Your kids have been cooped up at home for weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic and you are starting to get desperate for ways to keep them occupied. Instead of letting them watch one YouTube video after another, why not arrange a virtual playdate with friends they haven't seen for a while?
Here's how. (There are many video chat apps that you can use to facilitate virtual playdates, e.g. FaceTime on Apple devices, Messenger Kids by Facebook, or even Zoom.)
Many preschoolers need nothing more than just seeing their friends from school. These playdates don't need to be elaborate or long. You can arrange a quick sing-along to their favourite Disney tunes or have them indulge in a brief imaginary play with their favourite toys.
For school-aged kids, virtual playdates require less parental supervision as they are more independent. As long as you know the kids on the other side of the screen, you can basically lay down some ground rules (e.g. duration of the meetup) and leave them to their own devices (so to speak). One idea is to let them try out all those silly filters that come with video chat apps these days. Who knows? They may stumble upon something creative to show you after the session.
If you have older kids at home, you will probably notice that they have been happily chatting away with friends on WhatsApp and what not. You can spice up their interaction by arranging a virtual board game hangout.
Better still, start a Netflix Party! Netflix recently released an option that allows viewing parties where participants (i.e. your kids and their friends) stream the same show or movie simultaneously and can chat about it all right in the app. This way, your kids won't bombard you with questions while they are watching a particular series. They can just share the conspiracy theories among their friends in real-time.
What's the limit?
Some of you may lament that it's already hard enough to limit our kids' exposure to screens during normal times and all these virtual playdates may just open the floodgates. But bear in mind that their online social interaction with friends during this period is vital to keeping boredom and loneliness at bay. And if you're working from home, it will have the added bonus of letting you get your work done without worrying about being video-bombed.
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Community Ambassador; as someone who was raised in a rather privileged family, I hope to address the inequity in educational outcomes based on the circumstance of birth. Bounced around between Australia and Singapore a fair bit.