Coming up with Things to talk about on FaceTime can be difficult, especially if you’re going to be conversing with a young child who may have very different interests from you. These conversations can’t be avoided, especially for those living far away from their little loved ones, and the ways families communicate are evolving everyday. The onset of video chat apps like FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype made it possible for families to see the smiling faces of their loved ones, but found it nearly impossible to keep toddlers and young children interested.
1. Ask kids to explain events
Giving children the opportunity to speak about things they experienced not only helps to teach them great conversation skills, it also keeps their brains engaged during a seemingly borning video call as they are excited to tell you about what fun they had at the zoo or waterpark. You can send the parents a quick text asking what their toddler has been up to recently so you can continue driving the conversation if one topic starts to go stale. Consider writing down the top 3 things to discuss and three to five open ended questions about each. If a child went to the zoo, ask them: What part of the exhibit do you think the elephants like the most? Then press them on why they think the elephants like that feature so much. They’ll likely be excited to tell you about what they saw.
2. Lead children to a thoughtful response
The brain of an adult is far more advanced, of course, than the brain of a young child. They likely do not understand more advanced modes of conversation like sarcasm and more mature jokes. However, it’s absolutely possible for adults and children to partake in insightful, hilarious, and life-affirming conversations. Guide children to a thoughtful response by asking them questions that encourage kids to understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create. These questions get kids thinking more about the topics at hand and can result in richer conversations. A few things to keep in mind when conversing with children is that they might need more time between questions to think about what they would like to say. Don’t get discouraged if it’s taking them a while to answer. Instead, give your favorite little one some time before speaking yourself or following up with a different question. You can also demonstrate active listening techniques by repeating and summarizing, affirming your care and comprehension. By modeling healthy communication behaviors, adults can prepare kids for future success.
3. Fire up your imagination with an adventurous story time
What’s one thing that all kids love? Fun-filled, adventurous stories about interesting topics that are told in great detail. As an adult, you have the honor of telling your little loved ones magical stories to light up their imaginations and create excitement in their day-to-day lives or help them settle down to a good night’s sleep. Living far away doesn’t have to change that. Set aside some time every day or week to video call your little one and tell them an unforgettable story. Those are the moments they’ll cherish as they grow up: storytime with a person who loves and cares about them very much.
In addition to keeping their attention via video call, there are also many emotional and psychological benefits to storytelling. Stories help children learn to pay attention and help them understand others and feel empathy. These are just a few points about how stories and reading can contribute to growth and development. Try and share the stories you enjoyed as a kid the next time you have the opportunity.
4. Get crafty
Ask the grownups that care for your little loved one to pick up specific craft supplies (or ship it to their home as a surprise!) and lead the child on a virtual arts and crafts playdate. This could be using craft clay to build sculptures, braiding friendship bracelets, creating a collage, or even something simple like colored pencils and construction paper. There are so many incredible skill-building benefits to drawing (in addition to having a unique masterpiece to give to someone as a gift!). Drawing is also an excellent way for kids to develop their fine motor skills. Drawing helps them learn to make smaller, more controlled motions with their hands and fingers, a must-have skill for learning to write.
5. Show something spectacular
If you live in the mountains, at the beach or in the rainforest, capitalize on the rare beauty of your surroundings to maintain a child’s interest in a video call. Show them the sand, dirt or rocks you’re standing on and have a few facts packed away for when the conversation slows. Ask the child if they’re learned about the place you’re showing them in school or ask them if they’d want to visit and why. Get them to think critically and make decisions about the things that interest them and help them understand why they do or do not like the surroundings you’re showing them on video chat.