blubbering his lips) and my son loves it and imitates him back. Grandparents will also play wind chimes or bells and it gets his attention for a short while."


pexels-andrea-piacquadio-3818963 1


Cooking and baking:

“My mom and son (almost 5) do cooking together. They have the same recipe book and pick a different recipe each time - simple cakes and cookies. I need to be there to help, but It’s surprising how much he can do! And we’ve had some nice treats!”

Ideas for awesome, easy-to-make treats for FaceTime include...

Katharine Hepburn's Brownies: "They are super simple, though they do involve baking. I made a non-dairy version of them for my oldest's last birthday party, as one of his friends has a dairy allergy. I substituted olive oil for butter, and it came out great. I also substituted 2 oz of unsweetened baking chocolate (melted) for the cocoa, because that's the way I first learned the recipe."

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies: "I love to make these very simple oatmeal banana breakfast cookies, they can be made non dairy based on the kind of 'chocolate chips' that you would use. It may be too simple for a fun holiday recipe, but its definitely something delicious to make when trying to use up ripe bananas and easy for kids to help with."

Buckeyes: "In college I used to make vegan buckeyes that were super simple. It was just peanut butter with butter (we always used earth balance vegan butter but there are a lot of other brands now that would probably work just as well) and powdered sugar. You mix that together and then roll it into balls, skewer them with a chopstick and then dip them most of the way in melted chocolate chips. I’m sure there are a million recipes out there that tell you to do it in more complicated ways with tempered chocolate, but these were quite tasty and crowd pleasers for all of my housemates vegan and non."

Chex Mix / Muddy Buddies / Puppy Chow: "Chex mix or muddy buddies are fun, easy treats to make. You have to shake the muddy buddies in a bag, which is the perfect time for a little shake/dance-off!"


Reading books and telling stories together:

“YES! our grandparents read stories to them. point the phone at pictures and then they have something to chit chat about- but its more passive for the kids and grandparents love it.”

“Makes up stories - one of them will start telling a story, then hands over to the other to carry on the story, and so on. My daughter usually decides what she wants the story to be about and my mum usually gets it started”

“We have wonderful grandparent reading sessions on google meet using the online book provider Epic and/or the digital offerings from the library.   We usually structure it by starting with a show and tell, my son (4.5) will share the weather, a toy, something he drew, or something that happened, followed by reading books.  My son's Oma loads the digital book collection, and shares her screen, my son picks the books and they read happily together for an hour or so.  We do this several times a week and it's been great for both to have this connection.  There were the usual tech hurdles in the beginning, but after a few sessions it worked without difficulty.” 

“One of my kids has recently become really into reading to his grandparents. We use Epic, which is online, so they just screen-share the story.”


Card and board games:

“She uses the game pigeon app to play Crazy 8s with my parents. Only works if you have multiple devices but my daughter uses iPad to FaceTime their iPad and then everyone uses phones to actually play the game. It's a fun activity and ends up in lots of laughter and goofiness. Also some other neat 2 player games (darts, etc.)”

“We’ve been playing cards, crazy eights in particular, with the grand parents online. We’ve also played Candyland. 

We just assign someone (or take turns) drawing cards and making the moves for them. 

The grandparents don’t mind, and are slightly amused, and the kids love it. Ours at least do feel like they’re playing with them.”


kids-4934084 640 1


Classic games with no extra supplies needed:

“‘Animal detective’ - One of them thinks of an animal and the other has to guess the animal by asking yes/no questions

They also do this with - guess what I had for lunch etc 

Shopping game - I went shopping and I bought - and each adds a different item and has to remember the pens before

Sometimes they play that where each item starts with the next letter in the alphabet (Helps my mum remember the item and my daughter remember her alphabet!) 

Memory game of what’s on the table - lay out 10 items in front of camera and then figure out what’s been taken away 

They’ve tried eye spy too but that one isn’t so easy”

“My kids love Marco Polo with their uncle, they have an elaborate story they're working on, complete with the MP effects (they walk into a forest and everything becomes black and white). This works really well as it's conducive to each of our schedules”


Digital or online games:

WhatchamaDRAWit is a fun doodling game. All you need is paper and a pen/pencil. They can share drawings on screen when timer runs out.”

“My dad plays Minecraft with my 6 year old online! They also use Facebook messenger kids to video chat and play games as well :)”


Putting it all together with interactive apps that allow for reading, coloring, and game-playing, like Caribu:

“Someone in the general advice list recommended the Caribu app, which I recently downloaded and sent aunts, uncles, and grandparents invites for. You can call anyone who you’re connected to on the app just like a phone call.

It’s like epic (the online book app) meets FaceTime. Kids and grandparents can color together on the same sheet, play tic tac toe, or choose a book to read together. It’s better on an iPad than on a phone because it’s much easier to see and play on a bigger screen.

The book selection isn’t amazing, but the degree to which my kids enjoy reading with family that they can’t see in person makes it worth it. Coloring is fun too. I’ve been reading to my niece, and my daughter (she’s 8) likes to be in charge of reading too.

It’s $9.99 a month, which is steep, but it’s worth it to me because managing my kids on FaceTime is one of my least favorite chores.

Two of my kids are reading and chatting with their grandma on Caribu right now! :)”

“the app Caribou allows your child to interact with GP (or whoever) on their platform - coloring pics on the screen or playing tic-tac-toe, etc.  my daughter likes it a lot!” 

“My 6-year old has been doing the Caribu app with her grandmother since about April and they both seem very much to enjoy it.”


...or Together Family:

“We looked into Caribu but ultimately went with Together Family. Same idea where you can read, draw together and play games all while you can see each other and talk on a FaceTime-like screen. I like how much variety there is. Right now my dad is teaching my 5 year old how to play chess!”

“My five-year-old has been using the Together app with his grandparents — it sounds very similar to Caribu. It has games (Chutes and Ladders, Battleship, Uno, Matching, even Chess) and books that they can read together.”